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Begin a Career as a Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist

Within the criminal justice system, there are countless individuals who work tirelessly to process, detain and try criminals. These individuals are paid well for their work; their jobs are integral to a safe, healthy and happy society. However, many people forget about the final part of the equation, which is often the transition period between jail and a new life in society.

To monitor these reformed criminals, help them find a meaningful way to contribute to the world and ensure that they don't go back to a life of crime, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists are needed. If you want to make a difference, then this career choice could well be the right fit for you.

Discover what traits are most important for these positions, what kind of formal education is required, what the job entails, what the forecast is for job growth and what the average salary tends to be.

What Does a Probation Officer Do?

The first step in deciding if this career is the right choice for you involves understanding what probation officers do. Typically, these individuals do not work directly in prisons, but they may have offices in government buildings.

The primary job of probation officers is to check up on those individuals who are on probation. Probation might take place when someone is convicted of a crime but not sent to jail, or it could be a transition period that takes place after release from a prison.

This job involves meeting directly with those on probation, ascertaining their whereabouts and ensuring that they are not involved with any illegal activities or activities not allowed to them on probation.

While face to face meetings and phone calls are a large part of this career, so too is writing reports detailing each meeting as well as reports recommending courses of action for these individuals.

What Does a Correctional Treatment Specialist Do?

In many ways, correctional treatment specialists have similar job descriptions to probation officers. However, many correctional treatment specialists work in prisons, halfway houses and rehabilitation centers before the criminals are let out of government custody.

Their job is to create plans for these individuals to follow after being released into society once again. They might recommend that those who will be released soon take a basic computing or automotive course to help them find employment, or they might even teach personal finance classes to inmates to help them better transition to life outside of prison.

What is the Average Salary For These Careers?

Before deciding to pursue any one specific career, you should consider the salary and determine if it fits within your goals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for both probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in the United States is $48,190.

Of course, there are a number of different factors that can influence that number, and a big one is simply geographic location. Probation officers in a rural Southern location, for example, will earn much less than those working in New York City, and that simply has to do with the average cost of living in both respective destinations.

What Educational Requirements Need to be Met Before Being Hired?

In almost every case, you will need to have a minimum of a bachelor's degree before you can pursue either of these two careers in criminal justice. However, most students can choose from a variety of related majors that interest them most.

Criminal justice is the best option if you know that this career is for you, but other options might include sociology, behavioral sciences or psychology. If you opt to earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, you can choose to earn it entirely online or on a more traditional college campus.

Whatever option you select, the degree will take roughly four years for the average student to complete. In that time, some of the subjects that you can expect to see on your syllabus include that of social policies, criminology, constitutional law, corrections, public administration and the principles of rehabilitation.

Are There Any Other Prerequisites to Employment?

Along with a bachelor's degree, most government agencies and prisons will also require that probation officers and correctional treatment specialists meet a few additional prerequisites before being hired as full-time members of staff.

This typically includes a full psychological exam, submitting to periodic drug testing, having a clean criminal record and passing a certification exam that is generally offered by the state.

What Traits Are Found Among Successful Individuals in Criminal Justice?

Once you are serious about pursuing one of the many criminal justice careers, it may be a good idea to see whether your traits match up with those who are most successful in the field. While anyone with drive, dedication and a bachelor's degree has the potential to be employed, success for an entire career is often earned primarily by those who are emotionally stable in their own lives.

This calmness is noticed by inmates you work with, and it can make interviews more productive and less volatile. Other markers of success include excellent verbal communication, great writing skills and being a critical thinker in moments of stress.

What Does the Future Look Like For This Field?

Along with determining whether you have what it takes to excel in the field of criminal justice, it is important for aspiring probation officers and correctional treatment specialists to get a picture of this industry's future.

One way to do so is to take a look at the forecast growth predicted by the BLS. Unfortunately, the BLS predicts that the demand for these two careers will drop by one percent in the next decade, which makes competitiveness for top positions likely.

However, there are also opportunities for similar careers in this field, and those might include positions like correctional officer, police detective, social care worker, social and human service assistant or substance abuse counselor.

Earning a degree in criminal justice can be accomplished online or in a traditional setting. You can earn an associate degree to get into the field and then specialize as you advance your edcuation. There will always be a need for those who are willing to help others through a protective service career. Learn more about earning your degree online.