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Probation Officers

At a Glance

  • Assist offenders sentenced to probation
  • Protect the public
  • Work with offenders, attorneys, judges, and parole boards
  • Have good communication skills
  • May be on-call 24 hours a day
  • Have a bachelor's degree
  • Have to pass a criminal background check

Career summary

Probation officers work with legal offenders to help them become productive in the community.

#No alternate titles CJ

There are three types of officers who work with offenders:

Probation officers

Probation officers assist offenders who are sentenced to probation. They provide resources to offenders to help in their rehabilitation. They discuss treatment options and arrange for offenders to enter treatment programs. They write reports that outline the offender's progress. Probation officers usually work with juveniles or adults. Some work with both.

Parole officers

Parole officers supervise offenders who have been released from prison on parole. They help people re-enter society. They carefully monitor parolees and lead them to services such as substance abuse treatment or job training. They also help them find medical treatment or housing.

Correctional treatment specialists

Correctional treatment specialists counsel offenders in jail. They write reports used by parole boards to determine if a prisoner should be released. They also help them plan for their release. They assess offenders to find out what type of services they will need when they are released from jail or prison.

Probation and parole officers determine if their clients are making progress and following the conditions of their probation. They conduct regular interviews with their clients and also talk to family members or employers.

Probation officers who suspect violations or criminal behavior investigate offenders. They may require clients to have drug tests. Sometimes they recommend that offenders be returned to jail.

Some probation officers investigate offenders before they go to trial to see if they can stay in the community before their trial.

Related careers

This career is part of the Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to probation officers.

Common work activities

Probation officers perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, probation officers:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Probation officers frequently:

It is important for probation officers to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for probation officers to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Probation officers need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a probation officer, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most probation officers have a bachelor's degree in social work or criminal justice. Some states require you to have one year of graduate study as well. Probation officers usually must also complete a state or federal training program.

Work experience

Some employers require probation officers to have three to four years of experience working in a related field.

On-the-job training

Most probation officers spend up to one month as a trainee. During training, you learn skills from experienced officers.

Military training

The military trains people to work as caseworkers and counselors. This occupation includes probation officers. Training lasts from eight to ten weeks. Further training occurs on the job and through advanced courses.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers generally require probation officers to be at least 21 years of age and have a bachelor's degree. Preferred areas of study are behavioral sciences, psychology, sociology, criminal justice, or a related field. Work experience in a corrections setting is also helpful. Employers look for probation officers with good people and computer skills. They also look for good writing and analytical skills. Probation officers must be able to be helpful to their clients. However, they must also be unbiased in their evaluation of clients' behavior.

Applicants are often given a written and oral exam. They may have to pass a psychological test. They may also have to pass a physical abilities test. Many employers have vision and hearing requirements similar to those for police officers. Most employers require a background check.

Jobs at higher levels often require a combination of at least one or two years of graduate study and related work experience. Employees may be required to provide their own transportation. A valid Washington State driver's license is required. Fluency in Spanish is essential in some cases. Some employers look for applicants who have chemical dependency counseling certification.


Competition for positions is keen and a master's degree will improve your chances of being hired. Experience working with people on a casework basis is helpful. Willingness to relocate may increase your chances of being hired, especially for entry-level positions. Volunteer experience or an internship with a community organization, such as a crisis or youth center, is helpful. Correct grammar, punctuation, and logical sentence structure are essential to good report writing. Get as much training related to assault, domestic violence, mental health, sexual abuse, and chemical dependency issues as possible. Basic diet and nutrition education is helpful for working with clients who are substance abusers.

