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Life as a probation officer

As a probation officer, you’ll assess and manage the risk posed by people on probation to protect victims of crime and the general public by:

  • providing information and advice to criminal courts, other criminal justice agencies and partner organisations
  • supervise people on probation who are subject to community orders and licences and during custodial sentences
  • contribute to the management of risk
  • work with other agencies and groups to prevent crime and meet the needs of victims and people on probation

We support people on their road to rehabilitation. You’ll work closely with all kinds of people on probation, often with complex needs, including those who’ve committed violent and sexual offences or are struggling with their mental health or substance misuse.

As a probation officer, you need to be resilient as this can often make their behaviour challenging. Not everyone is ready to change, and you will experience setbacks.

However, through our Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP) training programme, you’ll learn the tools needed to address such behaviours, engage with people and support them to make positive changes.

Male probation officer sitting at a desk facing the computer

Where you’ll work

When you’re completing your PQiP training you’ll work as a trainee probation officer in either a Probation Delivery Unit (PDU), a prison, or a court team.

In all of these settings you’ll be working with people who have offended, and this includes violent and sexual offences.

Often the people you come into contact with will have complex needs and may be struggling with their mental health or substance misuse, which can lead to challenging behaviour. You’ll be supported throughout your training to develop the resilience and practical tools to challenge these behaviours in a constructive way.

You’ll combine your role with remote learning, attending master classes and tutorials delivered by passionate tutors with frontline experience.

With support from an academic tutor, you’ll be assessed through a combination of:

  • exams
  • coursework observations
  • professional discussions
  • witness testimonies
  • general competence

When you finish your qualification, you’ll become a qualified probation officer.

Probation officers work in courts, prisons and in communities. You’ll also work with victims of crime, colleagues across the criminal justice system and charities.


Preparing pre-sentence reports and giving advice in court on the risk of reoffending. This involves speaking with offenders, the police and other partner agencies.


Helping high-risk offenders to change and reduce the likelihood of reoffending or causing significant harm. Working with prison officers and community teams to assess risks and resettle offenders.


Managing people on probation with community sentences or on licence from prison. Assessing risks and putting action plans in place, while collaborating with agencies to tackle the causes of reoffending.

What the day looks like

Day to day, you’ll handle everything from going to hostels, visiting prisons and attending courts – all to make interventions with offenders that enable them to understand their behaviour and want to change it.

You’ll be working with people on probation to help them recognise the benefit of education, skills, treatment or maybe counselling to prevent reoffending.

Real-life probation officers

There are many reasons why a career as a probation officer can be rewarding. We asked some of our current and former trainees what joining the service has helped them to achieve.

Becoming a probation officer is rewarding but comes with its challenges. You often have to deal with difficult situations and behaviours. But that’s also how you can measure your growth.
Steve, trainee probation officer

Jim – probation officer

Jim joined the PQiP programme later in life after roles in other industries, looking for a new challenge.

Jasmine – trainee probation officer

Jasmine talks about the realities of balancing case work, the vocational qualification and the university work.

Giordi- trainee probation officer

Giordi recalls his path to becoming a PQiP learner and his belief in the rehabilitation process. He discusses the importance of time management and the benefits of having a supportive team around him.

Sam – probation officer

Sam discusses his experience receiving a dyslexia diagnosis while on the PQiP programme and the support he received.

Louisa – senior probation officer

Louisa encourages people to consider the role and talks about the benefits of having a diverse workforce.

Josie – probation officer

Josie talks about how her previous work in a prison has helped her to understand and help people on probation.