Job descriptions and industry overviews

Probation officer: job description

21 Jun 2023, 15:39

Probation officers oversee people who are serving community sentences or who have been released from prison on licence, supporting them and providing practical advice.

Probation officer job description

What does a probation officer do? | Salaries for probation officers | Typical employers of probation officers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Probation officers provide support to offenders on probation. They help offenders with rehabilitation and transitioning to life outside prison, and protect the community by assessing the risk of further offending.

In Scotland, they’re known as criminal justice social workers.

What does a probation officer do?

Typical duties include:

  • working with offenders while they are on probation
  • providing practical support such as job application guidance or help applying for benefits
  • assessing the risk of further offending
  • supervising and assessing offenders on work placements
  • getting involved in rehabilitation projects
  • supervising junior staff
  • writing reports to be used in the legal process
  • attending court and sometimes giving evidence
  • supporting victims of crime
  • meeting and communicating with criminal justice professionals, social workers and members of the local community
  • keeping detailed records.

You may need to work some unsociable hours but these are likely to be part of a rota that also includes time off. You’re likely to need to travel between different locations to meet offenders and professional colleagues.

Starting salaries for probation officers

HM Prison and Probation Service pays £23,174 while you are training to be probation officers, plus extra if you are based in London or some of the surrounding counties. During this time you’ll be a probation services officer. Once you’re qualified, your salary will initially be £30,208.

Typical employers of probation officers

Probation officers are employed by:

  • HM Prison and Probation Service
  • the Probation Board for Northern Ireland
  • local authorities (in Scotland only).

Vacancies are advertised on the HM Prison and Probation Service website, on and by recruitment agencies. In Scotland, they are advertised on local authorities' websites.

You can also search for vacancies on targetjobs and use our CV and application advice .

Qualifications and training required

In England and Wales, there are routes into probation officer roles for school leavers and graduates.

If you have at least a level 5 (or equivalent) qualification, such as a diploma of higher education or a foundation degree, you can apply for the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP) training programme. You'll work as a probation services officer while you study. You’ll need to study in your own time but you can work flexibly while you’re studying.

You can complete it in 15 months if your qualification included specific topics covered by the course; 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.

If you don’t have a level 5 qualification, you can work as a probation services officer and train on the job through the progression pathway. Eventually you could be eligible for the PQiP programme. To find out more about getting into this field via a school leaver route, visit TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

In Scotland, you need a social work degree at either undergraduate or postgraduate degree. Your degree must be approved by the Scottish Social Services Council.

In Northern Ireland, you’ll need a degree in social work to become a probation officer.

Key skills for probation officers

  • The ability to cope with stressful situations
  • The ability to build trusting relationships with people from all backgrounds, including those with complex problems
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Assertiveness
  • Integrity
  • The ability to work in a team
  • Attention to detail
  • Excellent spoken and written communication skills.

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This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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