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Parole Officer vs. Probation Officer: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

If you’re interested in a career in criminal justice, you may be wondering what the difference is between a parole officer and a probation officer. Both positions work with offenders, but there are some key differences in their duties. In this article, we’ll discuss the similarities and differences between these two positions, and we’ll provide some tips on how to choose the right career for you.

What is a Parole Officer?

Parole Officers work with criminals who have been released from prison on parole. They typically work for state or local governments and are responsible for ensuring that parolees follow the conditions of their parole. This can include meeting with them regularly, drug testing them, monitoring their activities and checking in with their employers. Parole Officers also provide support and resources to help parolees successfully reintegrate into society. They may refer them to job training programs, housing assistance or drug rehabilitation programs. Parole Officers typically have a caseload of around 50 parolees that they are responsible for monitoring.

What is a Probation Officer?

Probation Officers are responsible for monitoring and working with individuals who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to probation instead of jail time. They work with these individuals to ensure they are following the terms of their probation, which can include meeting regularly, completing community service, attending counseling and avoiding criminal activity. Probation Officers also conduct home visits, write reports and testify in court. They work with other professionals, such as lawyers, police officers and social workers, to ensure that the probationary individual is following their sentence and getting the resources they need to rehabilitate.

Parole Officer vs. Probation Officer

Here are the main differences between a parole officer and a probation officer.

Job Duties

Probation and parole officers have many of the same job duties, as they both work with convicted individuals to help them reintegrate into society. These professionals may include their clients in group or individual therapy sessions, assist them with finding employment, monitor their compliance with imposed restrictions and provide life skills education.

Parole and probation officers also share the responsibility of ensuring that their clients comply with the terms of their respective forms of post-conviction supervision. Compliance can involve conducting random drug tests, searching clients’ belongings and monitoring electronic communications. If a client fails a test, breaks a condition or commits a violation, a parole or probation officer may file an incident report with the court that sentenced their client.

Job Requirements

Most parole and probation officers have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, sociology or another related field. Some agencies may require candidates to have a master’s degree as well. In addition to their education, parole and probation officers must complete on-the-job training, which typically lasts for several weeks. Some states also require officers to pass a written exam before they can begin working.

Work Environment

Both parole and probation officers work in a variety of environments. They may spend time in courtrooms, jails or prisons, community centers, rehabilitation facilities or other locations where they can meet with their clients. Depending on the type of facility that a parole or probation officer works for, they may also travel to different locations throughout their workday.

Parole and probation officers typically work full-time schedules, although some agencies require them to work overtime hours when necessary. These professionals often work during regular business hours, but they may have additional responsibilities outside of normal working hours. For example, if an offender violates their parole or probation terms, a parole or probation officer may need to visit them at home or another location after hours to discuss the violation.


There are several similarities in the skills used by parole officers and probation officers. Both groups need to have strong communication skills to interact with offenders, victims and witnesses. They also both need to be able to maintain composure in difficult situations and have good problem-solving skills to resolve conflicts.

Probation officers may use more counseling and social work skills in their jobs than parole officers. This is because they often work with offenders who are still going through the court process and have not yet been sentenced. Probation officers may need to provide support and guidance to help offenders make positive changes in their lives. Parole officers typically work with offenders who have already been sentenced and released from prison. Their job is to monitor offenders and ensure they are following the conditions of their release. Parole officers may need to use more law enforcement skills, such as conducting investigations and making arrests, than probation officers.


Parole officers earn an average salary of $54,453 per year, while probation officers earn an average salary of $49,524 per year. Both of these salaries may vary depending on the state in which you work, the level of education you have and the level of experience you have in the field.


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