Costs to workers

Officers may be required to join a union and pay quarterly dues. Some workers join professional associations, which may have annual dues.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists (SOC 21-1092)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $23.63 $26.55 $29.51 $32.58 $36.83
Monthly $4,095 $4,601 $5,114 $5,646 $6,383
Yearly $49,150 $55,220 $61,370 $67,760 $76,600
    Bellingham Hourly $22.96 $27.10 $32.56 $35.95 $38.48
Monthly $3,979 $4,696 $5,643 $6,230 $6,669
Yearly $47,755 $56,382 $67,715 $74,768 $80,031
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $24.30 $25.89 $28.89 $30.79 $33.15
Monthly $4,211 $4,487 $5,007 $5,336 $5,745
Yearly $50,538 $53,866 $60,096 $64,032 $68,945
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $18.92 $20.84 $24.80 $28.79 $30.78
Monthly $3,279 $3,612 $4,298 $4,989 $5,334
Yearly $39,367 $43,341 $51,596 $59,885 $64,017
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $21.62 $25.51 $29.09 $30.78 $33.15
Monthly $3,747 $4,421 $5,041 $5,334 $5,745
Yearly $44,971 $53,055 $60,505 $64,023 $68,945
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $23.83 $26.48 $30.02 $32.31 $37.50
Monthly $4,130 $4,589 $5,202 $5,599 $6,499
Yearly $49,569 $55,086 $62,440 $67,215 $78,007
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $22.61 $28.20 $30.82 $35.71 $37.94
Monthly $3,918 $4,887 $5,341 $6,189 $6,575
Yearly $47,019 $58,671 $64,097 $74,270 $78,923
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $25.28 $27.89 $31.43 $35.71 $41.89
Monthly $4,381 $4,833 $5,447 $6,189 $7,260
Yearly $52,594 $57,999 $65,378 $74,277 $87,122
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $24.04 $27.10 $29.98 $32.32 $35.71
Monthly $4,166 $4,696 $5,196 $5,601 $6,189
Yearly $50,014 $56,375 $62,357 $67,226 $74,278
    Vancouver Hourly $25.19 $27.81 $31.72 $36.62 $39.04
Monthly $4,365 $4,819 $5,497 $6,346 $6,766
Yearly $52,400 $57,840 $65,991 $76,165 $81,197
    Wenatchee Hourly $23.74 $25.41 $28.57 $31.05 $33.14
Monthly $4,114 $4,404 $4,951 $5,381 $5,743
Yearly $49,378 $52,861 $59,420 $64,586 $68,932
    Yakima Hourly $23.75 $25.29 $29.20 $31.55 $33.97
Monthly $4,116 $4,383 $5,060 $5,468 $5,887
Yearly $49,386 $52,606 $60,730 $65,621 $70,666
United States Hourly $16.65 $20.17 $25.49 $34.25 $45.56
Monthly $2,885 $3,495 $4,417 $5,936 $7,896
Yearly $34,630 $41,950 $53,020 $71,240 $94,770

Wages vary by employer. For example, large counties tend to pay more than smaller counties. State employers tend to pay higher wages than county employers.

Most probation officers receive good benefits. These usually include paid vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. They also receive retirement and life insurance plans.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists (SOC 21-1092)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 2,154 5.6% 16.1% 208
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 80 5.0% 13.4% 7
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 84 6.0% 8.6% 8
    Benton and Franklin Counties 156 2.6% 15.0% 13
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 120 4.2% 11.9% 11
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 195 6.2% 15.2% 19
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 302 5.3% 14.1% 29
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 104 7.7% 14.6% 10
    King County 294 5.8% 19.6% 28
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 104 0.0% 13.8% 9
    Pierce County 299 5.0% 15.2% 28
    Snohomish County 244 6.1% 12.4% 24
    Spokane County 201 6.5% 13.9% 20
United States 91,600 3.3% 5.2% 8,200

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

There will be below average growth in this occupation. Demand is dependent on government spending for corrections. More inmates are put into programs where they may be monitored electronically or allowed to work. Probation officers will be needed to monitor offenders who participate in either of these programs. Additional probation officers will be needed to monitor those who finish their prison time.

Job opportunities occur as people leave this occupation. It has high turnover due to it being a stressful job.

Other resources

Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (external link)
American Correctional Association (external link)
206 North Washington Street, Suite 200
Alexandria, VA 22314
American Probation and Parole Association (external link)
701 E. 22nd Street
Suite 110
Lombard, IL 60148
American Society of Criminology (external link)
1314 Kinnear Road, Suite 212
Columbus, OH 43212
Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (external link)
19010 - 1st Avenue South
Burien, WA 98148


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster