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Probation officer

  • Hours

    37 per week

  • Starting salary

    £28,000 + per year

Probation officers supervise people serving community and prison sentences. They also help with their rehabilitation after release. If you want a fulfilling job that could help change people's lives for the better, this job could be ideal for you.

You’ll need to be able to get on with a wide range of people and have a fair-minded approach. The ability to stay calm under pressure will help you to handle challenging behaviour.

You’ll 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.


Work activities

As a probation officer, your aim would be to protect the public and reduce crime, by:

  • reducing the risk of re-offending
  • making sure offenders carry out their punishment
  • supporting offenders in the community
  • helping offenders understand how their offences affect victims and the public.

You’ll work with offenders before, during and after they are sentenced. You’ll often work in a field team, preparing court reports and supervising offenders in the community. You can also work in other settings such as prisons or approved premises - previously known as probation hostels.

You may also:

  • interview offenders and other relevant people before sentencing
  • prepare pre-sentence reports, to help magistrates and judges decide on the most suitable sentence
  • enforce Community Orders - making sure that offenders attend regular supervision appointments and take part in group programmes or unpaid community work
  • run specialist group programmes to change offenders' attitudes and behaviour
  • provide reports and risk assessments to help prisons and parole review boards decide on early release
  • work with prisoners about to be released
  • work with victims of crime.

In this job you’ll work closely with a range of other agencies such as the police, social services, substance misuse services and Youth Offending Teams.

Working hours and conditions

You’ll 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 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 £22,000 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.

Entry requirements

You’ll 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. Check our probation services officer profile for more information.

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 and you would work as a probation services officer as part of your training.

Whatever route you take, experience of working with the criminal justice system and vulnerable groups may give you an advantage.

The National Probation Service is in the process of developing a new qualification route that will be introduced in 2016. Visit the National Probation Service ‘train to be a probation officer’ website to find out more. 

Training and development

Once you have qualified as a 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.

Skills, interests and qualities

As a probation officer, you’ll need:

  • the ability to relate to a wide range of people
  • good communication skills
  • a non-judgemental approach
  • a responsible attitude
  • the ability to gain people's trust and confidence
  • the ability to cope with stressful situations
  • report-writing skills
  • good organisational skills
  • the ability to use your own initiative
  • problem-solving skills
  • motivation and commitment.

More information

Skills for Justice (Opens new window)

GOV.UK (Opens new window) (Prisons and probation)​



You will find most jobs with the National Probation Service who supervise high-risk offenders released into the community or community rehabilitation companies who manage low and medium risk offenders. Visit the GOV.UK website to view a directory of National Probation Service and community rehabilitation companies.

You could also find temporary contracts through employment agencies that specialise in community justice work.

Jobs may be advertised in the local press, on community rehabilitation company websites and by specialist employment agencies.

You may find the following useful for vacancies and general reading:

Job market information

This section gives you an overview of the job area that this profile belongs to. You can use it to work out your next career move. It can help if you’re looking for a job now or want to do some further training.

The 'Market statistics' charts are based on figures from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The list of job vacancies under 'Apply for jobs' is from the Universal Jobmatch database. The vacancies are not from the National Careers Service.

Median income: Public & media
Avg Inc
UK Sector
27017 35802
Gender: Public & media
Female Male
41 59
Working pattern: Public & media
Part-time Full-time Self-employed
14 67 19
Gaps in sector due to skills shortages: Public & media
This sector All vacancies
24 23
Employment forecast: Public & media
Forecast Employment Figures
Year Predicted nos. employed
2014 1584000
2015 1614000
2016 1636000
2017 1666000
2018 1694000
2019 1720000
2020 1749000

Jobs available on Universal Jobmatch

DateJob TitleCompany NameLocation
18/06/2016Probation upon Tyne

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