There are several layers of probation training. Those who wish to become a probation officer generally should start out with a degree from a college or university—preferably a bachelor's or master's degree—in criminal justice, social work, or another similar field. They should then obtain a professional certification. Certain areas of probate work require additional training, such as work with juveniles or sexual predators. Finally, those who work in probation are usually required to coninue their training in order to maintain their professional certification.
Probation officers work closely with convicted criminals and supervise their ongoing assimilation in to mainstream society. Their primary roles are to ensure abstinence from criminal behavior and participation in meaningful activity that benefits society, such as maintaining gainful employment or engaging in community service. Some probation officers also serve as mentors. This is especially true when working with juveniles who need appropriate and responsible adult connections to be successful. Probation officers also locate rehabilitation opportunities for individuals that might benefit from such programs.
Preparation for a career as a probation officer usually begins with a bachelor's degree, and some positions may even require a master's degree. A few agencies in the United States will consider applicants with an associate's degree in special circumstances or in cases where there is extensive experience. This is, however, extremely rare. Individuals wishing to pursue this career should begin their probation training with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, social work, psychology, or a similar program.
Professional certification is typically a required part of probation training. Requirements for these programs will vary depending on the country or state involved. Most probation training programs require a minimum number of classroom hours to be completed before sitting for the certification exam. These exams may include several sections including verbal, written, psychological, and physical components.
Additional training and certification is often required for individuals who wish to work with juveniles. While all probation officers focus on successful rehabilitation, this is especially true for juvenile probation officers. Coursework in child psychology, abnormal psychology, factors of abuse and neglect, and adolescent development are common components of these probation training programs. Individuals wishing to become juvenile probation officers are often encouraged to gain valuable experience working as teachers, school counselors, social workers, or in related areas of human services.
Probation officers working with sexual predators might also require additional training. Sexual predators are believed to pose a much greater threat to the general public than other types of criminals due to the high number of repeat offenders. Understanding the psychology of these individuals is necessary for their successful integration into society.
Many agencies require probation officers to earn annual CEUs (continuing education units) to maintain certification. These probation training programs are often offered by state or federal agencies or by local colleges. Topics are varied but can include substance abuse, empathy training, rational behavior training, or informational training about various rehabilitation programs offered by other agencies.