As thousands are sentenced to prison each year, a significantly larger number of prisoners are also released on parole. Released inmates are provided assistance from parole officers who help them adjust to life outside. Parole officers devise plans for released convicts and help them find appropriate housing, healthcare, jobs, and education.
Parole officers are integral to the smooth running of correctional facilities and parole boards in every state. Their services and duties help ensure that released inmates do not go back to their old ways.
The demand for parole officers is high as per the statistics provided by the Bureau of Justice. The career may have challenges of its own, as parole officers may have to work with dangerous criminals in certain cases. However, the career comes with many benefits, monetary, medical and others.
How to Become a Parole Officer
To become a parole officer, individuals must complete the basic educational and training requirements. These will vary from state to state. The parole division or department of corrections in each state is mainly responsible for hiring and training parole officers.
There are three main types of parole officers:
Institutional parole officers
District parole officer
Federal parole officer
The first step to preparing for this field is completing high school education and later enrolling in a bachelor’s degree. A college degree is required for most careers in criminal justice.
Parole officer applicants usually follow this path:
Obtain a bachelor’s degree
Meet the minimum requirements set by the department
Pass a series of psychological and physical tests
Complete the training requirements
Pass the qualifying examination (if necessary)
Complete probation and on-the-job training
A bachelor’s degree
After completing a high school diploma, individuals must graduate with a four-year bachelor’s degree. Although there is no specific academic discipline designed for individuals interested in pursuing a career in criminal justice, the following are a few recommended majors:
A degree in criminal justice is highly recommended. This discipline provides students with a broad understanding of criminal justice institutions, laws, and jurisdiction. Students will learn about the role of criminal justice in the society and how it is divided into various sectors/branches.
This field covers the causes and prevention of crime in the society. Students will examine the various psychological, environmental, hereditary causes of criminal activities. Parole officers must have a thorough understanding of what influences criminals and how to identify those causes.
Social Work Administration
This area of study focuses on the administrative knowledge and skills used in human service organizations. There are a number of institutes offering associate and bachelor’s degree programs in social work administration.
A bachelor’s degree in psychology is geared towards providing students with a thorough understanding of the main theories of psychology, practices, and concepts. Students can choose to major in criminal psychology.
A bachelor’s in business administration is one of the most popularly pursued academic programs. It is designed to provide students with a complete understanding of management principles, administration, and business practices.
Policing and Investigations
This major will focus on the investigative techniques used in criminal institutions. Students will acquire a broad understanding of areas such as surveillance, role of police, investigation, crimes, and security.
A bachelor’s degree will typically take four years to complete. Part-time students may take longer to graduate.
The admission criteria will vary from school to school. Applicants must have a high school diploma to qualify for enrollment. Other requirements may include meeting the minimum GPA standards, submitting letters of recommendation, and passing an admission test. Details regarding the admission process are available on the web page of prospective schools.
Many colleges and universities now offer bachelor degree programs online as well.
Parole Officer - Entry requirements
To qualify for training, individuals must meet the basic parole officer requirements of the parole division or corrections department. Although the exact criteria for entry will vary from state to state, individuals must have the following:
Must be over the age of 20
Must have a valid driver’s license
Must have a bachelor’s degree
Physical and psychological tests
Applicants are not immediately hired as parole officers. They must first clear a series of tests. The physical test is conducted to determine the fitness-level of an applicant. Health disorders and disabilities may disqualify an individual.
Apart from physical tests, applicants must also go through psychological screening. This test is held to assess the mental stability of an applicant.
Background check and drug screening
Applicants must have a clean criminal record. In some states, a felony or criminal charge will disqualify an applicant for the job. It is important to remember that having a firearms license is also mandatory for the career.
The training program is typically conducted by the recruitment board. Training will provide recruits with the opportunity to develop career-oriented skills, and understand what the career demands. The program is divided into various phases, each focusing on a specific aspect of the job.
Here is what recruits will learn in the training program:
Classroom learning and courses
Applicants must undergo classroom-based learning where a number of topics relevant to the field are taught. These topics include:
Community residential programs
Criminal justice sentencing
Technical rule violation centers
This part of the training is competed on the work-site. Recruits receive training from senior officials/officers. On-the-job training will allow them to gain hands-on experience and develop skills necessary for the job. A certain number of training hours must be completed for successful completion.
Certification and continuing education
Some states may require individuals to be certified and acquire a passing score in the qualifying examination. According to revised guidelines and standards, continuing education has become important for probation and parole officer careers. Applicants are required to complete a minimum number of continuing education hours each year. The requirements will vary from state to state.
With the completion of training and certification, recruits may begin their career as parole officers. In some states, parole officers are required to work for at least 1-2 years before they are allowed to handle cases on their own.