Many of the people wondering how to become a Probation Officer fail to realize the amount of organization, education and danger that the job involves. Probation officers often work in areas that most citizens will never access. These workers also juggle large case loads and must do so effectively. Losing a file could mean the difference between losing a violent offender or sending a rehabilitated offender back to prison without cause. A few recent news stories have captured the consequences of being a disorganized probation officer. An understanding of the law and the offenders living under it is also essential.
Probation Officer Skills
Organization is the important skill for a Probation Officer. He must be able to keep the files and faces that go with them separate, but ready to recall at a moment’s notice. Writing skills are necessary for completing the many reports that probation officers are responsible for. They must report to the courts and the prisons while documenting the offender’s progress outside of prison. Another important skill that probation officers need is the emotional stability to handle violent offenders, hostile environments and sometimes unstable uncompromising bureaucracy. Communication skills, legal knowledge and the ability to meet deadlines are other important skills for probation officers.
Getting the Education
Probation Officers all carry bachelor’s degrees. The degrees are in social work, psychology, criminology or communications (with a minor in criminology, social work or psychology). In these programs, the student learns how to relate to people and communicate with them. This is often where the writing skills are developed. Criminology majors are introduced to the laws and also the tendencies of offenders. Social work majors learn how to handle the hard situations that offenders and their families find themselves in. These students also learn about providing solutions and resources for such people. The other majors help develop the skills needed to work with people who not be as willing to cooperate as the average citizen. Together, these majors give students the knowledge to begin training for the probation officer job.
Adhering to Government Requirements
The minimum age for becoming a Probation Officer is 21. Federal and some state laws limit the age to age 37. The potential officers must undergo training that can last up a year. During that time, the student may shadow a working Probation Officer, spend time working with the courts, train in the prisons around offenders and then help out in offender treatment programs. Many probation officers pick a type offender to specialize in (violent, nonviolent, sex crimes, substance crimes, juveniles, etc.). These are written, oral and psychological tests that the officer must take before or after training.
Probation Officers are responsible for helping offenders to refrain from committing crimes when they get out of prison. The officers are also tasked with spotting and removing dangerous offenders from society. To be a probation officer, you must be able to communicate, stay organized and have the knowledge to help the offenders that need it and send the ones that don’t back to prison. Thus, when thinking about how to become a Probation Officer, consider the large responsibility that the Probation Officer carries and the things you need to be able to handle it.