How much does a probation officer make? (with other FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 4 September 2022

Published 7 December 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Probation officers work with offenders in a number of settings, helping them to rehabilitate and re-enter society. Their work not only benefits offenders but also helps to ensure the safety of the public by reducing the risk of re-offending. While working as a probation officer can be rewarding, learning more about the role before pursuing it as a possible career can help you determine if it's right for you. In this article, learn the answer to the question 'how much does a probation officer make?' as well as other frequently asked questions about the profession.

How much does a probation officer make?

The average salary for a probation officer is £43,353 per year, although salaries can vary depending on experience and location. During training to become a probation officer, you'll likely earn around £22,261 per year. Upon qualifying, this rises to £29,038 plus allowances, which is Band 3 on the National Probation Service (NPS) pay bands. The salary for qualified probation officers can rise to £37,174, or Band 4. Senior probation officers with the requisite skills, experience and qualifications on Band 5 can earn up to £41,020 per year. Experienced managers can earn over £50,000 per year.

There are also a number of benefits probation officers have. These include:

  • 25 days' annual leave, increasing to 30 after five years' service, plus eight public holidays and service days

  • flexible working hours

  • access to the Local Government Pension Scheme

Related: A guide to civil service jobs

Probation officer FAQs

Here are a few frequently asked questions about working as a probation officer:

What does a probation officer do?

Probation officers work with offenders in a variety of settings. They may work with offenders who are awaiting trial, currently in prison, those who are on probation rather than completing a jail sentence or have recently completed a prison sentence. They work to help rehabilitate offenders, to prevent them from re-offending and integrate them back into their communities. They also work to keep other members of these communities safe by reducing this risk of re-offending. Nowadays, NPS probation officers supervise high, medium and low-risk offenders released into a community setting, where previously private agencies supervised medium and low-risk individuals.

Probation officers manage caseloads of people on probation. They work closely with relevant statutory agencies throughout the justice system, collaborating and managing risk to help ensure public safety. They may also manage approved residential premises for offenders or recently released ex-prisoners. Additionally, they work to enforce the terms of any community orders which a judge may have given instead of a jail sentence.

Related: How much does a prison officer make? (and how to earn more)

Where do probation officers work?

Probation officers may work in a variety of settings as they manage their cases. Offender managers in a probation office work with people on probation over a period of time, possibly meeting them in a number of community settings as they build a relationship with them to better provide support. Some people on probation may carry out unpaid work in their community as part of a community sentence. A probation officer may assess providers of work placements to ensure they're suitable and visit these locations to assess the people on probation and ensure their attendance.

People on probation may also live in Approved Premises (AP), which is secure housing for them as they integrate back into a community. Probation officers may visit these premises as people they work with may be in AP, either long term or temporarily. They may also help manage these premises. Additionally, probation officers may work in a court setting as they work with people awaiting sentencing, ensuring they understand their circumstances over the course of a few short visits. They may also make recommendations regarding the case in front of the court.

What do a probation officer's day-to-day responsibilities include?

The work probation officers carry out varies depending on the circumstances of the people with whom they work. Some probation officers may work with people before a trial, investigating an offender's background to assess whether they're ready to rejoin their community ahead of their trial. If a probation officer releases an offender back into the community, the officer supervises them to ensure they meet the terms of this release and attend the upcoming trial. Probation officers may also work with offenders in prison, those on parole or those who have completed a prison sentence. Typical probation officer duties include:

  • carrying out interviews with offenders before sentencing

  • providing pre-sentence reports to the courts, helping to administer the most appropriate sentence for offenders

  • attending court, sometimes to make verbal testimony about their written reports and recommendations

  • ensuring public safety by carrying out risk assessments and reviews on offenders, looking in particular at the risk of re-offending

  • providing specialist reports to prison governors and parole review boards advising on whether a person is ready for release from prison and suggesting terms for any release

  • working with and assessing prisoners to prepare them for release back into the community

  • running programmes to help offenders change their behaviour and ensure they attend supervision appointments

Probation officers also collaborate with other agencies as part of their work to ensure public safety. As well as the courts, these can include local authorities, police, health services, youth offending teams and substance misuse services. Probation officers may also work with victims of crimes before offenders return to the community. These professionals aim to address the questions and concerns of these victims to maintain their sense of well-being and ensure they're confident of their safety.

Related: 10 essential counsellor skills

What skills do probation officers need?

The work of a probation officer often attracts people who are interested in improving the lives of others. These professionals typically have a core belief that rehabilitation is not only possible but as important a component of the criminal justice system as providing punishment for offences. Empathy, patience, tact and social skills are all valuable aspects of working effectively as a probation officer. Other valuable key skills include:

  • written and verbal communication skills

  • interpersonal skills

  • an ability to remain calm in pressure situations

  • attention to detail

  • flexibility in working approach and openness to change

  • active listening and other counselling skills, including a non-judgemental approach to talking with offenders

  • knowledge of public safety procedures

  • basic computer literacy and the ability to use common software packages competently

A knowledge of psychology may also be valuable to probation officers. It's not uncommon for probation officers to have degree training in psychology or other disciplines useful to probation work, such as sociology, criminology or community work.

Related: 11 top job skills: transferable skills for any industry

How do I become a probation officer?

The main route people take to become probation officers is the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiB) training programme. The programme lasts 15 to 21 months, depending on your qualifications. Entry requirements for the course are:

  • a foundation degree, higher national diploma, undergraduate degree, diploma of higher education or higher apprenticeship in acceptable subjects, such as criminology, sociology, psychology, youth and community work

  • relevant experience working with challenging behaviour

  • prior knowledge and understanding of at least three of the following four required knowledge modules: the criminal justice system, understanding criminal behaviour, punishment of offenders and rehabilitation of offenders

Those who have an academic qualification and relevant experience but lack the criminology education can typically apply for the 21-month programme. During the first 6 months of this programme, you complete up to four of the required knowledge modules. If you don't have an academic qualification, you can complete a 36-month probation officer degree-level apprenticeship. During the apprenticeship, you complete the PQiD. It's also possible to qualify through work, beginning your career at a probation services office, then undertaking a Level 3 Diploma in Probation Practice and gaining practical work experience until you're experienced enough to apply for the PQiD.

What is the career progression for probation officers?

Probation officers typically gain seniority through experience. Over time, as you gain experience, your salary may increase and you can progress to become a senior probation officer. Once qualified and working as a probation officer, you also receive on-the-job training and support to help you develop. In addition to this, you have the opportunity to access Civil Service Learning. The courses provided here can help you to develop skills beneficial to all UK civil servants, including probation officers. As probation officers gain seniority, they may transition away from casework and more towards management, potentially becoming area managers.

As they gain experience and undertake relevant training, many probation officers may look to specialise in a particular area of probation work, such as working with young offenders or working in court. As part of gaining specialised skills, many probation officers take the opportunity to work secondments in other agencies, such as in youth offending teams.

Related:

  • What does a criminologist do and why is it important?


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