Probation officers oversee individuals placed on probation. Parole officers oversee inmates that have been granted parole. Individuals may perform both duties in some states.
Parole and probation officers supervise offenders on probation or parole through personal contact with the offenders and their families -- in the offenders' homes and at their places of employment or therapy. Probation and parole agencies also seek the assistance of community organizations, like churches, neighborhood groups, and local residents, to monitor the behavior of many offenders.
Probation officers also spend much of their time working for the courts -- investigating the backgrounds of the accused, writing presentence reports, and recommending sentences. Probation officers may be required to testify in court as to their findings and recommendations.
A bachelor's degree in criminal justice, psychology or social work is usually required for employment. In addition, most probation officers are required to complete a training program sponsored by the state or federal government.