Ms Cox originally trained as a probation officer, working in England and Scotland as a practitioner and manager in the community and in prisons, before moving to central government as a criminal justice social work adviser. She subsequently provided professional advice across a wide range of social work activity, and as a social work inspector led or contributed to inspections of criminal justice social work and services for older people. With the then Chief Inspector of Prisons, she undertook a review of women's offending, published as "Women Offenders: a safer way". In 2001 Ms Cox changed the direction of her career, becoming a senior civil servant responsible for developing social policy in relation to children's early years, including implementation of the Scottish Government's early years strategy. She retired from the civil service in 2011. Ms Cox was appointed to the Parole Board in November 2011.