Job descriptions and industry overviews

Probation and welfare officer

28 Feb 2023, 12:21

Supervises offenders before their trial, during a prison sentence and after their release.

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Job description

Probation and welfare officers are social workers/court officers who supervise offenders before their trial, during a prison sentence and after their release. Probation officers work with a range of people from minor first time offenders to prolific, serious offenders. The purpose of their work is to turn offenders away from committing further offences through intervention, preventing reoffence by assessing and challenging their behaviour and changing their attitudes towards society. Their responsibility is both to the protection of the public and to the well-being and outlook of offenders, by facilitating as smoothly as possible, their reintergration into society.

Probation officers provide services to both adult and young offenders in local communities through the provision of probation supervision, community service, anti-offending behaviour programmes and specialist support services to assist them in becoming law abiding members of the community.

Officers work on a team basis. Services are also provided to prisons, places of detention and children detention schools.

Work activities

  • Carrying out pre-sentence assessment reports on offenders to assist the court in determining the most suitable sentence.
  • Interviewing the offender and gathering information from a range of other sources such as family, employer or school, and the police.
  • Monitoring the offender's adherence to the conditions of the probation order and reporting to the court.
  • Supervising offenders under community service orders.
  • Supervising offenders released from custody.
  • Providing a counselling service to offenders and their families.

Work conditions

Travel: can be a major feature of the job.
Working hours: include regular long and unsocial hours.
Location: most opportunities exist in towns or cities throughout the country.
Opportunities for self-employment: unlikely.

Typical employers

Republic of Ireland: Probation officers are employed by the Probation Services, an agency within the Department of Justice and Law Reform.

Northern Ireland: Probation officers are employed by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland.

Career development

Probation officers can progress through the ranks to senior probation officers, assistant principals, assistant directors, deputy directors to director.

Specific degree subjects required

Republic of Ireland: In addition to relevant experience, officers are required to hold a qualification recognised by the National Social Work Qualifications Board (NSWQB) that will lead to the award of National Qualification in Social Work (NQSW).

UK/Northern Ireland: Trainee probation officers (TPOs), of at least twenty years of age, are required to take the two-year Diploma in Probation Studies (DipPS).

Other relevant degree subjects

  • Law
  • Nursing
  • Psychology
  • Social administration
  • Social sciences
  • Sociology.

Postgraduate study

Republic of Ireland: As long as graduates have an academic social science degree with professional social work training, there is no need for a postgraduate qualification.

Northern Ireland: To work as Probation Officer in Northern Ireland a Degree in Social Work is essential; in addition the Community Justice NVQ Level 3 (Work with Offending Behaviour) must be achieved within two years of appointment. Visit the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) .

Specific entry requirements

Applicants must undergo an interview, and relevant experience is required.


There is a dedicated staff training and development section within the probation service. Areas covered in in-service training include:

  • Knowledge of the justice system and the Probation Service.
  • Effective practice with offenders.
  • First aid and health and safety training.
  • IT training.

Tips for applications

Gain experience with socially excluded groups.

Skills and qualities

  • Appreciation for human diversity and a commitment to social justice.
  • Willingness to work collaboratively with clients, colleagues, and other professionals.
  • Ability to problem-solve and a willingness to make challenging decisions.
  • Personal integrity and a respect for the privacy of others.
  • Good interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Good report writing skills.
  • Emotionally mature, non-judgmental and empathetic.
  • Possessing energy and enthusiasm.

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