Most parole officers are employed by state or county correctional departments. Other parole officers are federal employees. Probation officers generally work for the courts. Halfway houses and work-release centers also hire parole and probation officers. Approximately 91,600 workers are employed as probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in the United States.
After fulfilling the necessary requirements, many enter the field by directly contacting local civil service offices or county, state, or federal parole boards. In some areas, applicants are required to take a civil service examination, pass a background check, and physical exam.
Contacts leading to employment are sometimes made during internships at a rehabilitation center or other organizations. Parole officer positions are also advertised on job sites, such as Indeed.com, or on the agency's Web site. Greater opportunities exist for applicants with a master's degree and for those who are willing to relocate. Many parole officers are former police and corrections officers who have gained additional training.
Most people enter the field as a parole officer trainee before assuming the title of parole officer. After completing a state or federal training program, new employees are given on-the-job training to learn the specifics of their job.
There are a number of higher level positions. Beyond the job of parole officer, there are opportunities as supervisors, administrators, and department heads. Some parole officers are promoted to director of a specialized unit, such as juveniles offenders.
Tips for Entry
Keep in mind that becoming a parole officer first involves a thorough background check, (including for misdemeanors) and even a credit check. To become a competitive applicant keep a clean record, including no driving offenses, and avoid credit issues.
Visit the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) Web site, https://www.appa-net.org, to learn more about the issues important to this field.
Consider volunteering for an organization that helps people in need. This will help familiarize you with social service work and be helpful when applying for college.
Read one of the APPA's publications about being a parole officer. These books are for sale on its Web site, https://www.appa-net.org/eweb/DynamicPage.aspx?WebCode=COEPubList&pager=10.