Education to Become a Youth Worker
One of the most exciting and inspirational specializations in human services is that of the youth worker. The job of a youth worker is to help empower young people to make positive decisions in their own lives to ensure that they have a bright and productive future. There are many kinds of youth worker from working with homeless youth, a worker at a group home, to counseling at an alternative education program.
The goal of the youth worker is to provide social services and care for the emotional wellbeing of youth. Helping the youth to become more productive is a complex task that requires an accurate assessment of the particular issues a given individual might have. Often, a youth worker will have to help the client overcome potential barriers to success.
Some ways in which a youth worker might empower their client can include:
- Stabilizing housing situation
- Providing vocational training
- Re-engagement in education
- Mental health counseling
- Substance abuse counseling
- Parenting classes for teen parents
The youth worker engages young people in the organization they work with to gain rapport and understanding into their personal needs. The youth worker then helps assist their client in connecting with community social services that can help them stabilize their situation.
This can include advocating for the youth and assisting them in applying for and receiving community benefits such as Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, Medical coverage and in the case of teen parents Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and daycare programs so they can attend school or find work.
Often, a back-to-school or alternative educational component helps the client to get back on track with their education. This can take the form of educational counseling so the youth can attain their GED or attend an alternative High School that can help them to earn their High School diploma.
Alternately, mentorship programs, apprenticeships and vocational training can help youth who wish or need to move directly into the workforce. By providing structure, support and counseling the youth worker empowers their client to take control of their own life to become a healthy and successful member of the community.
Being able to empower young people to make positive decisions in their lives is a tremendous service to the community. In addition to the profound impact one can have on the individual they are working with, the entire community benefits.
Community benefits include:
- Lowered drop-out rates in schools
- Higher test scores
- Lowered disciplinary actions at schools
- Decreased crime rates
Different jobs within the sector require differing levels of education. Increasingly, as the work force becomes more educated on average, employers are looking for prospective employees who hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher in a Social Sciences area of study.
Salaries for a youth worker depend on the particular job function:
- Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor: $36,020 (2019) (Bachelor’s in Social Science)
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counselors: $48,520 (2021) (Bachelor’s in Social Science)
- Youth Advocate: $50,390 (2021) – (Bachelor’s in Social Science) (Social Worker)
To start on your career as a youth worker you will need the right educational background to make your resume stand out. Pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in a Social Sciences field (e.g. Psychology, Sociology, Social Work) is a solid educational path. Most employers also look for bilingual or multilingual abilities in prospective employees.
2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed May 2023.
2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counselors reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed May 2023.
2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Youth Advocate reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed May 2023.