In order to undertake probation officer training, you first need to become a probation services officer (PSO). Vacancies for unqualified PSOs are advertised on the websites of individual probation trusts. Once employed as a PSO, there are two routes available that will qualify you to apply for a job as a probation officer.
For route one, you will need to undertake a three-year honours degree in community justice and a Vocational Qualification Diploma in Probation Practice Level 5 (VQ5). To gain access to this route, you will need to have obtained the Vocational Qualification Diploma in Probation Practice Level 3 (VQ3) whilst working as a PSO. Then, in order to qualify as probation officer, you need to study for the honours degree and gain competence for the VQ5. Training is a mixture of academic and practical work. For a significant part of the course you will manage a caseload of offenders and will be managed by senior probation officers. Academic input is delivered by distance learning, as well as regular workshops.
For route two, you need to complete the work-based Graduate Diploma in Community Justice and the VQ5. This route is open to graduates with an honours degree or a joint/combined honours degree that includes a minimum of 50% of one of the following degree subjects:
This route usually takes around 15 months to complete. Selection criteria are determined by local probation trusts in partnership with a designated higher education (HE) provider and focus on your ability to successfully complete the Graduate Diploma within the 15 months.
Qualification does not guarantee a job and you will need to apply for a probation officer position as and when they arise. For more information on how to qualify as a probation officer see Careers in Probation .
Pre-entry experience of working with offenders or other vulnerable groups is usually required when applying for PSO jobs. This can be gained through either paid or voluntary work with probation hostels, prison visiting services, victim support services, youth offending teams or community payback teams.
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 . 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. For further information, contact the SSSC.
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 the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) and the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) .
Candidates need to show evidence of the following:
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