Probation service officer

Starting your career as a probation service officer

By Liam Dale

​If you read our recent article about how to enjoy a varied career in probation, then you’ll know that the probation sector is open to anyone. Lower level probation service officer job roles are open to anyone interested in working in the sector. However, if you have a degree or relevant criminal justice experience (such as work as a prison officer, housing or youth offending) you may have a greater chance of success.

We briefly mentioned in our previous article that the National Probation Service regularly hosts dedicated interview days for prospective probation service officers, so we wanted to clarify how to apply for a position and what to expect from an assessment centre.

Eligible for those keen to work within the NPS

Currently, the probation sector is split into two key areas; the National Probation Service (NPS) which manages high to medium risk offenders and Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), which support low to medium risk offenders. It has been announced that the government plans to reverse the controversial Transforming Rehabilitation programme and merge the two services together. However, nothing will likely change before December 2020.

If you are keen to start a career as a probation service officer, then you may be invited to attend a dedicated interview day, run by the NPS. These assessment days are specifically designed to facilitate PSO interviews across the UK and are an opportunity to find out more about the job role.

How to apply

If you are new to the sector and you’ve never applied for a job role before, then you should apply via the NPS website. This is a dedicated site which provides full details of what the role entails and how much you can expect to be paid.

During your online application, you will be asked to provide details of your career history, education and any relevant experience. Following that, the application will move onto a decision-making test which will determine your ability to respond to specific scenarios and competency questions to test your attitude and skills.

What to expect from an assessment centre

Once you pass, you will be invited to attend a half-day interview at an assessment centre. Held in locations across the UK, these days are a way of undertaking a final interview before an assessor decides if you are the right candidate for the role.

During your visit, the session will be split into three distinct parts; a group exercise, a written test and an individual interview.

The assessors are looking for desirable candidates who stand out as having the potential to make fantastic a PSO. They want to find out if you can work in a team, what your communication skills are like and how you can adapt your experience and life skills to the requirements of the job.

Whilst no specific training or qualifications are required, you may wish to highlight any relevant background experience you may have. Candidates who have worked within the housing sector, voluntary community groups or within a healthcare environment can be at an advantage.

If you are unsuccessful in your first assessment day, there is nothing to stop you from re-applying. Take the time to reconsider your experience – perhaps see if you can undertake any voluntary roles which may give you a greater advantage.

We have written a series of blogs around starting and navigating your probation career. There are also a number of useful resources on our careers hub.