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Requirements for Probation and Pretrial Services Officers

The positions of Federal probation and pretrial service officers have certain minimum requirements, which include:

  • physical requirements,
  • a maximum entry age,
  • educational requirements for probation and pretrial services officers; and
  • specialized experience requirements which are different for officers and assistants.

It is necessary for interested applicants to apply in each district in which they are interested in being considered for employment. Specific position requirements will be outlined with all vacancy announcements.

You may also find out more about the benefits for these positions.

Physical Requirements: The duties of probation officers, pretrial services officers, and probation officer assistants require the investigation and management of alleged criminal offenders or convicted offenders who present physical danger to officers and to the public. The supervision, treatment, and control of these offenders requires moderate to arduous physical exercise, including prolonged periods of walking and standing, physical dexterity and coordination necessary to operate a firearm, and use of self-defense tactics. On a daily basis, these officers face unusual mental and physical stress because they are subject to danger and possible harm during frequent, direct contact with individuals who are suspected or convicted of committing Federal offenses. Because officers must effectively deal with physical attacks and are subject to moderate to arduous physical exertion, applicants must be physically capable. Officers must possess, with or without corrective lenses, good distance vision in at least one eye and the ability to read normal size print. Normal hearing ability, with or without a hearing aid, is also required. In most instances, the amputation of an arm, hand, leg, or foot will not disqualify an applicant from appointment, although it may be necessary for the applicant to use a prosthesis to compensate for the amputation. Any severe health problems, however, such as physical defects, disease, and deformities that constitute employment hazards to the applicant and others, may disqualify an applicant. Examples of health problems that may be disqualifying are hernia (with or without truss), organic heart disease (whether or not compensated), severe varicose veins, serious deformities or disabilities of the extremities, mental or nervous disease, chronic constitutional disease, and marked speech abnormalities.

Maximum Entry Age: First-time appointees to positions covered under law enforcement officer retirement provisions must not have reached their 37th birthday at the time of their appointment, as mandated under the provisions of 5 U.S.C. § 8401 (17), OPM regulations 5 C.F.R. § 842.804(a), and the Judicial Conference of the United States. Mandatory retirement age is 57 years old as mandated under the provisions of 5 U.S.C. § 8335(b),8425(b).

Required Education for Probation and Pretrial Services Officers: Completion of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in a field of academic study, such as criminal justice, criminology, psychology, sociology, human relations, or business or public administration, which provides evidence of the capacity to understand and apply the legal requirements and human relations skills involved in the position, is required for all probation or pretrial services officer positions.

Specialized Experience Requirements for Probation and Pretrial Services Officers: Progressively responsible experience, gained after completion of a bachelor’s degree, in such fields as probation, pretrial services, parole, corrections, criminal investigations, or work in substance/addiction treatment. Experience as a police, custodial, or security officer, other than any criminal investigative experience, is not creditable.

Benefits: The United States Probation Office is part of the Judicial Branch of the Federal Government and operates as an independent excepted service agency. Although not part of the civil service, employees of the Judicial Branch are eligible for civil service health, life, and retirement benefits. Employment with the United States Probation Office is “at will.”

Probation officers, pretrial services officers, probation officer assistants, and pretrial services officers assistants are classified as law enforcement, or hazardous duty, and as such are required to pay a slightly higher portion of salary toward their retirement than non-hazardous duty employees (1.7% for law enforcement officers versus 1.2% for non-law enforcement employees in 2000). Under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), Federal law enforcement officers may retire at age 50 with 20 years of hazardous duty service, or at any age with 25 years of hazardous duty service. Mandatory retirement age is 57 years old, as mandated under the provisions of 5 U.S.C. § 8335(b),8425(b).

FERS employees are covered by Social Security, and are eligible to participate in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), a tax deferred savings program which includes matching funds for the first five percent of base pay contributed by employees.

In addition to ten Federal holidays, Federal employees earn annual leave at a rate of from 13 to 26 days per year, depending on their length of Federal service. Sick leave is earned at the rate of 13 days per year.

Judicial employees are also eligible for long term care insurance, a long term disability program, pre-tax payment of health insurance premiums, and participation in pre-tax medical and dependent care spending accounts.

Positions within the Federal probation office are classified and paid under a broad-banded system which combines General Schedule (GS) grades and pay. Probation and pretrial services officers must undergo extensive FBI background investigations.