Probation Officer Requirements


Probation officers monitor criminal offenders sentenced to a period of probation rather than incarceration. They also perform a great deal of work for the court system, such as background investigations, report writing, and sentencing recommendations. Requirements for being a probation officer vary somewhat from state to state, but are generally similar.


  • A bachelor's degree is nearly always required. The degree should be in criminal justice or criminology, although psychology, sociology and social work may be considered.

Additional Education

  • Many employers look for a minor or second major in psychology, sociology, counseling, alcohol and drug studies, or Spanish.

State Exams

  • Most states require probation officer candidates to successfully complete oral, written and psychological examinations.

Criminal Record

  • Some states require probation officers to have no felonies. Others require no adult criminal record whatsoever and no serious juvenile offenses.

Previous Experience

  • Probation officer requirements usually include an internship in a probation agency, or volunteer or part-time work in a group home or detention center. Related experience may be accepted instead, such as a job in pretrial investigations, corrections, substance abuse rehabilitation, social work or counseling.

Job Requirements

  • Once a probation officer is hired, the employee must effectively deal with a heavy workload which may involve travel, on-call hours, stress and frustration. A probation officer must be in good physical condition and emotionally stable, and very knowledgeable about pertinent laws and regulations.

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