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Become A Probation Counselor

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Working As A Probation Counselor

  • Getting Information
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • $40,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Probation Counselor Do

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists monitor and work with probationers to prevent them from committing new crimes.

Duties

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists typically do the following:

  • Meet with probationers in an office or at the probationer’s residence
  • Evaluate probationers to determine the best course of rehabilitation
  • Provide probationers with resources, such as job training
  • Test probationers for drugs and offer substance abuse counseling 
  • Monitor probationers’ contact with law enforcement
  • Conduct meetings with probationers and their family and friends
  • Write reports and maintain case files on probationers

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with probationers who are given probation instead of jail time, who are still in prison, or who have been released from prison.

The following are examples of types of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists:

Probation officers, who are sometimes referred to as community supervision officers, supervise people who have been placed on probation instead of sent to prison. They work to ensure that the probationer is not a danger to the community and to help in their rehabilitation through frequent visits with the probationer. Probation officers write reports that detail each probationer’s treatment plan and their progress since being put on probation. Most work exclusively with either adults or juveniles.

Parole officers work with people who have been released from jail and are serving parole, helping them re-enter society. Parole officers monitor post-release parolees and provide them with information on various resources, such as substance abuse counseling or job training, to aid in their rehabilitation. By doing so, the officers try to change the parolee’s behavior and thus reduce the risk of that person committing another crime and having to return to prison.

Both probation and parole officers supervise those under community supervision through personal contact with the probationers and their families. Probation and parole officers require regularly scheduled contact with supervisees by telephone or through office visits, and they also check on them at their homes or places of work. When making home visits, probation and parole officers take into account the safety of the neighborhood in which the probationers and parolees live and any mental health considerations that may be pertinent. Probation and parole officers also oversee drug testing and electronic monitoring of those under supervision. In some states, officers do the jobs of both probation and parole officers.

Pretrial services officers investigate a pretrial defendant’s background to determine if the defendant can be safely allowed back into the community before his or her trial date. Officers must assess the risk and make a recommendation to a judge, who decides on the appropriate sentencing or bond amount. When pretrial defendants are allowed back into the community, pretrial officers supervise them to make sure that they stay within the terms of their release and appear at their trials.

Correctional treatment specialists, also known as case managers or correctional counselors, advise probationers and develop rehabilitation plans for them to follow when they are no longer in prison or on parole. They may evaluate inmates using questionnaires and psychological tests. They also work with inmates, probation officers, and staff of other agencies to develop parole and release plans. For example, they may plan education and training programs to improve probationers’ job skills.

Correctional treatment specialists write case reports that cover the inmate’s history and the likelihood that he or she will commit another crime. When inmates are eligible for release, the case reports are given to the appropriate parole board. The specialist may help set up counseling for the parolees and their families, find substance abuse or mental health treatment options, aid in job placement, and find housing. Correctional treatment specialists also explain the terms and conditions of the prisoner’s release and keep detailed written accounts of each parolee’s progress.

The number of cases a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist handles at one time depends on the needs of individuals under supervision and the risks associated with each individual. Higher risk probationers usually command more of an officer’s time and resources. Caseload size also varies by agency.

Technological advancements—such as improved tests for drug screening and electronic devices to monitor clients—help probation officers and correctional treatment specialists supervise and counsel probationers.

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How To Become A Probation Counselor

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists usually need a bachelor’s degree. In addition, most employers require candidates to pass competency exams, drug testing, and a criminal background check.

A valid driver’s license is often required, and most agencies require applicants to be at least 21 years old.

Education

A bachelor’s degree in social work, criminal justice, behavioral sciences, or a related field is usually required. Some employers require a master’s degree in a related field. Exact requirements will vary by jurisdiction.

Training

Most probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must complete a training program sponsored by their state government or the federal government, after which they may have to pass a certification test. In addition, they may be required to work as trainees for up to 1 year before being offered a permanent position.

Some probation officers and correctional treatment specialists specialize in a certain type of casework. For example, an officer may work only with domestic violence probationers or deal only with substance abuse cases. Some may work only cases involving juvenile offenders. Officers receive the appropriate specific training so that they are better prepared to help that type of probationer. Training may include site visits to probationers’ homes under the watch of a probation officer supervisor.

Other Experience

Although job requirements vary, previous work experience in probation, pretrial services, parole, corrections, criminal investigations, substance abuse treatment, social work, or counseling can be helpful in the hiring process.

Previous experience working in courthouses or with probationers in the criminal justice field can also be useful for some positions.

Advancement

Advancement to supervisory positions is primarily based on experience and performance. A master’s degree in criminal justice, social work, or psychology may be required for advancement.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must be able to effectively interact with many different people, such as probationers and their family members, lawyers, judges, treatment providers, and law enforcement.

