In most states, the general eligibility criteria for becoming a parole officer includes U.S. citizenship, at least 18 years of age and a clean criminal history. The educational requirements include getting an accredited bachelor's degree in a field such as criminal justice, psychology, social work, or sociology. Depending upon their personal preferences, students may complete this program online or in a traditional classroom setting. Online education will give you an opportunity to proceed at your own pace and study under flexible schedules. They are ideal for individuals who wish to pursue this degree while still working full time.
In addition to this, candidates will have to pass a written examination, an oral interview, a physical fitness test, and a drug screening and background check. The Department of Corrections requires that eligible recruits attend the training academy. During their training, they will learn about laws, court procedures, legal codes, government regulations, precedents, and agency rules. They will also be skilled in the following practices:
Conducting parole investigations
Performing social services tasks
Completing and filing documents with federal, state, and local authorities
Supervising and checking in on the parolees
Working with the community, people, and organizations
Under government laws and regulations, some convicted criminals may be put on probation rather than being imprisoned. Individuals who have served time in jail could also be released on parole. However, individuals will have to comply with certain restrictions. It is the job of parole officers to monitor the conduct of these parolees and keep it within law. This supervision requires them to establish and maintain personal contact with the offenders and their families and friends. Parolees are regularly contacted via telephone or personal office visits. They are also checked on at their homes and work places. Probation and parole officers also oversee drug testing and electronic monitoring of offenders. If any noncompliance with the terms of parole is observed, they have the authority to initiate court action or to suggest remedial actions. Parole officers are a type of probation officers whose task is to facilitate the transition of people from prison to society. To make offenders productive members of the society, they also assist them with rehabilitation services including substance abuse counseling and job training.
The government funding for corrections will determine the demand for professionals in this occupation. Keeping offenders in prison is more expensive than conducting community supervision. So it is expected that more opportunities will open up for parole officers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected an 18% increase in the employment of these professionals from 2010 through 2020.
Working with criminal offenders could be highly stressful as well as dangerous. The nature of this job involves working in high-crime areas and working long hours to complete the extensive paperwork. They often have to attend institutions with a high risk of contagious diseases and violence. Also, criminal offenders are generally difficult to deal with, and the job may require frequent travel. This situation makes this occupation unattractive to many, but on a positive note, these factors present attractive job opportunities for qualified individuals.