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How to Become a Probation Officer

Updated on August 6, 2011

Do you want to improve your community?

Do you want to help others and get paid for it?

These are the personal goals that a young lady in her late twenties had set for herself a few years ago after getting her GED. She works as a probation officer now. Luckily, on her free time, she volunteers for a local non-profit I work for. And that's how I met her.

Her past was rather tumultuous in that she became a member of a local street gang while still in middle school. She was "gangbanging" somewhere around 6th grade. Definitely not a typical childhood. I dare not ask what she had done in the past. But in her words, she was in and out of "juvi" (juvenile school) before age 18 and did not graduate from traditional high school. Two years after her son was born, she took GED courses to get her high school diploma.

Now, she works tirelessly to help troubled youths get on the right path to adulthood in much the same way her probation officer had helped her.

She said that getting her GED was the first step necessary to set her life straight for both her and her son. To me, as a previous project manager for past employers, it sounded like a second or third step after making the initial step of getting her mind straight about the future.

How to become a probation officer

Probation officers are government workers. They work for various agencies, whether federal, state or county. And to get hired, you must apply to work for a government agency, such as a prison or correctional facility.

Education is important. There are two levels:

  1. A bachelor's degree is usually required, typically in criminal justice and social work. A degree in psychology is also popular.
  2. The completion of government-sponsored training program is required by most agencies. This could be a state or a federal program, depending on the agency. During this period, you are hired as a trainee for a probationary period. During that time, you must complete the program, pass the certification test, and any other agency requirement (oral, psychological, written, etc.) before you are offered a full-time position.

More info on becoming a probation officer can be found at the US Bureau of Labor website.

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