Juvenile Probation Officers

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Many people who end up working in the juvenile probation field never imagined they’d have a job as a juvenile probation officer. Sometimes it takes coming into contact with a distressed youth in the justice system. A passion is kindled in the person to reach out and try to make a difference in a troubled youth’s life. Being a juvenile probation officer requires a bachelor’s or in some cases, a master’s degree in criminal justice or a related field.

Education and Background

Obtaining a degree from a highly rated criminal justice program can help the juvenile probation officer earn a higher starting salary. The minimum degree is a bachelor’s in criminal justice or a related field. You’ll find juvenile probation officers working in investigation, individual juvenile supervision, or at juvenile hall during the intake process. Online degree programs make it possible for juvenile probation officers to work during the day and complete their course work at night.

Those with advanced degrees often receive promotions opportunities for career advancement. Working as an intern for a juvenile justice agency may increase job prospects and opportunities for employment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the probation field is expected to grow by 18 percent through 2018.

Juvenile Probation Officer Job Description and Requirements

Getting a job in the field of juvenile probation, after obtaining a criminal justice degree, in many states, requires passing written and oral tests, a psychological profile, physical examination, and a valid driver’s license. If you have a felony criminal background, you are not eligible for these positions. All probation officers need to be excellent communicators, especially possessing skills that allow them to communicate with youths in trouble. Probation officers also need to produce detailed reports, write well, and have computer skills.

How Much Does a Probation Officer Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that those employed under the general category of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, including juvenile probation officers, earn a mean annual wage of $51,240, with those in the top 90th percentile earning $80,750 a year as of May 2010. The highest-paying state is California with a salary of $77,070 for probation officers, while those in Idaho make an annual wage of $38,330. These figures do not include the added value of health benefits, vacation, sick time, and other benefits a juvenile probation officer may receive.

Roles Played in the Juvenile Justice System

The juvenile probation officer can wear many hats while working in the juvenile justice system. Many probation officers will work at the front-end of the system with the low-risk juveniles in hopes of keeping these youth from repeating their mistakes.

While the duties of a probation officer vary from state to state or even between counties within each state, roles of juvenile probation officers include intake and screening of juvenile cases, which involves interviews and assessments. These probation officers also conduct investigations prior to the youth’s adjudication. This allows the officer to testify as to what kind of supervision or probation conditions a juvenile should receive. Another aspect of the job includes direct supervision of a youth undergoing probation. Some jurisdictions may have separate professionals in these positions, depending on the size of the organization, or may require an officer to function in all these different roles.