Probation officer: job description

Probation officers are social workers/court officers employed by the Probation Service to supervise offenders and released prisoners in the community and to help them lead law-abiding lives.
The National Probation Service in England and Wales consists of 35 probation trusts

What do probation officers do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Working with offenders or ex-offenders who have emotional, behavioural or psychological problems can make the job stressful and demanding. However, helping people better themselves can be a particularly rewarding role. Responsibilities of the job include:

  • providing advice and information about offenders to assist with court sentencing
  • writing/presenting pre-sentence and pre-release reports
  • helping offenders come to terms with custodial sentences
  • undertaking one-to-one and group work activities
  • organising and overseeing community service work
  • ‘befriending' and counselling offenders and their families
  • supervising junior staff
  • helping with the rehabilitation of ex-offenders into the community
  • visiting offenders at home, in court, prison, hostels or other penal institutions
  • supporting the victims of some violent or sexual crimes
  • liaising with the police, social services etc.

Probation services officers earn between £19,000 and £26,000 a year, while qualified probation officers earn around £26,000 to £35,000.

Probation officers typically work a 37 hour week, although some overtime and on-call work may be necessary.

Typical employers of probation officers

Probation officers are employed by the National Probation Service. Positions attract strong competition so some relevant work experience is recommended. A number of probation services organise voluntary work experience schemes.

Vacancies are advertised via careers services, in national newspapers and in specialist publications including Probation Bulletin and Community Care.

Qualifications and training required

In order to join the probation service you will need to gain a degree in community justice. With that qualification you could apply to join the probation service as a probation services officer. Within a year of securing that position you would then need to take a vocational qualification level 5 diploma in probation practice. The National Probation Service encourages on-the-job training with a view to either gaining a specialism or moving into management. Given the amount of travelling associated with the role, a driving licence may be necessary.

Key skills for probation officers

  • the ability to cope with stressful situations
  • responsibility
  • assertiveness
  • an open mind
  • maturity
  • integrity
  • team skills
  • administrative
  • oral/written communication skills.