Arizona’s Adult Probation Services Division oversees state programs; however each of the state’s 15 counties has its own probation department. Although the job description, requirements and hiring process for probation officer are similar statewide, variances exist between counties because of geographic and cultural differences.
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Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, covers 9,224 square miles and has a population of 3,990,181, while La Paz county’s 20,172 residents are scattered over 4,513 square miles. A Maricopa County probation officer’s work is contained within a few square miles but a La Paz probation officer might travel hundreds of miles in a single day.
Over one-quarter of Arizona’s land holds Native American reservations. The Grand Canyon State is home to 21 different tribes including the Navajo Nation, which occupies 15,874 square miles that incorporate natural wonders like the Rainbow Natural Bridge. Anyone applying for a job as probation officer in a Navajo Nation county must be very knowledgeable about Navajo culture and customs. Likewise, probation officers in counties with other tribal presences must be familiar with the relevant culture(s).
Qualifications and Hiring Process for Becoming a Probation Officer in Arizona
Qualifications for those interested in learning how to become a probation officer in Arizona are:
- Bachelor’s degree. Although any major is acceptable, degrees in criminal justice, social work or psychology are a definite asset.
- Working knowledge of Spanish. Over 30 percent (2011 census) of Arizona’s population is of Hispanic or Latino origin and growing.
- Valid Arizona driver’s license.
- Basic knowledge of the criminal justice system and probation services.
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
- Ability to interview and counsel clients.
- Ability to prepare and maintain complex reports and records.
- Able to work alone in a remote area (some counties).
- Ability to form cordial relationships with schools, other agencies and the public.
Although the hiring process varies from state to state, it normally includes the following:
- Written examination
- Personal interview
- Criminal history check
- Job offer
- Training academy
Training for Probation Officers in Arizona
Since 1995, all newly hired probation officers in Arizona are required to attend 200 hours of entry-level training at the Certification Academy in Phoenix. Those who successfully complete the training, serve one full year as a probation officer and are recommended by their chief probation officer, are certified as a probation officer by the state supreme court.
Arizona probation officers are given the option of carrying firearms. Those who elect to do so must successfully complete 40 hours of training at the Firearms Academy and maintain a firearms certification thereafter.
How to Apply for a Position as Probation Officer in Arizona
Interested individuals must apply directly to the county they want to work for. Some county probation departments accept applications at all times while others only receive them when there is a job opening. Addresses and telephone numbers of county probation departments can be found online at the Arizona Probation Department website or in the appropriate telephone directory.
Probation Officer Salaries in Arizona
The average annual salary for probation officers in Arizona is $42,000; however, that figure varies from county to county. At the high end, probation officers in Maricopa County earn between $54,000 and $58,000/year.