Probation officer

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Probation officers supervise people serving community and prison sentences and help them to stay away from crime.

Salary range: £22,250 to £40,000

How to become a probation officer

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role
  • applying directly


You can do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in:

  • criminology
  • sociology
  • psychology
  • youth and community work

Other subjects may be acceptable.

Once you complete your course you can apply for the Professional Qualification in Probation training programme.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent, for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree

More information


You may be able to do a probation officer degree apprenticeship.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a degree apprenticeship

More information


You could start as a probation services officer, then:

  • take the Level 3 Diploma in Probation Practice and further on-the-job training
  • get relevant experience
  • apply to join the Professional Qualification in Probation training programme

Volunteering and experience

You’ll be expected to have paid or voluntary experience of working with vulnerable people or people with challenging behaviour before you apply for training.

Direct application

You may be able to apply for probation jobs if you already hold certain qualifications approved by HM Prison & Probation Service. For example, a social work degree that includes a probation option.

More information

Career tips

It will help if you have some knowledge of how the criminal justice and rehabilitation systems work.

Professional and industry bodies

You can join the Probation Institute for professional development opportunities.

Further information

You’ll find more on how to become a probation officer from HM Prison & Probation Service.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • knowledge of psychology
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • the ability to work on your own
  • customer service skills
  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

Restrictions and requirements

You’ll need to:

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

In this role you could:

  • interview offenders before sentencing or parole
  • make sure offenders attend supervision appointments and take part in group programmes
  • run programmes to change offenders’ behaviour
  • assess risks and write reports to help prisons and parole review boards decide about early release
  • work with victims of violent or sexual crime when prisoners are being considered for parole
  • work with prisoners about to be released

Working environment

You could work in a prison, in a court, in an office or in the community.

Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.

Career path and progression

With experience you could become a senior probation officer.

With further training you could specialise in working with particular groups, like high-risk or sexual offenders.

Further promotion usually means moving into management and away from working with offenders. You could become an area manager.

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