Being a good citizen of your country means being a responsible human being who leads by example and is always willing to serve his community at great risk to himself and without expecting any reward in return. But there are rewards attached to becoming a productive and efficient probation officer. The officer’s own initiative and leadership skills are rewarded when he sees his protégé make his way safely back into the mainstream of society after spending time away from the real world recuperating and learning from past mistakes made. The probation officer shares his own peace of mind with the rest of his community in knowing that after a job well done he has made an invaluable contribution towards his community.
Why become a probation officer
Rigid law enforcement roles are not for everyone. But the burning desire remains instilled to serve the community. There is also a desire to serve those who need help getting back on their feet on a more intimate level. While he or she does not wish to patronize or indoctrinate, he or she does want to put good parenting skills to better use beyond the home.
There is awareness that there are men and women, young and old, who are more in need of guidance, counseling and life skills training than others. Where probation officers are concerned, the passion and motivation already instilled, they know that their jobs are never easy and sometimes even dangerous. Becoming a probation officer is also not for everyone. But it is only a perception that this job carries more risk than reward. The rewards far outweigh the initial hurt and frustration in dealing with a rehabilitated person making his entry back into society.
Strictly speaking, a probation officer is a law enforcement officer. But he is not enrolled in the traditional sense where he is required to maintain and uphold rules and regulations as laid down by federal and State laws. While the job can be dangerous, the probation officer does not carry a firearm. To do his job effectively, he should not arm himself. But there are rare and extreme circumstances where this is regrettably required.
The probation officer is a qualified law enforcement professional who monitors past prisoners, manages their rehabilitation programs as required by law and initiates and motivates job training programs and directs offenders towards their first job interview. It is also a job requirement that officers collaborate professionally with courts in order to accurately assess offender’s case histories and make recommendations regarding sentencing procedures with fairness in mind.
A good probation officer has effective written and spoken communication skills. He or she is also culturally sensitive and is able to converse comfortably and empathetically with anyone in spite of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. He or she is non-judgmental, impartial and responsible, always acting within the law. While this is so, critical thinking on the job is also important; ensuring that counsel and decision making is rational, reasonable and realistic.
A rational person does not overreact emotionally and is able to detach from the constraints and frustrations experienced by the rehabilitated offender. He is an effective guidance counselor who is able to restrain himself from duly influencing the subject based on his own personal beliefs and habits.
While the minimum education requirements differ from state to state, most states require candidate officers to complete practical training programs and certification tests before going on to work full-time. Also, knowledge-based and aptitude skills are required in most cases. And in most cases, the minimum education requirement is a relevant bachelor’s degree. Majors in the BA typically include subjects in criminal justice, psychology, social work and/or guidance counseling.
Although the numbers are low, probation officers who require a specialized skill set to deal with juvenile offenders and repeat or dangerous offenders, for example, usually apply their mind to a Master’s Degree program. Apart from required education and training, life skills are essential. Beginning probation officers need to be of age and have worked no more than two years in general.
Why you should consider this career
If you believe that you have what it takes to become a probation officer and truly believe that you have a calling to do this work also know that you will be putting your heart, body and soul on the line. You must be prepared to self-sacrifice and work beyond the call of duty. But know that everything you put into your work will see you make a rewarding and valuable contribution to your community.