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Probation Officer

What is a probation officer?

Probation officers supervise offenders and help them make better life choices in the future. They protect the public by preventing offenders from committing new crimes and help them to become a productive citizen once again.

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What does a probation officer do?

Probation officers interact with offenders, victims, police and prison service colleagues in order to protect the public and reduce the incidence of reoffending. The work is likely to involve close liaison with relevant statutory and voluntary agencies. Probation officers work only in England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate criminal justice systems and different arrangements for the provision of probation services.

The role involves carrying through anything the court assigns to them, including investigating the offender’s history before the sentencing. Being a probation officer can be very rewarding and challenging at the same time. They can help people’s lives and lead them in the right direction. The main part of the role is providing proactive advice and motivating offenders to change their attitudes and behaviour to help reduce further offending.

How to become a probation officer

There are a few different routes to become a probation officer. These are the most known probation officer qualifications:

An honours degree in Community Justice and the Level 5 Diploma in Probation Practice
Study one of the recommended honours criminology degrees mentioned below:

Law with Criminology
BA Criminology
BSc Professional Policing

Our criminology courses benefit from both theoretical and vocational backgrounds. This well-balanced combination of skills and competencies will allow you to pursue a career of your choice.

What skills does a probation officer need?

Interpersonal Skills

Probation officers need excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to relate to, persuade and influence others. By developing these skills, probation officers will interact effectively and show respect and courtesy to others. As a probation officer, you will have to communicate with your clients and co-workers in effective ways under, often difficult, circumstances. You will also need to listen actively and understand what other people are trying to say. Communicating well with people who operate on different ability levels will be very beneficial for you.

Writing Skills

Good written communication skills, proper spelling and grammar will help you communicate effectively and professionally. Probation officers report to their supervisors and maintain the records of their clients. They need to write up casework notes and legible and clear reports to understand and provide the best help possible.

Decision Making

Probation officers need effective decision-making skills and good judgment, as well as the ability to think on their feet and solve problems. As a probation officer, you will need to help your clients make the right decisions about their current issues, e.g., housing, job. You will need to be able to offer the best solutions to solve their problems successfully. Probation officers also teach these skills to their clients and lead by example.

Planning and Organisational Skills

The ability to pay attention to detail, be thorough in your work, and multitasking are essential organisational skills to have. Ideally, you should use some organisational system to be able to plan your daily tasks. Probation officers manage many cases for multiple clients at once. They need to be able to stay on top of things, keep detailed records and serve the different needs of clients.

Patience and a Caring Attitude

Being patient and showing caring and understanding towards clients are essential skills to show you have strong emotional stability. As a probation officer, you will encounter lots of difficult situations and frustration from your clients. The ability to remain calm in stressful situations and be flexible when changes occur is essential for this profession.

Knowledge and Understanding of Criminal Justice

Knowledge and understanding of the criminal justice system and the probation service are essential skills to have. Probation officers need to support the rehabilitation of offenders while at the same time protect the public.

What are a probation officers responsibilities?

As a probation officer, your responsibilities will vary and depend on whether you work in the private sector or the National Prosecution Service, NPS, - a statutory criminal justice service.

Your primary role will be to protect the public and reduce crime. You need to collaborate effectively with other agencies in the criminal justice system, such as local authorities, police, health services, courts, substance misuse services, youth offending teams, and voluntary agencies.

The role also involves working with offenders before, during, and after they are sentenced. You will carry a risk assessment and reviews on offenders. You will help them serve community sentences, motivate and help them to reintegrate back into the community. You might also run specialist group programmes to change offender’s attitudes and behaviour.

Probation officers work in a field team, prisons, or other prisoners' premises previously known as probation hostels.

How to get work experience to become a probation officer?

You can get work experience through voluntary or paid work, including:

  • Community payback teams
  • Youth offending teams
  • Victim support services
  • Approved premises
  • Prison visiting services
  • Outside of the community justice system

At the University of Law, we offer a wide range of support and services to help you find work experience as a Probation officer.

What is a probation officers salary?

During training to be a probation officer for the NPS, you can earn around £22,000 to £29,000 plus allowances. As a newly qualified officer, the salary ranges between £29,000 to £37,000. Senior probation officers with relevant qualifications, skills, and experience can earn between £36,000 to £41,000. Wages for experienced managers in big cities can exceed £50,000. The estimates are regularly changing, be sure that you check salaries when applying for roles.

What are a probation officers working hours?

Probation officers work a standard 37-hour per week. Occasionally they need to work outside regular working hours. Holiday entitlement is around 25 days per year, plus public holidays. The entitlement increases to 30 days after five years of service.

Useful links

For more information on jobs and what to expect from this career, please visit some of the most widely used sites for careers support.


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