Working in law enforcement, corrections, or probation can be taxing under the best of circumstances, and careers in criminology and criminal justice definitely aren't for everyone. It takes a special kind of person, though, to work with youth. That's why the work of juvenile justice and juvenile detention officers is so important.
Most states have special laws regarding the treatment of juveniles in the case of crimes, arrests, detention, incarceration, and court procedures. They also employ special officers to deal solely with young offenders.
What Juvenile Justice Officers Do
Juvenile officers work with troubled youth who have been charged with or convicted of crimes that would likely include jail or even prison sentences if they were adults. Juvenile justice officers are probation officers who specialize in dealing with youthful offenders.
Juvenile officers may also serve as detention or residency officers. They supervise children and young adults who have been sentenced to incarceration in a juvenile justice facility or who are awaiting trial or assessment.
A huge part of the job of any juvenile officer is to counsel troubled youth in order to better prepare them to stay out of trouble when they have been released from detention or probation or they have completed their sentences.
In the hopes that youthful offenders may be successful adults, officers apply the concept of restorative justice to work with them and equip them with better decision-making skills and ways to deal with and confront the issues that got them into trouble, to begin with.
The job of a juvenile justice officer often includes:
- Counseling troubled youth
- Supervising probationary youthful offenders
- Providing courtroom testimony
- Producing written reports
- Assessing juvenile offenders
- Guarding incarcerated youth
- Working closely with police officers and courts
- Working with parents and guardians
Juvenile officers provide a vital service to their communities because they work to help troubled youth become trusted, successful and productive adults. They take a chance on adolescents that other people have given up on, and they help provide parents and guardians with tools to help keep their charges out of further trouble.
Education or Skills Juvenile Justice Officers Needed
Aspiring juvenile officers must have a high school diploma, at the minimum. Because most of them work as probation and community control officers, and because counseling services are such a vital part of the job of a juvenile officer, a bachelor's or even master's degree may be required. In any case, it's never a bad idea to earn a college education.
Areas of study that would be most beneficial to juvenile officers include social work, psychology, criminal justice, and criminology. An understanding of juvenile law and the criminal justice system is a must, as are interpersonal communication and writing skills.
To get a job as a juvenile officer, a thorough criminal history and background investigation will likely be required. Relevant past work experience may also be necessary, and candidates with prior military service may be eligible for veteran's preference points.
The Job Prospects for Juvenile Justice Officers
The median national salary for all probation and control officers, including juvenile officers, is around $47,000. The lowest 10% earned just over $30,000 and the highest 10% earned near $80,000.
Earning potential for individuals will depend on location, level of education, agency and time of service. Job growth through 2020 is expected to be around 18%, slightly higher than the average for all jobs.
Is a Career as a Juvenile Justice Officer Right for You?
It goes without saying that if you want to be successful as a juvenile justice officer, you'll need to enjoy working with youth. A strong desire to make a difference in young people's lives and help get them on the right path is a must.
Working in juvenile justice can be an extremely rewarding job path, and if you enjoy the opportunity to help troubled youth, a job as a juvenile justice officer may just be the perfect criminology career for you.