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Career Spotlight: Probation Officer

How A Sociology Degree Can Prepare You For A Career As A Probation Officer

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A sociology degree is a very useful and relevant degree for any career in the criminal justice field, including probation and parole officers. These careers can be found at the state and federal level and all across the country.

Probation and parole officers oversee two kinds of individuals: offenders sentenced to probation and those serving parole. A probation officer works with convicts who are released from confinement but are still under court supervision during a testing or a trial period. Probation can be given in lieu of a prison term or can suspend a prison sentence if the convict has consistently demonstrated good behavior. Parole officers, on the other hand, work with parolees, who are inmates that receive an early supervised release from prison.

Job Duties

Both types of officers are guaranteeing the security of the public as they work to help regenerate their clients. The job duties of probation and parole officers include:

  • Working alongside social services to help their clients receive education, counseling, jobs, and housing essential to a full rehabilitation.
  • Writing pre-sentence reports for judges, which are based on the officers’ investigative work of the offenders’ backgrounds. This gives judges essential information needed to make a suitable sentence for each criminal.
  • Giving testimonies at pretrial and parole board hearings to assist in the clarification of the pre-sentence reports.
  • Investigating violations of court-ordered sentences.

One way that a sociology degree is especially helpful to a probation or parole officer is that it allows one to examine situations with knowledge of the structural issues that surround a society. As a probation or parole officer, you will likely have many clients from diverse backgrounds. Knowledge of race/ethnic differences as well as socioeconomic, age, and gender differences will be extremely helpful and important.

Familiarity with the various theories of deviance and an understanding of why certain people commit crimes, who is likely to re-offend and why, and what is needed to prevent further crimes will prove extremely useful for a job as a probation and parole officer. A degree in sociology will provide you with this important information.

Educational Requirements

Probation and parole officers at the state level are usually required to have a four-year degree in an area of social sciences such as sociology, psychology, correctional counseling, or criminal justice. At the federal level, officers are also required to complete a minimum of two years of field work.

Salary and Benefits

State level probation and parole officers can expect to have a starting salary between $20,500 and $28,000. Federal officers have an average starting salary of $28,000. Both state and federal governments typically include medical and retirement benefits as well.

Other Recommendations

Probation and parole officers need to have strong communication skills in order to compose pre-sentence reports and to argue them in the courtroom. They must also have an understanding of various other legal occupations as well as a familiarity and understanding of people’s various and diverse backgrounds. This is where a degree in sociology is very useful. Finally, probation and parole officers need to be able to cope well with the stress of the job as their caseload are usually very large.

Explore more about working as a probation officer or read about the study of deviance and crime within sociology.

Search for probation officer positions or other sociology careers in your area.

References

Stephens, W.R. (2004). Careers in Sociology, Third Edition. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Criminal Justice USA. (2011). Police Officer. http://www.criminaljusticeusa.com/police-officer.html

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