Probation Officer – Have You Got What It Takes?

It takes a certain type of person to want to be a probation officer and it is fair to say that this career wouldn’t suit everyone. At times it can be a fairly stressful job and you do have to have great people skills. But if you want to have a rewarding career that involves dealing with adult offenders and feel that you could make a difference to their lives, then this could just be the career for you.

Job Role

The main job role of a probation officer is to work with, and monitor offending adults who are serving a community sentence, by providing supervision. This could either be in the form of a license, if they have just been released from prison, or instead by community order. A community order is where an offender is serving their whole sentence within the community, instead of going to prison. The probation service also provides detailed reports of re-offenders to the courts should they require them. In addition the job involves visits to police stations, courts, and even speaking to offenders in their own homes. Job hours are somewhere between 37-40 hours per week and overtime is unusual. Probation officers also work from an office base.

Main qualities needed

A probation officer (PO) has to wear many hats and therefore has to have many qualities. Some of which are as follows:

Great organisational skills
Sound people skills
Must be law abiding
Must be Flexible in their approach
Computer savvy
Self motivation

Day to day activities

The working life of a probation officer is a busy one to say the least and their day to day activities can vary but generally include the following:

Providing pre sentencing reports in order to help magistrates and judges decide on the best course of action for re-offenders.
Enforcing and managing community orders which have been set by the courts. This may include making sure that the offender attends group programs, that they attend regular meetings with the PO, and ensuring that offenders take unpaid work to benefit the community
Working closely with offenders during and after their sentence by helping them to reintegrate into the community
Keeping in contact with victims of serious crimes in order to inform them of the offender’s progress whilst in prison.
Managing specialist programs that help to change offenders attitudes towards their crimes

So are you still interested? Let’s see how you get into it

At present the entry/training requirements for all probation officers are under review and the service as a whole is undergoing big changes. However until the big freeze on training took place, all persons interested in becoming a PO had to undertake a two year Diploma of Probation Studies more commonly known as ‘DipPS’. This was irrespective of whatever training a person has had prior to this. The DipPS was only open to those that were employed by the probation service as a trainee probation officer (TPO) and was the only way of becoming a fully qualified probation officer. In order to become a TPO candidates needed to apply to one of the many probation officer consortiums that are located up and down the country. If selected, then the candidate would go through a rigorous testing phase including presentations, discussions and psychometric tests. There were also a series of written tests and finally a formal interview. Even though competition is fierce, the demand for qualified probation officers is high.

Let’s talk about the pay

The salaries can vary but typically they start with a TPO who can earn somewhere between £14,000 and £15,500. Once qualified to a fully fledged probation officer then salaries increase to somewhere between £20,000 and £27,000 per year.

On the whole the job of a probation officer is one which can be very rewarding and is great for someone who is looking for a career that can have an effect on somebody else’s life. If you fancy a challenging job, that is anything but ‘same old, same old’ then you might want to consider it.

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