A parole officer is a person with a unique job in the criminal justice and law enforcement sector. Parole officers work to prevent new crimes by convicted offenders who have been released from prison after serving a portion of their sentence. In this career, a parole officer might expect to travel and be involved in local communities as parolees are supervised and monitored while they are integrated back into community and employment.
According to salary.com, the average salary for parole officers is between $47,000 and $59,000. As of February 2016, the Median salary is $52,856. This is slightly above average for other careers requiring baccalaureate degrees.
The First Step: Training
If you are considering going into this career field, then your first step is to get your degree. An associate’s degree or a bachelor degree is usually required for those seeking employment as a parole officer, but this varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. A selection of good 4-year degrees to choose from for entry into this field is criminal justice, behavioral psychology, and social work.
If you are looking into the option of becoming a federal parole officer, then you must also obtain a master’s degree in a related field.
After you have your degree, the next step is to meet the standards required by your local government. An individual who qualifies for the position must pass a government exam administered by the local or federal government. These exams can cover general questions about the criminal justice and parole systems and also specific questions relating to the jurisdiction or municipality. This exam usually comes in the form of multiple choice questions followed by a few essay questions.
Another requirement that must be passed before employment is a background investigation because this career requires working within the justice system itself. A background check includes some research for any personal affiliations with gangs, a criminal record check, and a review of references.
There is some on-the-job skills training that takes place during a time period that usually extends from around 8 weeks to 2 months. Most states have their own mandatory training for aspiring parole officers that factors into this on-the-job training. Expected topics covered during this training include investigation procedures, defensive tactics, counseling techniques, and handgun qualification. A lot of the skills gained here correlate to those required for police officer duties and indeed the two jobs are often categorized together in some states.
While the job growth is expected to be around 4%, job opportunities remain high in this career field as openings are created by those leaving the field or retiring.
For a criminal justice career, being a parole officer can seem similar to police officer work, but there’s the added benefit that it generally is 9-to-5 with weekends off and it is a much safer option. There will always be a need for parole officers, and this respected career welcomes anyone with good character to pursue it.