Why This Matters


    The number of Americans on probation or parole is more than twice the 2.2 million serving time in state and federal prisons and local jails.


    The number of job openings for probation officers is projected to grow by 10% or more in states such as New York, Colorado, Utah, Arkansas, and West Virginia.


    The median annual wage for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists is $54,290. Median wages are higher for those working in the local government sector, with the highest 10% earning more than $94,860 per year.

Our Research

To become a probation officer, you usually must hold a degree in criminal justice, sociology, behavioral sciences, or a related field of study. A bachelor’s degree is the most common path to this occupation, but we also reviewed associate’s and master’s degree programs for candidates wishing to build a foundation or advance their careers. All three levels of programs are offered on-campus, online, or in blended formats.

In an accredited probation officer degree program, you’ll learn the communication, critical thinking, and emotional stability skills required to succeed. All of the programs we listed meet the rigorous standards of educational quality set by well-known accrediting agencies such as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 69 hours to write this article
  • 203 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 220 education programs we compared

The Top 44 Probation Officer Degree Programs

Best Probation Officer Degree Programs
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What You Should Know About This Degree

When considering a probation officer degree program, it’s important to understand the difference between a probation officer and a parole officer. The two occupations are similar, but a parole officer specializes in helping people re-enter society after being released from prison. A probation officer (also called a community supervision officer) works with people who are serving their sentences outside of prison. About three-quarters of probationers have been convicted of non-violent crimes.

As a probation officer, you’ll ensure your probationers stay out of trouble and assist them with rehabilitation, education, job training, or substance abuse counseling. The best probation officer degree programs provide broad knowledge of America’s criminal justice system and help you develop the crucial interpersonal and problem solving skills required to help your clients reform.

Foundation courses in criminal justice might include constitutional law, ethics, court systems and practices, and crime technology. Look for degree programs that offer field work and internship opportunities in addition to classroom training. These practical, hands-on learning experiences could take place at a local law enforcement agency, courthouse, correctional facility, or social service organization.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching probation officer degree programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? Each school sets its own standards for admissions depending on the level of degree. For associate’s or bachelor’s degree programs, students must have a high school diploma or GED. At the master’s level, programs might require a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or relevant work experience. Also, you must be a U.S. citizen aged 21 to 37 with a clean background at the time of application.
  • What licensing or certifications are required? After earning your degree, many employers require you to complete a state or federally-sponsored training program and pass competency or certification exams. You might also have to work as a trainee for up to a year before being offered a permanent position.

To learn more about application and certification requirements, visit the websites of your prospective universities. Keep track of all deadlines and materials, and consider contacting the admissions office with your questions. This is a great way to show your interest and also determine your eligibility for financial aid.

Most schools offer access to flexible, low-interest federal loans, as well as grants and scholarships. If you’re already working in the field, ask your employer if you qualify for tuition reimbursement for courses related to advancing your career.