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Probation officer

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

Annual Salary

£24,000 to £40,000

Average UK salary in 2022 was £33,200
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

36 to 38 a week

You could work: evenings / weekends; occasionally

Future employment

There will be 2.4% more Probation officer jobs in 2027.

Day to day tasks

As a probation officer, you could:

  • interview offenders before sentencing or parole
  • make sure offenders attend supervision appointments and rehabilitation programmes
  • run programmes designed to change offenders' behaviour
  • assess risks and write reports to help prisons and parole review boards make decisions
  • work with victims of crime when prisoners are considered for parole
  • help clients to get work or training, housing, or drug and alcohol treatment
  • work closely with other agencies to manage risks and reduce reoffending

Working environment

You could work in a prison, in a court, in an office or in the community.

Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • working towards this role
  • applying directly

You can do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in:

  • criminology
  • sociology
  • psychology
  • youth and community work

Similar subjects may be acceptable.

Once you finish your course you can apply for the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP) training programme. You need to complete this to become a qualified probation officer.

The PQiP programme takes between 15 and 21 months to complete, depending on what you studied at university.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent, for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
For more information

You could start work as a probation services officer. Once you've built up your experience and completed on-the-job training, you could apply to join the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP) programme.

Volunteering and work experience

You'll be expected to have paid or voluntary experience of working with vulnerable people, or people with challenging behaviour, before you apply for training. You can get this by working with charities and organisations that support ex-offenders.

Go to Do IT and NCVO for information on voluntary opportunities in your area.

Direct application

You may be able to apply directly for a trainee probation officer job if you already have a qualification at Level 5 or above. For example, a social work degree that includes a probation option.

Requirements and restrictions

You'll need to:

More information

Career tips

It will help if you have some knowledge of how the criminal justice and rehabilitation systems work.

Professional and industry bodies

You can join the Probation Institute for professional development opportunities.

Further information

You'll find more on how to become a probation officer from HM Prison & Probation Service.

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After further training, you could specialise in working with certain groups, like high-risk prisoners or those who have committed sexual offences.

With experience, you could become a senior probation officer.

Further promotion usually means moving into management and away from direct work with offenders. You could also become an area manager.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • knowledge of public safety and security
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • the ability to work on your own
  • the ability to understand people’s reactions
  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • knowledge of English language
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
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