If you don’t mind a bit of risk and have a need to pursue justice in a people-focused career, being a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist may appeal to you.
These careers are well suited for enneagram type 6 and the ISFJ personality type. You should also have a tolerance for the unexpected, be a great problem-solver and thrive in a job where no two days are quite the same.
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists at a Glance
What Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists Do
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists assist in rehabilitation of law offenders in custody or on probation or parole.
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with probationers and parolees. Workers may be assigned to fieldwork in high-crime areas or in institutions. As a result, the work can be stressful and dangerous.
How to Become a Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists usually need a bachelor’s degree. In addition, most employers require candidates to pass oral, written, and psychological exams.
The median annual wage for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $54,290 in May 2019.
Employment of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job openings should remain plentiful because many people leave the occupation each year.
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists provide social services to assist in rehabilitation of law offenders in custody or on probation or parole.
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists typically do the following:
- Interview with probationers and parolees, their friends, and their relatives in an office or at a residence to assess progress
- Evaluate probationers and parolees to determine the best course of rehabilitation
- Provide probationers and parolees with resources, such as job training
- Test offenders for drugs and offer substance abuse counseling
- Complete prehearing investigations and testify in court regarding offender’s backgrounds
- Write reports and maintain case files on offenders
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 prison 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 probationers and parolees through personal contact with them and their families (also known as community supervision).
Probation and parole officers require regularly scheduled contact with parolees and probationers 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, workers perform the duties 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 (in settled cases with no trial) 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 parolees and develop rehabilitation plans for them to follow.
They may evaluate inmates using questionnaires and psychological tests. They also work with inmates, parole 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.
Improved tests for drug screening and electronic devices to monitor clients help probation officers and correctional treatment specialists supervise and counsel probationers.
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists held about 91,800 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists were as follows:
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||52%|
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||45|
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with probationers and parolees.
While supervising individuals, they may interact with others, such as family members and friends of their clients, who may be upset or difficult to work with. Workers may be assigned to fieldwork in high-crime areas or in institutions where there is a risk of violence.
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists may have court deadlines imposed by the statute of limitations. In addition, many officers travel to perform home and employment checks and property searches. Because of the hostile environments they may encounter, some may carry a firearm or pepper spray for protection.
All of these factors, in addition to the challenge some officers experience in dealing with probationers and parolees who violate the terms of their release, can contribute to a stressful work environment.
Although the high stress levels can make the job difficult at times, this work can also be rewarding. Many officers and specialists receive personal satisfaction from counseling members of their community and helping them become productive citizens.
Although many officers and specialists work full time, the demands of the job sometimes lead to working overtime and variable hours. For example, many agencies rotate an on-call officer position. When these workers are on-call, they must respond to any issues with probationers, parolees, or law enforcement 24 hours a day.
Extensive travel and paperwork can also contribute to more hours of work.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists.
|Occupation||Job Duties||Entry-Level Education||Median Annual Pay, May 2019|
|Correctional officers oversee those who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or who have been sentenced to serve time in jail or prison. Bailiffs are law enforcement officers who maintain safety and order in courtrooms.||High school diploma or equivalent||$45,300|
|Police officers protect lives and property. Detectives and criminal investigators gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes.||See How to Become One||$65,170|
|Social and human service assistants provide client services in a variety of fields, such as psychology, rehabilitation, and social work.||High school diploma or equivalent||$35,060|
|Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives.||See How to Become One||$50,470|
|Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors provide treatment and advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, or other mental or behavioral problems.||Bachelor’s degree||$46,240|
For more information about probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists.