How to become a parole officer – Forbes Advisor


Editorial Note: We earn a commission on partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect the opinions or ratings of our editors.

Do you want to protect your community and bring about personal change and rehabilitation? The role of a parole officer combines outreach and communication with criminal justice, but what exactly does a parole officer do and what is the difference between parole and probation?

This article explores how to become a parole officer, breaking down the steps, salary, skills, and job outlook for this career in criminal justice.

What does a parole officer do?

The goal of a parole officer is to protect the community by rehabilitating, screening, and supervising offenders who are released from incarceration and released on parole.

Parole officers act as liaisons between the parole board and parolees. These professionals help connect their parolees to services, such as counselors and rehabilitation centers. They supervise parolees and monitor their behavior to ensure that they comply with the conditions of their parole determined by a judge.

Daily tasks and responsibilities

Parole officers lay the groundwork for the early release of parole-eligible convicts. Their responsibilities involve constant communication with the judge, the parole board and the convict.

Parole officers interview the offender, their family, and correctional officers to shed light on the offender’s criminal and family history. Officers often use the information gathered at this stage to make recommendations to parolees and provide links regarding housing, education, and rehabilitation centers.

Once an offender is released, a parole officer is responsible for supervising the offender during their reintegration into the community. It is typical for parole officers to have multiple cases at any given time.

The daily duties of parole officers may include random drug testing and home visits. These professionals also administer electronic surveillance systems and ensure that there is no contact with the victims. If a parolee violates the conditions of their parole, it is the officer’s responsibility to alert local law enforcement.

The power of arrest and detention of parole officers varies by state.

Parole Officer vs Probation Officer

“Parole release” refers to early release from incarceration. Probation is sentenced instead of imprisonment.

Parole officers work with offenders released at the start of their parole, while probation officers work with offenders sentenced to probation rather than prison. Parole officers and probation officers have similar responsibilities in that they both work to protect their communities by creating and implementing rehabilitation programs.

If you are wondering how to become a probation officer rather than a parole officer, note that job titles are linked in many jurisdictions, as the requirements and backgrounds are similar.

How to become a parole officer

Although the job requirements to become a parole officer vary from state to state, most positions require a bachelor’s degree and a series of tests and training. These may include drug tests and criminal background checks.

If you are looking to become a parole officer, consider the nature of the position. The life of a parole officer is unique because it combines social work and law enforcement. Most employers prefer applicants to be at least 21 years old and have a valid driver’s license. Consider an internship at a correctional facility or courthouse to gain work experience.

Earn a bachelor’s degree

According to O*Net, 88% of parole officers hired hold a bachelor’s degree. Employers may prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, although many parole officers have degrees in social work, psychology, and related fields.

If you are considering a position as a parole officer, it is in your best interest to earn a bachelor’s degree. However, not all parole officers hold a criminal justice degree, and you can work alongside officers with a variety of degrees, from education to communications.

Get certified

Parole officer training programs are state-sponsored and may culminate in a certification exam. Additional certifications are available for those choosing specialty cases, such as domestic violence or drug and alcohol cases.

Complete intern experience

After completing their training program and passing the certification exam (if required), many parole officers must complete a trainee experience before being hired on a permanent full-time basis. New parole officers can work as interns for up to one year.

Core Competencies of Parole Officers


Since parole officers act as liaisons between the parole requirements of the judge and the parolee, communication is essential. It is the responsibility of parole officers to clearly communicate what is expected of their parolees to help prevent re-incarceration.

Critical mind

As a parole officer, you must be able to gather information from a variety of sources and use that information to make decisions that impact both parolees and their community.

Decision making

When you become a parole officer, you play an important role in determining the reintegration of parolees into society and the safety of the community. Therefore, you need to be able to make wise and informed decisions to get the best possible outcome.


The nature of this work is stressful and sometimes dangerous. When working in law enforcement, unexpected situations require constant thought.


Parole officers handle many legal documents and meetings. It is important to keep these responsibilities organized, as this work has a huge impact on the lives of others.

Parole Officer Salary and Job Outlook

Since May 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, including parole officers, earned a median annual salary of $60,250. The BLS projects that the employment of these professionals will remain the same from 2021 to 2031.

Frequently Asked Questions About Parole Officers

How much do parole officers in California earn?

California parole officers win $94,650 per year on average.


Comments are closed.