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How to apply

Check if you’re eligible

To become a probation officer you need to:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • have the right to work in the UK and Civil Service (GOV.UK, opens in a new tab)
  • have a level 3 qualification in any subject (for example, A levels, a level 3 award, a level 3 national diploma or level 3 NVQ)
  • have experience of working with challenging individuals whose lives are in crisis and display challenging behaviour (this can be paid or unpaid experience)

As part of our vetting procedures, you’ll be asked to declare all convictions, cautions and absolute or conditional discharges – however long ago they occurred. A previous conviction does not necessarily mean you cannot become a probation officer. Applications are always considered on their individual merits before a decision is reached. We encourage applications from people with lived experience because we believe this can make a positive difference for the people in our care.

You also need to have lived in the UK for the last 3 years to pass the correct level of vetting to access our secure IT systems.

The application process

Trainee probation officer programme (PQiP)

We are not currently open for applications in all regions. We usually open in early spring and September.

Register your interest

PQiP application process

The application process to start your career as a trainee probation officer takes around 6 months to complete.

If you have previously started a placement on any PQiP programmes, and you are re- applying within 12 months of leaving the programme, you may be required to provide additional information during the recruitment process.

If your PQiP application is a near miss, we’ll offer you the chance to be considered for a probation services officer role. You’ll need to select the box on the PQiP application form to opt in to being considered for this role.

Complete the online application

The first stage of the recruitment process involves completing an application form.

You’ll need to enter important personal details, including your right to work in the UK. We use these to check you’re eligible to be a probation officer.

We’ll also ask you about your education and career, and assess you against a range of skills and behaviours using the Civil Service Success Profiles framework (GOV.UK, opens in a new tab).

You’ll be asked to complete 3 behaviour-based questions and one experience question. We recommend using the STAR approach when providing answers to the questions – describing the Situation, Task, Actions, and Result. There’s a 250 word limit for each question, so you may find it helpful to draft your responses in a Word document before putting your final answers into your application form.

Tell us if you have a disability when you apply, and we can offer reasonable adjustments to help with the assessment centre. Find out about reasonable adjustments.

Behaviour based assessment

The first stage of the recruitment process involves completing an application form.

Once you’ve successfully submitted your application, you will be invited to complete a behaviour-based assessment.

The assessment enables you to showcase your natural strengths and behaviour preferences. This allows the employer to understand how these behaviours align against the role requirements and will determine whether you progress to the next stage of the recruitment process.

Overall, the assessment takes around 30 – 50 minutes to complete, but everyone is different and there is no time limit, so please complete it at your own pace.

Do not worry if you have not completed this type of assessment before, it will not affect your results. This is a fair and reliable assessment that is presented in an easy-to-use and interactive format.

Before you complete the assessment, we recommend you familiarise yourself with the format by completing the practice which is provided at the start of the assessment.

Online assessment centre

If your application is successful, we’ll invite you to attend an online assessment centre.

This half-day session has been designed to reflect the reality of the probation officer role. It will test to see if you have the abilities, behaviours and strengths we’re looking for.

The assessment will involve:

  • a written test
  • role play
  • an interview

Written test

This will check your written skills and assess if you can analyse information and communicate in writing. We’re looking for you to write in concise sentences that show a reasonable understanding of grammar, with the majority of spelling correct.

Role play

During the role play, you will take on the role of a Trainee Probation Officer who is interacting with an offender. The role play is based upon a challenging scenario that you could be faced with as a Trainee Probation Officer. You do not need any prior knowledge of the role to be successful.


You’ll have an interview where you can tell us about your past experiences and achievements and we can find out what motivates and energises you. We’ll give you more information about what to expect and how to best prepare when we invite you to attend the assessment centre.

We’re aware that there are websites offering to help candidates with PQiP assessments – these are not official websites, and they are not endorsed by HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS). Plagiarised applications will not be accepted.

Pre-employment checks

If you’re successful at the assessment centre, you’ll then need to pass our pre-employment checks.

This will include:

  • HMPPS enhanced level-2 vetting
  • Non-Police Personnel Vetting (NPPV) level 2 (once you are in post)
  • declaration of any spent or unspent convictions, cautions and absolute or conditional discharges – however long ago they occurred

You can find more information about what to declare (GOV.UK, opens in a new tab).

If you do not successfully pass vetting, you will not be able to access the multi-agency databases needed to do the role or complete the qualification. We’ll work to understand the reasons for failure and if or where you could be deployed.

Employment offer

Once you have successfully completed the online assessment centre, we’ll write to you with a provisional offer of employment. This is subject to successfully completing your pre-employment checks and pending the availability of a suitable vacancy within a reasonable commute distance.

PQiP learners in the Probation Service are employed on permanent probation services officer contracts. You’ll be expected to undertake routine tasks during the training programme. Learners will also be allocated some study time towards the required learning components. However, further study will need to be undertaken in your own time and the amount varies depending on individual learning styles.

Location offer

Once the allocation process begins, we will send you a specific office location offer letter. If you choose to accept the offer and your pre-employment checks are complete, we’ll send you a contract and you can begin your training. The initial 4-week induction is hugely important as it covers the foundations for your course. You need to make sure you’re available for every day during this period.

Please note that a PQiP placement is not guaranteed during any intake as vacancies are determined by business need. Allocation of successful candidates into PQiP vacancies is by fair and open competition based on merit from assessment scores.

Qualified probation officers

If you’re looking to return to the profession or change roles, you can apply directly to your chosen location.

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