Probation Officer Careers in California

As the most populous state in the nation, California also supports one of the largest probation officer workforces with 13,870 in 2010, which is more than twice that of the next highest state. California also complements this enormous number of probation officer jobs with the highest paying state; the average annual salary in 2010 was $75,370.  As a result of this large number of probation professionals, California possesses one of the most developed and diverse probation systems of any state.  Each of California’s 58 counties operates an independent probation department that utilizes standards produced by the Judicial Council of California and adapts them to the specific needs of their jurisdiction.

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California typically appoints parole supervision to state-employed parole officers, but due to some California laws, some county probation officers may also be responsible for parole supervision as well.  Currently, almost 5,000 parolees are tasked to county probation professionals and sheriff’s deputies but that may grow in future years. Many counties including Los Angeles are now pushing back on these efforts by the state to release more convicts to ease burdens on overcrowded prison facilities.

Becoming a California Probation Officer

Candidates interested in learning how to become probation officers in California must have at least a bachelor’s degree, and preference is given to applicants with an advanced degree like a Master of Social Work or MBA.  The most common majors for these degrees are in:

  • Developmental psychology
  • Criminal justice
  • Law
  • Human welfare
  • Counseling

Individuals who obtain licenses and certifications also enjoy a competitive advantage during the hiring process. These may include:


Formal Training to Become a Probation Officer in California

In addition to these professional certifications, all California probation officers must complete the Probation Officer Training Course offered by the California State Board of Corrections.  This 200 hour program must usually be completed within six months or a year of hiring, so it may be worthwhile to enroll in a preparatory program at a local university or online educational institution.

The actual application process will include submission of a complete and accurate application along with supporting documents.  A written exam is administered as well as a physical fitness test.  Medical and psychological evaluations in addition to a criminal history check will also be conducted.

If hired, new officers will complete a rigorous four week program at the Academy Probation Officer Core Course, which will include topics on

  • California criminal justice system
  • Juvenile detention decisions
  • Confidentiality and information disclosure
  • Restitution and fines
  • Court reports
  • Casework relationships
  • Counseling and relational assistance
  • Monitoring
  • Officer safety
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California Probation Officers and Sidearms

Probation officers jobs in California are held by commissioned peace officers who possess the right to make arrests and carry firearms if their county employer has implemented the necessary training and certification programs.  Some jurisdictions have also implemented a flexible on and off duty firearm policy that restricts the right to carry firearms while interacting with parolees, but freely authorizes them to carry a firearm while off duty.  There is currently legislation concerning this policy under consideration by the California State Assembly.

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