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What does a Parole Officer do?

Are you interested in both law enforcement and social work? Do you want to give back to the community by contributing to public safety? If so, you may enjoy a career as a parole officer.

Job description: the basics

Parole officers serve as monitors of and counselors to criminal offenders who have served their time in prison and been released. They keep track of offenders for the parole authority, assist offenders in planning their lives after their release, and report violations of the parole conditions as needed.

While one major aspect of being a parole officer is protecting the public by keeping offenders from committing new crimes, an equally important aspect is helping each offender successfully transition back into society. In this second role, you work constantly with offenders and their families and even the wider community (i.e., the offender's therapist or a religious group to which the offender may belong).

You need to be comfortable and adept at communicating with all of these different people, some of whom may be very difficult to deal with, or even violent. You can also expect to travel sometimes as you track the parolees in your caseload, and to fill out a lot of paperwork about each individual.

Becoming a parole officer: education and training

To become a parole officer, you need a bachelor's degree in a field like criminal justice or social work. Occasionally, an employer may require a master's degree, especially if you are trying to enter the job after switching careers and don't have prior experience in probation, parole, or counseling work.

You often need to go through a state or federal government training program, and in addition to that, you may be required to pass a certification exam and work on a probationary basis for as much as a year at your new job.

Also, because of the demanding nature of being a parole officer, you generally take physical and psychological exams as well as oral and written exams when starting a job. Many parole agencies want their officers to be 21 or older, and the federal government usually doesn't hire anyone over the age of 37.

Salary and career outlook

Per the U.S. Department of Labor, your employment outlook as a parole officer is expected to be excellent, but bear in mind that all jobs depend on funding at the state and federal government levels, which is often subject to change.

Although work as a parole officer is a high-stress job, the satisfaction of having a visible positive impact on an offender and the community can outweigh the negatives of this career.

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