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Working as a probation officer is a hugely-rewarding role. Whether you are looking at starting out in the probation service or switching careers from an existing role, both remain valid routes into the profession

Where to gain experience

As with any job, having experience in the sector offers advantages and that may be via paid, or unpaid, experience of working with offenders, such as in hostels, domestic violence, youth offending teams or in the housing sector.

From there, you can apply for jobs directly through the National Probation Service (NPS) or a Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC).

Attributes of a probation officer

Having a qualification within criminal justice (probation studies) or social care would be advantageous, but other qualifications, such as in criminology, is a good starting point.
But it is not just about the qualification, it is what you as an individual can bring to the role and there are some important attributes that potential employers will be looking at.
You will need to possess good communication skills and the ability to work with different people, be a strong motivator and also be able to deal with challenging situations in a professional manner. An attitude that shows patience and empathy will go a long in the probation service.

People working in probation jobs, who have successfully switched careers, come from a diverse background of role. They may be Housing Officers, an Accommodation Officer, Hostel Worker, Youth Worker, Social Work Assistant or a Community Payback Supervisor, for example.

Diverse range of roles

Probation work can be diverse and those entering the profession can expect to be asked to perform a range of duties. These are likely to include gathering information and interviewing offenders, or assessing the risk an offender may pose to the public.

Part of the job will involve preparing court reports, delivering individual or group programmes to challenge offending behaviour, and helping clients get work or training, housing or drug/alcohol treatment.

Other tasks could be in the areas of arranging and supervising community work placements for offenders, supervising residents living in approved accommodation, supporting victims of crime, and providing education or employment support for prisoners in the community or before their release.

As a probation officer, you will also liaise with other agencies in the criminal justice sector such as prisons, the police, drug and alcohol services, social services, courts, housing, health and voluntary organisations.

Rewards and job satisfaction

It is very much a job that brings with it a number of rewards, such as having the satisfaction of seeing offenders not reoffending due to your ongoing support, or playing an important role within different communities, as well as having access to local government pension schemes.

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