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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 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’ll need a written confirmation to support that you hold a valid qualification to present at the assessment centre.

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to provide confirmation or it is later found that your qualification doesn’t meet the requirements, your place could be withdrawn.

If you have studied for your degree-level qualification outside the UK, you’ll need to provide a Statement of Comparability from the National Academic Recognition Information Centre UK (NARIC) to verify that your qualification is equivalent to a UK level 5 qualification.

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). The PQiP course will take up to 30 months if you do it on a part-time basis.


You should have experience working with challenging individuals whose lives are in crisis and display challenging behaviour. It doesn’t matter whether it’s paid or voluntary – just that it involves the kind of behaviour we see from people on probation or in prison.

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 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. Excellent report-writing skills are also a must.