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Probation officer: Entry requirements

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Recent changes to probation services in England and Wales have led to the creation of the National Probation Service (NPS) , a statutory criminal justice service that supervises high-risk offenders released into the community, and 21 private sector community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) that manage low and medium-risk offenders.

This is of a result of the government's Transforming Rehabilitation  reform programme, which aims to bring down reoffending rates while continuing to protect the public.

Major changes are currently taking place to the training route to become a probation officer. Information about the new qualification structure will be available towards the end of 2015 on Train to be a Probation Officer . The new structure will be introduced in 2016. There will be no further recruitment until this work is complete.

CRCs are not required to adopt the same training and qualification systems as the NPS, so you will need to contact them directly for information about what each CRC offers.

In Scotland, probation officers are known as criminal justice social workers. Entry is via a four-year honours degree in social work approved by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) . A two-year postgraduate scheme is available for entrants who already possess a degree in another subject. Candidates should have some experience in social work/care.

If you want to work as a probation officer in Northern Ireland, you must be a qualified social worker. Candidates need to have some experience working with offenders and should apply through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS)  for a degree in social work.

For more information see:

Candidates need to show evidence of the following:

  • excellent interpersonal skills;
  • the ability to relate to others;
  • teamwork skills;
  • case work and report-writing skills;
  • administrative skills;
  • planning and organisational skills;
  • problem-solving ability;
  • motivation and commitment;
  • resilience;
  • experience of the criminal justice system.

For more information, see work experience and internships and search postgraduate courses.


Further information

Written by Pauline Tait, University of Lincoln
November 2013

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