According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for parole officers (including probation officer and correctional treatment specialists) was $48,190 in 2012. But the bottom 10% of those officers earned less than $31,000 that year, while the top 10% had a salary of more than $83,000. So how much a parole officer really makes however is dependent on multiple factors. Here’s a rundown on the numbers, and what you can do to improve your salary as a parole officer.
What Affects Your Salary
The first component to determining the salary is the parole officer’s experience and education. In most states, a parole officer is required to have a bachelor’s degree, usually in criminal justice, corrections, social work, psychology, or other related fields. However, there are some positions that are open to those with just a minimum high school diploma or GED. The more education however, the more likely the starting salary and pay will be higher. Therefore, when looking at the BLS numbers for a parole officer’s salary, that bottom number (less than $31,000 a year) is typical for a new parole officer just starting their first year, while the top salary (over $83,000) would be for a mid- to late-career parole officer with years of experience.
Other important factors that play into your salary include your location and the division you work for. Those who work for the state government will make more money than someone who works for a local office. And the highest average salary can be found in California, Connecticut, and New Jersey, due to the large correctional facilities located in those states. Therefore it is important to consider relocation in this career, especially if you live in a state that is seeing a smaller percentage of growth in this occupation, or do not have a large need for parole officers, your salary might show this difference.
Remember, your base salary might not include certain benefits, such as health care or retirement. Many parole officer positions do however include these benefits, such as a pension, 401k, disability/worker’s comp, social security, and more.
Increasing your Parole Officer Salary
Most officers will see an increase in their salaries over time, especially as they earn experience in the field. However, there are other ways to increase your salary at a faster rate. One of those ways is to earn a master’s degree in a criminal justice, psychology, social work, and other related fields, or a bachelor’s degree in those same majors, if you started your career with a high school diploma. Obtaining a higher degree can make you more suitable for promotions. In addition, adding certifications or additional training in order to broaden your skill set and experience will make you a valuable officer, placing you in higher positions.
Other valuable skills that can allow you to broaden your scope include language skills (speaking multiple languages, such as Spanish or Russian) or certification or a degree in a secondary field, such as counseling. Sometimes, having specific knowledge about a certain community, neighborhood, or city can add value to your work. By diversifying your base skill set, you can become an asset to various offices around the country.
In addition, moving from a small, local office to a larger city, or working for the state or federal government can improve your salary. If you are willing to relocate, you might find a better salary. However, it is important to take into account the cost of living in the new area, as your salary might be larger, but your expenses might increase as well.
Overall, working hard as a parole officer, and growing from your experience, will pay off in the long run. To learn more about careers as a parole officer, contact us.