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Skills and qualifications you need

What makes a great probation officer? You’ll have empathy and resilience to help people change.

The decisions and actions you take can be the turning point for offenders – and instead of being part of the system for years to come, you can help them leave criminal behaviour behind for good.

Some of our trainee probation officers join the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP) programme after graduating from university with a related degree in areas such as criminology. But others come from a wide range of backgrounds. You might have experience elsewhere in the criminal justice system.


To be eligible for the PQiP programme, you need to have a level 3 qualification (or higher). This is equivalent to qualifications like:

  • A level
  • access to higher education diploma
  • advanced apprenticeship
  • applied general
  • AS level
  • international Baccalaureate diploma
  • level 3 award
  • level 3 certificate
  • level 3 diploma
  • level 3 ESOL
  • level 3 national certificate
  • level 3 national diploma
  • level 3 NVQ
  • T Level
  • tech level

It doesn’t matter what subject your level 3 qualification is in. Find out more about level 3 qualifications (GOV.UK, opens in a new tab).

We offer different learning programmes dependant on the level of qualification you hold. These range from 15 months for Graduates with a level 5 qualification to 27 months for our non graduate programme. 

You must be able provide a certificate of your qualification. Written confirmation to support that you hold a valid qualification is required to book a place at the online assessment centre and presented at the online assessment centre. 

If you have studied for your qualification outside the UK, you’ll need to provide a Statement of Comparability from the UK National Information Centre for global qualifications and skills (UK ENIC) to verify that your qualification is equivalent to a UK qualification.

Graduate programmes – 15 or 21 months

To be eligible for the PQiP graduate programme, you need to have a level 5 qualification (or higher). This is equivalent to qualifications like: 

  • diploma of higher education (DipHE) 
  • foundation degree 
  • higher national diploma (HND) 

It doesn’t matter what subject your level 5 qualification is in.  Find out more about level 5 qualifications (GOV.UK, opens in a new tab). 

You must provide a certificate for your qualification. This should be an award certificate for a completed level 5 qualification or a level 5 exit award where a full degree has not been completed. This must consist of at least 120 credits (attained at level 5), which is transferable to evidence a second-year study at university or equivalent. If your certificate doesn’t state the level or number of credits attained at level 5, please check with the education provider who issued your certificate. If you’re unable to provide confirmation or it is later found that your qualification doesn’t meet the requirements, your place could be withdrawn. 

To be eligible for the 15-month PQiP programme, you need to have studied modules on at least 3 of the following 4 topics as part of a degree (or equivalent): 

  • criminal justice system 
  • understanding crime and criminal behaviour 
  • penal policy and punishment 
  • rehabilitation 

You’ll complete whichever module is missing in your first 6 months of the PQiP programme. 

If your qualification does not include these subjects, you’ll most likely study the 21-month PQiP programme (the first 6 months will cover all 4 modules). 

There maybe some part time opportunities available on the 15/21 month programme. If studying on a part-time basis, the course will take up to 30 months to complete.

Non Graduate route – 27 months

If you are applying with a level 3 qualification, you will complete a 27 month programme. This will involve completion of a level 4 module and 4 knowledge modules within the first 12 months:

  • criminal justice system  
  • understanding crime and criminal behaviour  
  • penal policy and punishment 
  • rehabilitation 

During the final 15 months you will complete your level 5 Diploma in Probation Practice and a Diploma of Community Justice as well as your level 6 Professional Qualification in Probation.


We welcome applicants with a background in supporting individuals facing difficult circumstances or exhibiting challenging behaviour. This experience could be gained through various roles, whether paid or voluntary, and we value the skills and insights you may have acquired through supporting individuals during times of crisis.

Our probation officers come from a broad range of backgrounds – and this breadth of experience helps us better serve those we work with. But while there’s no single type of probation officer, they all share essential qualities such as:

  • emotional intelligence
  • resilience
  • the ability to stay calm under pressure
  • can build rapport quickly
  • can de-escalate potentially volatile situations

You’ll be happy to self-manage and have a passion and commitment to your work. Prior experience in report-writing is beneficial, however we welcome candidates who can demonstrate clear and concise written communication. We provide ample support and training to enhance your report-writing skills once in post.