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Probation officer

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Probation officers supervise people serving community and prison sentences, and help them to stay away from crime.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £22,000 to £40,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37 per week

1. Entry requirements

You'll need:

  • a level 5 qualification like a foundation degree, degree or higher apprenticeship
  • experience of working with people who have challenging behaviour (either through voluntary work or paid employment)

You could start out as a probation services officer (PSO) and then:

  • pass the in-house vocational level 3 Diploma in Probation Practice (or equivalent)
  • get relevant experience
  • get in touch with contracted universities running the Gateway Assessment Service for HM Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS)
  • complete the required level 4 assignment with a university
  • complete an appropriate level 5 study programme

You’ll also need level 5 knowledge and understanding in 4 study areas:

  • the criminal justice system
  • crime and criminal behaviour
  • penal policy and punishment of offenders
  • rehabilitation of offenders

HMPPS has more information on eligibility and routes into probation work.

Once you’ve got the right qualifications and experience, you can begin a Level 6 Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP) employed as a probation service officer. Once you've completed this, you can apply for probation officer roles.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • the ability to work with a wide range of people
  • research and report writing skills
  • excellent communication and organisational skills
  • the ability to manage stressful situations

3. What you'll do

You'll work with offenders before, during and after their sentence to reduce the risk of re-offending and help rehabilitation.

You may work in:

  • courts – helping prepare pre-sentence reports and giving advice to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service on the day of trial
  • prisons – working towards release with high risk offenders, prison officers and community teams
  • community – managing offenders on community orders or on licence from prison, living at home or in Approved Premises (previously probation or bail hostels)

Your day-to-day tasks may include:

  • interviewing offenders before sentencing or parole
  • making sure offenders attend supervision appointments and take part in group programmes
  • running group programmes to change offenders' behaviour
  • assessing risks and writing reports to help prisons and parole review boards decide about early release
  • working with victims of violent or sexual crime when prisoners are being considered for parole
  • working with prisoners about to be released

You'll also work with other agencies like the police, social services and youth offending teams.

4. Salary

Starter: £22,000 to £27,250 (PSO)

Experienced: £29,000 to £36,000 (probation officer)

Highly Experienced: Up to £40,000 (senior role)

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll usually work around 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. You may need to cover nights and weekends, usually with time off for working unsocial hours.

You'll work in an office. You'll also travel to community programmes, group sessions, prisons and court.

A driving licence may be useful.

6. Career path and progression

With experience you could become a senior probation officer.

With further training you could specialise in working with particular groups, like high-risk or sexual offenders.

Further promotion usually means moving into management and away from working with offenders. You could become an area manager or chief executive.

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Last updated: 02 April 2018