As a youth worker, it would be your job to help young people to fulfil their potential in society. You would provide enjoyable, educational and challenging activities to help them improve their confidence, develop new skills and cope with issues that affect their lives.
What may I be doing?
You would generally work with people aged 13 to 19, or in some cases 11 to 25. Your day-to-day tasks would depend on the needs of your clients, but might include:
- organising sports, arts, drama, and other activities
- mentoring and supporting young people
- offering counselling
- working with specific groups, such as young carers or those at risk of offending
- developing and running projects that tackle issues like health, bullying, crime or drugs
- managing volunteers and part-time workers
- keeping records and controlling budgets
- bidding for grants and funding
- networking with other professionals including social workers, teachers, probation officers and the police.
You might also do outreach work as a 'detached' youth worker, engaging with young people in meeting places like parks, shopping centres and the streets.
- Youth support workers can earn between £15,000 and £18,000 a year (or the equivalent part-time rate).
- Salaries for qualified youth workers are usually between £22,000 and £28,000 a year.
- Senior and management salaries can be between £28,000 and £35,000 or more.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
In a full-time job you would work 35 to 37 hours a week. Part-time work is very common however, and most jobs involve some evening work.
You could be based in a local youth club, community centre, faith centre (such as a church or mosque), school or Connexions centre. As a detached youth worker, you could go anywhere where young people meet in your local area, from street corners to amusement arcades.
Personal skills you may need;
- the ability to build good relationships and earn trust and respect
- excellent communication and listening skills
- the ability to relate to people from all backgrounds
- tact and sensitivity
- patience and resilience
- a non-judgemental attitude
- initiative, enthusiasm and motivation
- good organisational skills
- commitment to equal opportunities
- interest or skills in areas that may interest young people, such as sports or the arts.
What qualifications / skills are employers looking for?
To become a professional youth worker, you will need to gain a youth and community work qualification that is recognised by the National Youth Agency (NYA) or the Youth Council for Northern Ireland. Recognised youth work qualifications can be:
- Dip HE (two years full-time, or part-time equivalent, some are employment based)
- Foundation Degree (two years full-time, or part time equivalent, most are employment based)
- BA honours degree (three years full-time, or part-time equivalent).
- postgraduate certificate, diploma or MA (one year full-time, or part-time equivalent).
As from September 2010, all professional qualifications in youth work will be at honours degree level or higher.
Course entry requirements can vary, so you should check with each university or college. You may be accepted without formal qualifications if you have relevant work experience and the potential to succeed on the course.
It is important for you to get experience (paid or unpaid) of working with young people. You will often need at least one years' experience to apply for professional youth work courses and jobs. To arrange voluntary or part-time sessional youth work, contact your local youth service or visit do-it.org to find out about local opportunities.
Alternatively, you could start without any qualifications as a part-time or volunteer youth support worker (assistant). You could then take work-based qualifications in youth support work, and go on to complete professional training part-time, or by distance-learning.
See the NYA website for a list of recognised professional courses and information on youth support worker qualifications.
When you apply to work with young people, you must also pass a CRB check.
As a youth support worker, your employer will provide basic training when you start work (usually a mixture of classroom-based and on-the-job training). You may also be encouraged to achieve a work-based youth support qualification, such as:
- NVQ levels 2 and 3 in Youth Work
- ABC Level 2 Certificate and Level 3 Diploma in Youth Work
- City & Guilds Level 2 and 3 Certificates in Youth Work
- City & Guilds Level 2 and 3 Certificates in Supporting Youth Work.
You could then progress to taking a professional youth work qualification part-time.
As a qualified professional youth worker, you will develop your skills on the job. Your employer will also offer regular in-service short courses on particular aspects of youth work. With experience, you could choose to take a postgraduate course in a related area such as community development or counselling.
Whatever level you work at, you must take child protection training.
What opportunities are out there?
Most opportunities for youth workers are with local authority youth services and the Connexions Service. You could also work for youth offending teams, government-funded projects, positive futures, faith groups, community groups and voluntary organisations.
Jobs are advertised in the local and national press, specialist recruitment agencies and local authority websites.
With experience, you could progress to team leader and into management. In England, you could also take further training to become a personal adviser for the Connexions Service.
You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading (links open in new window):
More information and links......
St Andrew’s House
18-20 St Andrew Street
Information and Advice Service: 020 7936 5798
19-23 Humberstone Road
Tel: 028 9064 3882
What about experience - I am a student?
Most jobs ask for some experience in the industry...... but you will be surprised what experience you have gained. Most courses have placements, vocational experience or some-other "outside College" modules; many of you will also have been part of, or worked in, sports development related organisations..... the short message is that this all counts!. If your final year [or other] projects studied organisations, projects or Sports development related issues.... these also count as experience. Your Governing body qualifications, past sporting experiences, work with young people or others.... also counts....... you will be surprised how much experience you already have!
- When completing an application form always ensure that you clearly indicate where you meet the "essential" requirements as indicated in the person specification information that will be part of your application pack.
- There will be a part of the application form that will invite you to offer "additional information to support your application"; always provide this information but make sure it is relevant.... they are not asking for an emotional "I love sport" life history.
- Always, always, always..... ask advice from a teacher, lecturer, learning mentor, personal tutor, careers advisor or someone in the industry about your application before you send it off.
- If you get an interview, which may include a presentation, practice both. If you can you should seek further help from your teaching staff or any more experienced colleagues.
To see more opportunities and advice about careers please visit the Government's careers advice service or your own careers advice service. If you are a University student a chat with your lecturers is a good idea too.