Critical-thinking skills. Workers must be able to assess the needs of individual probationers before determining the best resources for helping them.

Decisionmaking skills. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must consider the relative costs and benefits of potential actions and be able to choose appropriately.

Emotional stability. Workers must cope with hostile individuals or otherwise upsetting circumstances on the job.

Organizational skills. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must be able to manage multiple cases at the same time.

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Probation Counselor Career Paths

Probation Counselor
Counselor Therapist
Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Counselor Therapist Case Manager
Senior Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Counselor Clinician Case Manager
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Probation Officer Officer Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Probation Officer Officer Case Manager
Patient Care Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Probation Officer Substitute Teacher Social Worker
Senior Social Worker
6 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Therapist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Clinician
Clinical Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Substance Abuse Counselor Clinician Clinical Social Worker
Social Work Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Substance Abuse Counselor Mental Health Therapist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Services Director
11 Yearsyrs
Substance Abuse Counselor Mental Health Therapist Clinical Social Worker
Social Work Supervisor
7 Yearsyrs
Juvenile Counselor Program Coordinator Ambulatory Care Coordinator
Medical Case Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Juvenile Counselor Program Coordinator Clinical Social Worker
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Juvenile Counselor Program Coordinator Education Consultant
Student Dean
7 Yearsyrs
Police Officer Investigator Realtor
Director Of Admissions
7 Yearsyrs
Police Officer Adjunct Professor Clinical Supervisor
Director Of Social Work
6 Yearsyrs
Relief Counselor Mental Health Therapist Program Supervisor
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Relief Counselor Mental Health Worker Residential Supervisor
Residential Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Relief Counselor Site Supervisor Program Director
Director Of Outreach
6 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Probation Agent 5.3 years
Probation Officer 4.7 years
Juvenile Counselor 3.2 years
Work Counselor 2.7 years
Service Counselor 2.7 years
Primary Counselor 2.5 years
Group Counselor 2.1 years
Counselor 2.0 years
Program Counselor 1.9 years
Top Careers Before Probation Counselor
Internship 12.7%
Case Manager 12.2%
Counselor 11.0%
Supervisor 2.5%
Teacher 2.5%
Top Careers After Probation Counselor
Case Manager 15.3%
Counselor 9.6%
Therapist 5.3%
Supervisor 4.7%
Internship 3.7%
Clinician 3.3%

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Top Skills for A Probation Counselor

  1. Court Hearings
  2. Juvenile Offenders
  3. Crisis Intervention
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Served as a community, court liaison by attending court hearings and presenting reports and recommendations.
  • Assess juvenile offenders and coordinate appropriate counseling services for violent and/or habitual offenders and their families and monitor the therapeutic process.
  • Diffused disruptive and destructive behaviors through problem solving, crisis intervention advice guidance and counseling to juveniles.
  • Coordinate the enforcement of policies and procedures designed for juveniles detained in a county residential facility.
  • Administer drug and alcohol tests, including random drug screens of offenders, to verify compliance with substance abuse treatment programs.

Probation Counselor Demographics

Gender

Female

56.0%

Male

33.3%

Unknown

10.7%
Ethnicity

White

59.5%

Hispanic or Latino

16.3%

Black or African American

13.2%

Asian

7.8%

Unknown

3.2%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

61.5%

Portuguese

3.8%

Vietnamese

3.8%

Braille

3.8%

Georgian

3.8%

Ukrainian

3.8%

French

3.8%

Greek

3.8%

Belarusian

3.8%

Russian

3.8%

Arabic

3.8%
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Probation Counselor Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

11.1%

George Mason University

10.3%

University of South Florida

6.8%

University of Memphis

6.0%

California State University - East Bay

6.0%

Marymount University

6.0%

Virginia Commonwealth University

5.1%

Old Dominion University

5.1%

San Jose State University

4.3%

Chapman University

4.3%

Tennessee State University

4.3%

Capella University

4.3%

Walden University

3.4%

California State University - Fullerton

3.4%

Liberty University

3.4%

Wayne State University

3.4%

Troy University

3.4%

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

3.4%

Ferrum College

3.4%

Washington State University

2.6%
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Majors

Criminal Justice

29.9%

Social Work

11.2%

Psychology

10.6%

School Counseling

6.0%

Business

5.7%

Counseling Psychology

5.7%

Sociology

4.3%

Mental Health Counseling

2.9%

Law

2.9%

Human Services

2.6%

Education

2.6%

Management

2.3%

Special Education

2.0%

Public Administration

2.0%

Elementary Education

1.7%

Family Therapy

1.7%

Political Science

1.4%

Social Sciences

1.4%

Rehabilitation Science

1.4%

Criminology

1.4%
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Degrees

Bachelors

40.6%

Masters

37.2%

Other

6.7%

Associate

5.5%

Doctorate

4.8%

Certificate

4.4%

License

0.5%

Diploma

0.2%
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