Background qualifications for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists vary by State, but a bachelorís degree in social work, criminal justice, or a related field is usually required. Some employers require previous experience or a masterís degree in criminal justice, social work, psychology, or a related field.
Applicants usually are administered written, oral, psychological, and physical examinations. Most probation officers and some correctional treatment specialists are required to complete a training program sponsored by their State government or the Federal Government, after which a certification test may be required.
Prospective probation officers or correctional treatment specialists should be in good physical and emotional condition. Most agencies require applicants to be at least 21 years old and, for Federal employment, not older than 37. Those convicted of felonies may not be eligible for employment in this occupation. Familiarity with the use of computers often is required due to the increasing use of computer technology in probation and parole work. Candidates also should be knowledgeable about laws and regulations pertaining to corrections. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists should have strong writing skills because they are required to prepare many reports.
Most probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work as trainees or on a probationary period for up to a year before being offered a permanent position. A typical agency has several levels of probation and parole officers and correctional treatment specialists, as well as supervisors. A graduate degree, such as a masterís degree in criminal justice, social work, or psychology, may be helpful for advancement.