Parole Officer vs. Probation Officer

Which Role Is Right for You?

The criminal justice system relies on different professionals to ensure the rehabilitation and supervision of convicted professionals. Two key players in this system are parole officers and probation officers. While their roles may seem similar at first glance, a closer examination reveals distinct differences in their responsibilities, duties, and the populations they serve. Let’s take a closer look.

What are the similarities and difference between these two roles?

Probation officers work with individuals who have been sentenced to probation instead of incarceration. Probation involves community-based supervision, where individuals live in their communities under specific conditions. Parole officers deal with individuals who have been released from prison before completing their full sentences. Parole involves supervised release into the community, often with conditions like probation.

Both parole and probation officers play a crucial role in ensuring that individuals under their supervision adhere to the conditions set by the court. This includes regularly reporting to the officer, attending required programs, and refraining from criminal activity.

Parole Officers

Parole officers work for the state or federal government, making sure people released from prison follow the rules of their parole. They are good communicators, critical thinkers, and decision makers, and are empathetic and patient. They divide their time between working in an office and being in the field, vising the neighborhoods and households of parolees.

According to, parole officers earn an average annual salary of $49,287. Read more about parole officers here.

Probation Officers

Probation officers are tasked with supervising individuals who have been placed on probation instead of serving time in incarceration. Their primary objective is to ensure that offenders successfully reintegrate into society while adhering to the conditions set by the court.

Probation officers assess the needs and risks of probationers, developing personalized supervision plans. Regular monitoring, often involving drug testing and home visits, ensures compliance with probation terms. These officers also provide counseling and connect probationers with support services.

According to, probation officers earn an average annual salary of $53,090. Read more about probation officers here.

To become a parole officer or probation officer, most employers require applicants to hold at least a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field. Excelsior University’s Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program prepares you to meet the requirements and responsibilities related to jobs in law enforcement, probation and parole, federal investigation, victim advocacy, security analysis, and crime scene investigation. You will learn about the laws, processes, and administration of the U.S. criminal justice system by studying topics associated with crime-fighting procedures, police accountability, prevention of police corruption, legal processes of court trials, and the management of criminal justice agencies.

Parole and probation officers share the overarching goal of rehabilitation and community safety. Probation officers intervene at the sentencing stage, guiding individuals as an alternative to incarceration, while parole officers step in after a period of imprisonment, focusing on the transition from incarceration to community life. Both roles play integral parts in the criminal justice system.