Qualifications and Eligibility
There are 9 qualification levels in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and they all represent higher education (HE) qualifications.
To be eligible to apply to the PQiP programme, you must hold a valid Level 5 qualification in one of the following:
- A diploma of higher education (DipHE)
- A foundation degree
- A higher national diploma (HND)
- A level 5 award
- A level 5 certificate
- A level 5 diploma
- A level 5 NVQ
If you are successful in reaching the Online Assessment Centre stage of the application process, you must be able to provide evidence that you have successfully passed a Level 5 (or above) qualification by producing a valid certificate when asked at the start of your Online Assessment Centre. If you have not yet undergone your graduation ceremony, or have still not received your certificate at the time of the Online Assessment Centre, you can instead produce a valid transcript from the university as evidence, or a letter of confirmation of your pass mark from your education provider.
Please note: If you are unable to produce evidence of a Level 5 qualification, then you will not be able to continue with your Online Assessment Centre and your application will be withdrawn.
Key stakeholders were involved throughout its design, including the National Probation Service (NPS), Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, (HMPPS), Skills for Justice, the Probation Institute, NAPO and Unison.
The qualification is underpinned by the National Occupational Standards, which were created with national consultation across the Community Justice Sector.
To be eligible for the 15-month PQiP programme, you need to have studied modules on at least three of the following four topics as part of a degree (or equivalent):
- Crime and Criminal Behaviour
- Criminal Justice System
- Penal Policy and Punishment of Offenders
- Rehabilitation of Offenders
You’ll go on to complete whichever module is missing as part of the PQiP programme within the first six months.
If your qualification doesn’t include these subjects you’ll most likely study the 21-month PQiP programme (the first six months will cover all four modules).
If you don’t have a degree – relevant or otherwise – and you don’t have relevant experience either: don’t worry.
You can still apply to become a probation services officer (PSO), and take on similar work to a fully-qualified probation officer. The main difference is, you won’t work with the highest risk offenders or on the most complex cases.
If you have no experience or studies in the area, you’ll combine your work with a comprehensive induction programme that includes the Gateway to Practice training course and a Level 3 Vocational Qualification in Probation Practice.
If you have some relevant experience and a Level 3 vocational qualification, you can choose to take a short Level 4 study programme, otherwise known as an Access Route.
If you’re successful, you’ll then join a bespoke Level 5 distance learning course with one of our partner higher education providers. This usually takes a year, after which you can apply for the PQiP training programme.
You can get the costs and precise time-scales for the Levels 4 and 5 distance-learning courses from our higher education partners below.
De Montfort University
Telephone: 0116 207 8443
Sheffield Hallam University
Telephone: 0114 225 2539
University of Portsmouth
Telephone: 0239 2846 973
The Level 4 study programme will likely take three months. The full Level 5 qualification usually takes a year. Your employer may sponsor some or all of these studies – they will definitely support you if you go on to study the PQiP programme.
Click here to learn more about qualification levels.
Yes, you can take the CJL qualifications in their own right. You do not need to be applying for the PQiP programme to undertake them.
Relevant experience is essentially time spent working with offenders or other individuals exhibiting challenging behaviours or whose lives are in crisis.
This could be in or outside the Community Justice sector, in either a paid or voluntary capacity.
However, there’s no formal weighting to any type of experience with challenging individuals. Its relevance is at the discretion of the hiring team.
You will need to provide a Statement of Comparability from the National Academic Recognition Information Centre UK (NARIC) to verify that your qualification is equivalent to a UK level 5 qualification.
The recruitment process is usually around 6 months. Although for April 2021 campaign successful candidates are expected to start in November 2021.However, if it is not possible to place you into a suitable vacancy location due to insufficient vacancies, you will remain on the merit list and your application will be deferred to the following intake. Candidates are able to remain on the merit list for 12 months.
The process has a number of stages, including a written application, an online test and an assessment event.
The initial four-week induction is hugely important, so we suggest that you ensure you’re available for every working day during this period.
