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What does a Juvenile Probation Officer do?

Choosing the career of juvenile probation officer is challenging and rewarding. It gives you the opportunity to provide a needed service to your community. Your mission is to monitor and counsel juvenile offenders and help them become useful members of society. Probation as an alternative to incarceration offers youthful offenders a chance to get back on a law abiding path and avoid becoming hardened criminals.

Becoming a juvenile probation officer: the basics

Good health, emotional stability, the ability to interact well with people and an affinity for law enforcement provide a solid starting point for success in this profession.

A bachelor's degree in social work, criminal justice, psychology or related fields provides essential academic knowledge while a master's degree betters your possibilities for advancement in law enforcement.

You must pass strict written, oral, physical and psychological exams and normally spend a year as a trainee.

Technological skills in computing, communications, investigative techniques plus the ability to express yourself concisely and clearly either in writing or verbally are vitally important.

Scope of activities

To be a successful juvenile probation officer, you should be aware of the underlying causes of criminal behavior along with understanding the verbal and body language used in dealing with youthful offenders. This includes familiarity with the environment that caused their misbehavior.

You must be sensitive to evasive techniques and stories used by the individuals you monitor. The illegal activities of your clients can range from petty crimes to violence, and your occupation carries an element of danger.

You may carry a caseload of 20 to 150 individuals and learn to know when either firmness or empathy is required. Your recommendations can have a large impact on the sentencing or release of these individuals.

Meeting court deadlines and following court procedures is a large part of your duties. Good organizational skills will keep you ahead of the game.

Job outlook and wage considerations

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the job outlook for juvenile probation officers is excellent. Many states are considering probation as an alternative to incarceration and the need for juvenile probation officers is expected to grow approximately 19 percent according to the BLS. The American Probation and Parole Association is a nationwide organization working on improved performance and standardized procedures in the field. You can get important information at www.appa-net.org.

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