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What is the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP)?

The qualification for Probation Officers is the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP). This is a work-based learning programme which comprises an integrated programme of applied academic learning and practice skills development, leading to a qualification at Honours Degree Level 6. The skills components are assessed at work and lead to the award of a Level 5 vocational qualification in Probation Practice. During the qualification, learners gain the skills and knowledge to:

  • assess the risk of offenders, including those who present a high risk of serious harm to others;
  • protect the public and manage risk of harm;
  • create an enabling environment conducive to change;
  • demonstrate professional ethics and values;
  • rehabilitate, resettle offenders and promote desistance from offending;
  • prepare reports;
  • achieve the above with specific groups including violent and sexual offenders.

What consultation was involved in the development of the qualification?

Key stakeholders including the National Probation Service (NPS), Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), HMPPS, Skills for Justice, the Probation Institute, NAPO and Unison have been involved throughout, in the design of Community Justice Learning and the PQiP. The qualifications are underpinned by the new National Occupational Standards which have been designed following well represented national consultation across the Community Justice Sector.

How long will it take to complete the PQiP?

The length of the Probation Officer training programme leading to the PQiP is 15 or 21 months depending on your existing Level 5 qualification. If your application is successful, your previous study will be assessed so the correct length of course can be offered to you.

What are the requirements to apply for the training to become a Probation Officer and how can I obtain them?

To be eligible to apply for the PQiP programme, you must be able to demonstrate that you have the following:

1. Practice experience of either working with offenders or with other individuals exhibiting challenging behaviour and/or whose lives are in crisis

2. A recognised qualification in any subject at Level 5 or above

If you do not yet have a Level 5 qualification or higher, but do have a relevant experience of either working with offenders or with other individuals exhibiting challenging behaviour and/or whose lives are in crisis, Community Justice Learning introduces new opportunities for you to obtain the entry requirements above.

Remember, a Level 5 qualification is the minimum entry requirement. If you have achieved a higher qualification such as a bachelor’s degree (Level 6) or a master’s degree (Level 7) you are also eligible to apply.

I have studied some of the knowledge modules, does these mean I can complete the shorter PQiP?

In order to be eligible for the 15 month PQiP, you will need to have demonstrated learning in the following 4 areas, either within your Level 5 or above qualification, or through completion of the required knowledge modules:

  • Crime and Criminal Behaviour
  • Criminal Justice System
  • Penal Policy and Punishment of Offenders
  • Rehabilitation of Offenders

Successful candidates would need to have started their 3rd knowledge module in order to be eligible for the 15 month route. The 4th module will be funded as part of the PQiP and will need to be completed within the first 6 months of joining the programme.

If your qualification does not include any of these subject areas or you have completed less than 3 modules, this means that you are likely to be placed on the extended PQiP, the 21 month route.  The first 6 months will include studying the knowledge modules which will be funded by the NPS.

What kind of security clearance is involved when applying to become a probation officer?

If you are successful in your application, you will need to go through HMPPS security clearance. You’ll need to declare all convictions, cautions and absolute or conditional discharges as part of this process. All of our positions are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act – meaning that all convictions must be disclosed, no matter when they occurred. We believe that people can change, so a conviction will not automatically disbar you but any non-disclosure would.

What would examples of a Level 5 or above qualification be?

Within Community Justice Learning all academic and vocational qualifications are assigned a level, which refers to the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). Level 5 qualifications include:

  • Higher National Diplomas
  • Foundation Degrees
  • Diplomas of Higher Education
  • Level 5 Vocational Qualifications
  • Higher Apprenticeships

Remember, a Level 5 qualification is the minimum entry requirement. If you have achieved a higher qualification such as a bachelor’s degree (Level 6) or a master’s degree (Level 7) you are also eligible to apply.

I don’t meet the eligibility criteria, what is my route to becoming a Probation Officer?

If you already know you don't yet meet the requirements to apply for the PQiP, there are a number of routes to beginning your career in criminal justice.

You can apply to become a Probation Service Officer (PSO). PSOs perform a similar role to fully qualified Probation Officers. The main difference is you’ll work with medium and lower risk offenders, so you don’t need a qualification to apply. All new PSOs undertake a comprehensive induction, including the Gateway to Practice training course and, a Level 3 Vocational Qualification in Probation Practice.

If you already have the required experience and a relevant Level 3 vocational qualification, you will have an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to study at a higher level by undertaking a short Level 4 study programme, otherwise known as an access route. If you complete this successfully, you will be able to enroll on a bespoke Level 5 distance learning course with one of the approved universities. This normally takes a year to complete. Successful completion of which will provide eligibility to apply for the PQiP training programme.

How much will the access routes cost for the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP) and what are the time-scales?

Costs and precise time-scales are available from the approved university providers below. Most required knowledge modules normally require about 200 hours study, the full Level 5 qualification is likely to take a year, and the Level 4 study is likely to be from three months. Your employer may sponsor some or all of this.

De Montfort University
Email: probation@dmu.ac.uk
Telephone: 0116 257 7700

Sheffield Hallam University
Email: probation@shu.ac.uk
Telephone: 0114 225 2539

University of Portsmouth
Email: CJL@port.ac.uk
Telephone: 02392 843 984

Can I study the CJL Level 4 or Level 5 qualifications independently?

Yes, you can take the CJL qualifications in their own right. You do not need to be applying for the PQiP to undertake them.

How can someone gain relevant experience to apply for the PQiP and is there any weighting for different levels of experience?

Relevant experience can be gained from either working with offenders or other individuals exhibiting challenging behaviour and/or whose lives are in crisis. This can be gained in a variety of settings, both within and outside the Community Justice sector in either a paid or voluntary capacity. Relevant experience will be a factor in recruitment and selection but there will be no formal weighting system.

What does recruitment and selection to the PQiP include and when will the next intake be?

Recruitment to the PQiP is by a national recruitment campaign via a series of assessment stages, including a written application, an online test and an assessment centre.

There are usually two intakes per year, one in summer and one at the start of each year. The expected start date for each intake will be advertised when applications open.

Is recruitment and selection to the PQiP fair?

NPS recruitment will be in accordance with the Civil Service Code.

How many places will there be on the PQiP?

This varies across England and Wales depending on our needs locally.  But we’re hoping to recruit 300 people in this intake.

What will contracts of employment include?

PQiP learners in NPS are employed on permanent Probation Service Officer contracts and will be expected to undertake routine PSO tasks during the training programme. However, they will also be allocated some study time towards the required learning components.

I currently work in the NPS. Will I need to leave my current role if I am successful in gaining a place on the PQiP?

Staff working in the NPS who successfully apply for PQiP training will need to move from their current role into a role as a Probation Service Officer PQiP learner.

What happens if someone fails the PQiP?

To qualify as a Probation Officer, you must pass both the vocational and the applied academic components of the PQiP. Learners who do not pass will either return to a previous PSO role within the organisation or may be asked to leave. This decision will be made by the relevant employer.

Where can I find further information on how to train to be a Probation Officer?

Further information about recruitment, your existing qualifications and time-scales can also be found on the Training and Salary Eligibility and Apply pages of this website.

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