Throughout the organisation, we strongly believe people can change. A conviction does not necessarily mean you cannot be a probation officer. However, failure to disclose information will put an end to your application, as we expect a high level of integrity from all those who we employ.
PQiP learners in NPS are employed on permanent Probation Services Officer contracts and will be expected to undertake routine PSO tasks during the training programme. They will also be allocated some study time towards the required learning components, however some study will need to be undertaken in their own time.
Unfortunately, no. PQiP vacancies are linked to teams’ needs. So, there’s no guarantee that one will be open in a location near you. Plus, all posts are assigned according to assessment scores – including if you already work within a CRC or for HMPPS.
If you are successful in your application, you will receive a provisional offer letter, subject to the availability of suitable vacancy locations, within a reasonable commute distance. Please note that placement during that intake is not guaranteed as vacancies are determined by business need. Allocation of successful candidates into PQiP vacancies is by fair and open competition based on merit from assessment scores and PDU preferences. If it is not possible to place you into a suitable vacancy location due to insufficient vacancies, you will remain on the merit list and your application will be deferred to the following intake. Candidates are able to remain on the merit list for 12 months.
If you are successful you will need to undergo and clear pre-employment checks. This will include Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Enhanced Level 2 vetting and as access to the multi-agency ViSOR system will be required as part of these posts, police vetting – Non Police Personnel Vetting Level 2 will also be required.
Proof that you have been a resident in the UK for the last 3 years is required in order to complete the NPPV2 vetting process. If you have been out of the country for a significant period of time (usually up to one year) and maintained your UK residency you may still be considered for vetting clearance. For further information please see section 6.4 of the APP Vetting document here.
All of our positions are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, which means all spent and unspent convictions are examined as part of the vetting process. As part of this, you must declare all convictions, cautions and absolute or conditional discharges – however long ago they occurred. More information about vetting is available here. This should not deter candidates with any criminal history from applying as all cases are always considered on their individual merits before a decision is reached.
The National Probation Service encourages applications from people with lived experience and we believe this can make a difference to our service user outcomes. A conviction does not necessarily mean you cannot become a probation officer. However, failure to disclose information will put an end to your application, as we expect a high level of integrity from all those who we employ.
Current Civil Servant
Employees working in the NPS who successfully apply to the PQiP programme will need to move from their current office location to a new location as a probation services officer PQiP learner. There are no guarantees that PQiP vacancies will be available at their current work location In line with fair and open competition, allocations of successful candidates are made based on merit from assessment scores. This will also apply for applicants currently working within a CRC.
Successful candidates who are allocated to a PQiP vacancy office location will be issued with a new internal contract. There is no need to resign from your position as an internal move within HMPPS will be managed accordingly.
No. If you’re a civil servant and member of the PCSPS, You’ll be opted out of it and auto-enrolled into the Local Government Pension Scheme when you accept our offer of employment.
PQiP programme and beyond
Newly qualified officers are able to apply for qualified probation officer positions via local recruitment processes.
You’ll have a positive impact from day one. And in return, you can expect to:
- complete either a 15 or 21-month programme that leads to Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP) certification
- earn £22,924 a year during training, plus £1,100 if based in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Kent, Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk or Suffolk; or £3,889 in London (once in a Qualified Probation Officer role, your salary rises to £30,208 plus allowances).
- enjoy 25 days’ annual leave (30 days after 5 years) plus 8 public holidays
- join the Local Government Pension Scheme.
Not necessarily. The location you are originally based at when you join the service may not be your final base due to transition work that our estates are undertaking over the next four years.
As part of the Probation Reform Programme the Estates Programme is delivering a four year modernisation strategy. This will create modern sites with the right atmosphere for staff and service users and enable smarter working
To qualify as a probation officer, you must pass both the vocational and the applied academic elements of the PQiP programme.
If you don’t pass, you’ll either return to a previous PSO role or may be asked to leave. The decision will be made by your employer