37 per week
£28,000 + per year
If you want a fulfilling job that could help change people's lives for the better, this job could be ideal for you. Probation officers supervise people serving community and prison sentences. They also help with their rehabilitation after release.
To qualify, you would start out as a probation services officer, then train for a degree or postgraduate award in Community Justice and the Level 5 Diploma in Probation Practice.
To be a probation officer, you will need to be able to get on with a wide range of people and have a fair-minded approach. You will also need to stay calm under pressure and be able to handle challenging behaviour.
As a probation officer, your aim would be to protect the public and reduce crime, by:
- reducing the risk of re-offending
- ensuring offenders carry out their punishment
- helping offenders back into the community
- making offenders aware of how their offences affect victims and the public.
You would work with offenders before, during and after they are sentenced. You would often work in a field team, preparing court reports and supervising offenders in the community. You could also work in other settings such as prisons or approved premises (previously known as probation hostels).
Your work might include:
- interviewing offenders and other relevant people before sentencing
- preparing pre-sentence reports, to advise magistrates and judges on the most suitable sentence
- enforcing Community Orders - making sure that offenders attend regular supervision appointments and take part in group programmes or unpaid community work
- running specialist group programmes to change offenders' attitudes and behaviour
- providing reports and risk assessments to help prisons and parole review boards decide on early release
- working with prisoners about to be released
- working with victims of crime.
In this job you would work closely with a range of other agencies such as the police, social services, substance misuse services and Youth Offending Teams.
You would normally work around 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. You may sometimes need to cover nights and weekends, usually with time off to make up for working unsocial hours. You may be able to organise some of your own working patterns.
You would have an office base but also spend a lot of your time travelling around your local area to attend community programmes, group sessions, prisons and court.
Probation services officers (PSOs) earn between £21,000 and £27,000 a year.
Qualified probation officers (POs) can earn between £28,000 to £35,000 a year.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
To become a probation officer (PO), you would normally be employed as a probation services officer (PSO) before applying for a PO training position. If your application is successful, you would study for qualifications while continuing to work as a PSO.
See our job profile for probation services officer for more details about working as a PSO.
The PO qualifying training would involve taking one of the following options:
- an Honours Degree in Community Justice and the Level 5 Diploma in Probation Practice
- the Graduate Diploma in Community Justice and Level 5 Diploma in Probation Practice (if you already have a degree in Criminology, Police Studies, Community Justice or Criminal Justice).
You would study for these while you are working. The first option can take between three and five years to complete. The second takes around 15 months.
Opportunities to progress to a probation officer job would depend on vacancies in your area.
See the Skills for Justice website for more details about careers in probation work.
To become a probation officer in Northern Ireland you must be a qualified social worker. Contact the Probation Board for Northern Ireland for more information.
Training and development
Once you have become a qualified probation officer, you will be encouraged to continue your professional and personal development throughout your career. With experience, you could become a senior probation officer or area manager, with responsibilities that include:
- managing a team of staff
- offender risk assessment and management
- working with other agencies such as police and prison service
- meeting targets and quality standards.
With the right training, you could also specialise in working with particular groups, for example high-risk offenders or sexual offenders.
Contact your employer for details of continuing professional development opportunities.
Skills, interests and qualities
To become a probation officer, you will need to have:
- the ability to relate to a wide range of people
- confident spoken communication skills
- a fair, objective and non-judgemental approach
- a mature and responsible attitude
- the ability to gain people's trust and confidence
- the ability to cope with stressful situations
- report-writing skills
- good organising skills, with the ability to plan your own workload
- the ability to work well as part of team and also on your own initiative
- problem-solving ability
- motivation and commitment.
Skills for Justice
Probation Board for Northern Ireland
80-90 North Street
Tel: 028 9026 2400
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
Tel: 020 3334 3555
You will find most jobs with local probation trusts. For details of local probation trusts, see the Probation Association website.
You could also find temporary contracts through employment agencies that specialise in community justice work.
Jobs may be advertised in the local press, on local probation trust websites and by specialist employment agencies.
You may find the following useful for vacancies and general reading:
Job market information
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