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Candidate Requirements

At Sanctuary Criminal Justice, we fill a wide range of roles for both qualified and unqualified staff.

Becoming a probation officer


The first step to becoming a probation officer in England and Wales is to find a job as a probation service officer (PSO). Most PSO roles require experience of working with offenders or other vulnerable groups. This can be gained through either paid or voluntary work in approved premises, prison visiting services, victim support services, youth offending teams or community payback teams.

All PSOs must complete a Vocational Qualification Diploma in Probation Practice Level 3 (VQ3) during their first 12 months in the role. After this they can take further qualifications towards becoming a probation officer. This will either be by completing a three year degree in community justice or for PSOs who already hold a relevant degree – one including a minimum of 50% of criminology, police studies, community justice or criminal justice – the work-based Graduate Diploma in Community Justice.

The changes in how probation services are organised in England and Wales may affect future career opportunities for probation officers and other workers. Sanctuary Criminal Justice is running a series of webinars to keep interested professionals up to date with the changes.

In Scotland, probation officers are known as criminal justice social workers. Entry is via a four-year honours degree in social work, approved by the Scottish Social Services Council. A two-year postgraduate scheme is available for entrants who already possess a degree in another subject. Candidates should have some experience in social work/care.

If you want to work as a probation officer in Northern Ireland, you must be a qualified social worker.

Becoming a youth offending team officer


There are no minimum entry requirements for youth offending team (YOT) workers, but applicants are expected to have experience of work, either paid or voluntary, with young people at risk. Many YOT staff have a degree in youth justice, youth work, social work, criminology or another relevant subject.

Once you are in a youth justice role, there are further qualifications you can take (these may be a requirement in some youth justice organisations). The qualifications have been developed by the Youth Justice Board with the Open University, including online short courses, the Professional Certificate in Effective Practice (Youth Justice) which is suitable for new and experienced staff, and the Foundation Degree in Youth Justice.

Find out more about the Youth Justice Board’s workforce development programme

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