- Probation officers perform a fantastic service for the public, by managing and controlling offenders in custody, and out in the wider community.
- They also interact with police and voluntary agencies to ensure that the best possible conditions for both offenders and victims are met, and that any transition from custody to release takes place as smoothly as possible.
- In this guide, we will help you navigate the path it takes to becoming a probation officer, and show you what you should expect from the role.
Step 1 – Work Experience
Prior to your initial application, it is highly recommended that you undertake relevant work experience within the field. Your application is far more likely to be successful if you have shown a capability to cope and succeed in similar conditions to those you will face during the role. This can be either voluntary or paid, and includes community and youth work, mental health or prison work. It may even be a good idea, if your initial application is unsuccessful, to volunteer directly to your local probation service.
- Contact/locate local youth centers and prisons, to see if they are looking for anyone to help full time, or part time. These can be located via this link, http://local.direct.gov.uk/LDGRedirect/index.jsp?LGSL=642
- Contact your local Probation service to see if they are taking volunteers/helpers on a full time, or part time basis.
- Contact local mental health services, to see if they are looking for voluntary or paid aid. As a Probation officer, you will be required to deal calmly and effectively with individuals who may not be in the right state of mind to offer the same behavior. Experience with mental health will put you ahead in the selection process. You can find details of local mental health services here, http://www.nhs.uk/service-search
Step 2 – Qualifications
In order to become a probation officer, you will first need to become a probation services officer (PSO). As a PSO, your work will be highly similar to that of a regular probation officer, however you will only be supervising lower risk offenders. Thus, the entry requirements for PSO are set lower, and therefore easier to reach.
Generally the requirements for PSO are as follows:
- A good standard of education, minimum 4 GCSE or any equivalent, especially English.
- The availability to partake in relevant training.
- Work experience within the field.
- A level 3 Diploma in probation practice. This will be completed during your first 12 months on the job, and is work based.
- A valid driving license, as having a car/quick access is essential to the role.
- Be in good physical and mental condition, as the work can be both emotionally and physically exhausting.
Upon application for the role of PSO, you would be subjected to various background checks. Offences against children, and violent offences, could prevent you from going any further in the process, as will the time frame in which the offence was committed.
Step 3 – PSO TO PO
Once you have completed your trainee probation officer PSO training, you might be ready to move onto the next stage, and become a probation officer (PO). In order to do this, during your time as a PSO, you would need to study for one of the following qualifications:
- A degree in community justice and level 5 diploma in probation practice. This can take up to five years to complete.
- A graduate diploma in community justice and a level 5 diploma in probation practice. This will take around roughly fifteen months.
Many UK based universities run these courses, which are typically taught through a combination of both academic and work-based learning. When you have completed either, you will be in a position to progress to the role of a probation officer. This would also depend on the need for new probation officers within your area, and the number of vacancies available. Typically, probation officers have two distinct fields: Youth (under 18) and Adult (over 18), and will earn a salary from £28,000 to £35,000.
Step 4 – Working as a probation officer
Once you undertaken the relevant work experience, trained as a PSO, reached level 5 in probation practice and been accepted into the role, you will be ready to start work as a probation officer.
As a probation officer, you will be working with high-risk individuals to keep their threat level to both themselves and the public, at a minimum. Your communicational and personal skills will be tested on a consistent basis, and you must be ready for the challenge.
Here we have compiled a list of some of the activities you will be expected to perform on a day to day basis:
- Working with high risk and medium offenders, including dangerous and consistent law breakers.
- Reintegrating serial offenders back into society.
- Providing reports to boards and parole panels that help to determine whether an offender is safe to be released back into the public, or needs more time in custody.
- Attending court to testify about offenders behavior.
- Speaking to victims about the impact of the crime and helping them feel secure about the chances of it happening again.
- Providing personal reports for magistrate and crown courts on the offender, to help them decide on suitable punishments.
- Working with voluntary agencies to keep the community safe and lend support to any of their staff. In some cases, you may be expected to lead or run particular aspects of these programmes.
Normal working hours for a PO are around 37 hours per week, Monday to Friday. You will spend a great deal of time travelling within the local community, particularly in attending local programmes, court sessions and meetings in prison.
A personal review of the role from a qualified Probation officer-