Probation officer: job description

Probation officers oversee people who have been sentenced, supporting them and providing practical advice.

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

Probation officers work with people who have been sentenced, making sure they attend appointments and group programmes.

Other typical responsibilities include:

  • providing advice and information to offenders
  • Consider and assess the risk of further offence
  • running programmes to help offenders become rehabilitated
  • supervising junior staff
  • writing reports
  • attending court and sometimes giving evidence
  • supporting victims of crime.

Typical employers of probation officers

  • HM Prison and Probation Service
  • Local authorities (in Scotland only)

Vacancies are advertised on the HM Prison and Probation Service website, and on local authorities' websites in Scotland.

Qualifications and training required

You need specialist qualifications to join the probation service. You can study for these on the job via the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP) training programme, and you'll work as a probation services officer while you study.

To be eligible for this scheme, you'll need at least a level 5 qualification, such as a diploma of higher education or a foundation degree. You can complete it in 15 months if your qualification included three or more modules out of the criminal justice system, understanding criminal behaviour, penal policy and the punishment of offenders and rehabilitation of offenders. Otherwise, it takes 21 months to complete. You’ll gain a level 5 vocational qualification diploma in Probation Practice as well as an honours degree.

Key skills for probation officers

Recruiters need candidates who can cope with stressful situations and keep an open mind. Other essential skills and qualities include:

  • assertiveness
  • a mature outlook
  • integrity
  • the ability to work in a team
  • administrative skills
  • excellent spoken and written communication skills.

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