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Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists Job Outlook

Employment of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists is expected to grow by 18 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as average for all occupations. Continued growth in the demand for probation and parole services will lead to new openings for officers.

Mandatory sentencing guidelines in the 1980s and 1990s called for longer sentences and reduced parole for some offenses, resulting in an increase in the prison population. However, these guidelines are being reconsidered at both the federal and state levels due to budgetary constraints, court decisions, prison overcrowding, and doubts about the guidelines’ effectiveness.

As guidelines are reduced or repealed, judges have more flexibility in sentencing offenders for each case. For offenders who are deemed to be a lower risk, this may result in less prison time, more community-based corrections, or some combination of the two.

As alternative forms of punishment, such as probation, become more widely used, the demand for probation and parole officers will grow. There also will be a need for parole and probation officers to supervise the large number of people who are now in prison when they are released.

Employment growth depends primarily on the amount of government funding for corrections, especially how much there is for probation and parole systems. Although community supervision is far less expensive than keeping offenders in prison, a change in political and social trends toward more imprisonment and away from community supervision could result in reduced employment opportunities.

Job Prospects

In addition to openings resulting from growth, many openings will be created by the need to replace large numbers of these workers expected to retire in the coming years. This occupation is not attractive to some potential entrants because of relatively low earnings, heavy workloads, and high stress. For these reasons, job opportunities should be excellent for those who qualify.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition