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Probation Officers and Parole Agents

California Occupational Guide Number 192
Interest Area 10


PROBATION OFFICERS and PAROLE AGENTS have common goals--to protect the
public.  Both are responsible to assist ex-offenders to adjust to life in a
free community and to prevent future criminal acts.  These officers work
towards returning law offenders to useful, productive lives.  The offenders
may be on probation or parole depending on their legal status.  A law
offender who is given a probationary sentence may or may not have served
time in a county jail.  Once released, the offender is put on probation or
county parole, depending on the offense and prior record.  Offenders who
have served time in a state or federal correctional facility are placed on
parole when released.  Both types of offenders are given a conditional
release under the supervision of a Probation Officer or Parole Agent for a
specific length of time.

The legal status of the law offenders also determines which level of
government will be responsible for providing the officers to supervise the
offenders.  Counties only hire Probation Officers.  The State of California
only hires Parole Agents who work for either the Department of Youth
Authority or the Department of Corrections.  The federal government employs
combination Parole-Probation Officers to assist clients who come under the
jurisdiction of Federal District Courts.  Federal officers work almost
exclusively with adult offenders, while county and state officers are
assigned to either adult or juvenile case loads.  

Probation Officers are officers of the courts and in this capacity they
perform pre-sentence investigations and prepare reports on their clients.
They develop plans to assist their clients return to a free society.  They
also have the responsibility of enforcing court orders that at times require
the officers to make arrests, perform searches, seize evidence, and arrange
for drug testing.

Parole Agents with the Department of Corrections, the Youth Authority, or
the Federal Justice Department report directly to their respective Parole
Boards and have the main responsibility for the supervision of their clients.
Parole Agents develop recommendations and plans for their clients before they
are released.  They arrange for services, such as employment, housing,
medical care, counseling, education, and social activities.  When a parole
violation or criminal behavior is alleged, Parole Agents conduct
investigations that can include interviews, surveillance, and search and
seizure.  They also arrange for drug testing.


Probation Officers and Parole Agents work with criminal offenders who may be
dangerous.  The areas in which they work may also be dangerous.  In some
counties Probation Officers are required to carry a firearm.  All Parole
Agents are required to carry a firearm.  They may have to make arrests,
conduct searches, and perform drug tests.  Probation Officers may have to
appear in court occasionally to represent their department, present
probation reports, and to respond to questions concerning probation
recommendations.  Parole Agents attend Parole Board hearings and testify in
the presence of their clients.  Many clients have feelings of despair and
powerlessness and are in need of guidance.  As an important aid in their
work, it is necessary for officers and agents to get out into the community
to develop a knowledge of community resources and become familiar with
culture, customs, traditions, and values.

Parole and Probation Officers work with people in all age groups, despite
assignment to juvenile or adult matters.  For example, officers working with
juveniles deal constantly with adults, parents, school authorities, and
welfare workers.  Officers with an adult case load may find themselves
making arrangements for the families of their clients.

Probation Officers spend much of their time conducting dispositional or 
pre-sentence investigations of adults and juveniles.  They interview 
offenders, families, victims, witnesses, police officers and others 
concerned to assess potential for successful probation and to evaluate 
progress while on probation.  They may recommend prison sentences.  
Probation Officers are also responsible for electronic monitoring of their 
clients and operating community correction programs such as work furloughs.  
County Probation Officers who work with juvenile offenders may be assigned 
from 60 to 150 cases.  Adult case loads may be more than 2,000.  The amount 
of time spent in travel and field work varies, depending on assignment and 
work location.  In large cities, most officers work in clean, well-lit, 
well-ventilated surroundings.  In rural areas, frequent travel is necessary.

The usual case load of Parole Agents is about 80 to 120 active cases.
Because regular visits must be made to clients, agents are out of the office
a great deal, and they have to cover a much larger geographical area than
that served by Probation Officers.  Like Probation Officers, Parole Agents 
are subject to calendar deadlines.  Pre-parole reports, for example, must 
be prepared and ready for hearings by parole boards.  Both Probation 
Officers and Parole Agents use computers to access and analyze client 


According to the California Probation, Parole, and Correctional Association
there are approximately 5,500 Probation Officers employed statewide in 1998.
According to the State of California, Department of Personnel Administration,
there are approximately 1,800 Parole Agents working statewide in 1998.

Most county agencies surveyed indicated that they expect the number of
Probation Officers to grow due to the prison overcrowding and the use of
intermediate sanctions, such as electronic monitoring, day treatment, and
work furloughs.  The Department of Personnel Administration also indicated
that there will be a need for additional Parole Agents over the next few
years.  The actual number of openings will, however, depend on the funding
for these agencies.


Salaries in county probation departments throughout the state vary with the
size of the county and with the amount of education and experience required.
Starting salaries for county positions range from $2,200 to $2,500 a month
with increases to $4,800 a month or more.  State Parole Agent I begins at
$3,299 a month and can reach $4,642 a month.  Federal Probation-Parole
Officers at the GS-9 level start at $2,465 a month with increases to $3,204
a month.  The normal workweek is 40 hours.  However, Probation Officers and
Parole Agents are on call 24 hours a day.  Fringe benefits include paid
vacations, sick leave, and pension, health, dental, and life insurance plans.


Good physical condition and emotional stability are needed in this work
because the work is sometimes rigorous.  There is often considerable
pressure from deadlines and heavy workloads.  In addition, Probation
Officers and Parole Agents must work with upset, antagonistic, and/or
manipulative offenders and their families.

For both Probation Officers and Parole Agents graduation from an accredited
four-year college or university with a major in one of the social sciences
is necessary.  Good people skills, writing skills, and analytical skills are
also needed.  Prospective employees are usually given a written and oral
examination.  Probation Officers are also required by State law to pass a
psychological test.  They are also required to complete, within their first
year of employment, the 200-hour basic core Probation Officer Training
Course certified by the California State Board of Corrections.  Parole Agent
applicants must pass a physical abilities test, have an additional year of
supervised casework experience, and complete a four-week training session at
the Academy in addition to the degree.  Federal positions require a year of
graduate level courses in addition to the degree.


Most Probation Officers begin as trainees and receive on-the-job training
for at least six months.  After six months, Probation Officer trainees can
seek a position within a division of the probation department as a Deputy
Probation Officer I.  Depending upon the employer, after one year's
experience, candidates may apply for Deputy Probation Officer II positions.
Deputy Probation Officer III positions usually require three years of

A Parole Agent I with the State of California can move up to the Parole
Agent II and III levels, and Probation and Parole Officers with the Federal
Justice system can promote to the GS-11, GS-12, and GS-13 levels.


Interested applicants should apply directly to the personnel offices of the
federal, state, and county agencies.

In addition, job openings can be found on the Chief Probation Officers of 
California web site at, where all county probation
departments may list their job openings free of charge.


California Probation, Parole, and Correctional Assn.
211 Lathrop Way Suite M
Sacramento, CA  95815
(916) 927-4888

State Personnel Board
801 Capitol Mall M.S. 15
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 653-1705


Social Workers                    No. 122
Correctional Officers             No. 220
Law Enforcement Occupations       No. 457


DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th Ed., 1991)
Probation and Parole Officers  195.107-046

OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System
Social Worker-Except Medical       273050

Source:  State of California, Employment Development Department,
         Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group,
         (916) 262-2162.
Note:  This is NOT a job opening.  The purpose of This California Occupational Guide is to provide you with useful information to help you make career decisions.   If you are searching for a job, go to:

California Occupational Guides

California Employment Development Department   >>   Labor Market Information   >>   More Occupational Guides