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Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist

If you enjoy working with past criminal offenders, and assisting them in re-entering society and making good decisions, then a career as a correctional officer or correctional treatment specialist may be the right choice for you.

Discovering your passion

As part of the military community, you live in an environment with service members who are dedicated to serving and protecting our nation. You, too, can play a role in making our communities safer by choosing a career as a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist. A few of the roles and responsibilities of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists include the following:

  • Evaluating offenders to determine the best course of rehabilitation
  • Providing offenders with resources, such as job training
  • Testing offenders for drugs and offering substance-abuse counseling 
  • Monitoring offenders and assisting with their progress
  • Conducting meetings with offenders and their family and friends
  • Writing reports on the progress of offenders

If you are considering a career as a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist, review the Research Occupations tool on MySECO. You should also take the Strong Interest Explorer and Myers-Briggs assessments to make sure your skills and interests align with this career path.

Education and training

Once you have made the decision to pursue a career as a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist, you can explore the many tools and resources on MySECO to assist you in achieving the education requirements necessary to practice in your profession. Most jurisdictions require probation officers and correctional treatment specialists to have a bachelor's degree in social work, criminal justice, behavioral sciences or a related field. In addition, some employers require candidates to have a master's degree in one of the fields mentioned earlier.

Most probation officers and correctional treatment specialists are employed by state or federal agencies, and all candidates must be at least 21 years of age. If you are a recent high school graduate, you should consider entering a four-year bachelor's program as a precursor to starting your career. College Scorecard is a great starting point for researching and selecting an education institution. When you visit College Scorecard, search by program/degree, location, size and more to find a program of study near you. You can also use the Scholarship Finder to assist with locating funding relevant to the military community to pay for classes.

In addition to meeting the education requirements for becoming a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist, you will also have to meet certain personal qualifications due the nature of the occupation. You will be required to pass oral, written and psychological exams. After completion of your exams, you typically go through a series of interviews and are required to take a lie detector test and a drug test.

Finding employment

Once you are confident that you have the necessary requirements, it's time to find a job in your occupation. Many local jurisdictions handle their own recruitment and hiring practices for probation officers and correction treatment specialists. You can check local job boards and visit the webpages for these departments for vacant positions. You can also search for vacant positions, including federal employment, using MySECO's Job Search Tools, which include the following:

Consider volunteering, if possible, or doing an internship and proactively networking to build your contacts and gain experience. Tell family, friends, co-workers and all others that you are hoping to become a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist and ask for contacts they might have who can help you build and expand your network.

Professional organizations and networking

You may wish to consider joining a professional organization in your career field to gain a better understanding of current industry trends in the probation officer and parole officer professions. Professional organizations are great ways to continue your education through workshops and conferences, which will add to your transferable skill set as you move. Networking with other professionals in your industry will give you an edge in meeting the right people who may have the connections you need to obtain an interview or restart your career at your new location. Remember, networking is the most effective job search method. Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.

Next steps

To explore additional information related to starting your career, check out the Research Occupations tool on MySECO. Enter the keywords “Parole Officer and Correctional Treatment Specialists” to learn more about the occupational overview for your specialty field. If you need additional information about law enforcement occupations, you can speak with a career coach at 800-342-9647 to discuss any questions or concerns you may have. Coaches are available to review your resume, practice interviewing, discuss networking or assist you in understanding employer requirements for this field.

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