While parole officers and probation officers are often discussed together, these two jobs are not identical. A parole officer works with a person that has been released from a state or a federal prison. A prisoner may be released on parole, but the individual is still not completely free of supervision and the release has strict conditions. Parole can be revoked for almost any type of infraction.
The role of a parole officer is to help an individual that has been incarcerated adjust to life outside the prison. They do this by creating a plan for the individual before they are released from the prison. The plan will consist of housing, employment, education, health care, and drug screenings, as well as other activities that will help the parolee rehabilitate and function within society.
A parole officer will observe the parolees and attend parole hearings to make recommendations based on their surveillance and interviews of the individual. On average, a parole officer may have anywhere from 70 to 130 cases that are active at once. This position is dangerous as a parole officer is working directly with convicts and their family and friends.
In order to become a parole officer an individual must first obtain a bachelor’s degree. The most commonly held degrees by parole officers include corrections, criminal justice, psychology, social work, sociology, counseling, business administration, and other degrees related to these areas. Those that are interested in becoming a federal parole officer will likely have to have at least a year of graduate work in social work, psychology, counseling, or a related field.
Most county and state parole jobs require a bachelor’s degree at the very minimum, with federal positions requiring at least a year of graduate school. Individuals must be at least 20 years old, carry a valid driver’s license, and complete the required training and certification courses that are required by the county, state, or federal regulations. A parole officer will often have to become certified within the state that they wish to work in before they are allowed to apply for a position. Once accepted, they will then go through extensive training before taking on their first case.
Individuals must also be licensed to carry a firearm in the state that they live in. A drug screening, background investigation, and a psychological examination will also be required. There are some states that require a parole officer to work for at least 2 years in counseling or corrections position before being considered for a parole officer position.
Salary & Job Outlook
The salary of a parole officer will vary based on the position and the amount of education that an individual has. Those with at least a year of graduate school under their belt will increase their chances of obtaining a job in this area.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the average yearly salary of a parole officer at $48,190 (2012). The job growth for these positions is expected to be around -2 to 2% through the year 2022.