If you want to help make life better for young people, this is a job you could enjoy. Youth workers help young people reach their potential. Youth Workers build good relationships and earn trust and respect. They help young people become more confident, learn new skills and cope with issues in their lives.
To become a professionally qualified youth worker in England you will need a BA (Hons) degree in youth work that is recognised by the National Youth Agency (NYA).
For any job where you would be working with children or young people, you will need to pass background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
To be a good youth worker you will need to be able to relate to people from all backgrounds. You'll also need to be patient and enthusiastic.
You would generally work with young people aged 13 to 19, although in some jobs they might be as young as 11, or up to age 25. Your tasks would depend on the needs of the young people, but might include:
- organising sports, arts, drama and other activities
- advising 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 deal with issues like health, bullying, crime or drugs
- managing volunteers and part-time workers
- keeping records and controlling budgets
- trying to get grants and funding
- working with other professionals including social workers, teachers, probation officers and the police.
You might also be making contact with young people in meeting places like parks, shopping centres and on the streets. This is known as detached youth work.
In a full-time job you would work 35 to 37 hours a week. Most jobs involve some evening work. Part-time work is very common.
You could be based at a local youth club, community centre, faith centre (such as a church or mosque), or school. As a detached youth worker, you could go anywhere where young people meet in your local area.
Youth support workers (those who are not fully qualified youth workers) can earn between £14,000 and £19,000 a year for full-time work. Salaries for qualified professional youth workers are usually between £20,500 and £30,000 a year.
Senior and management salaries can be up to £35,000 a year.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
To become a fully qualified youth worker in England, with professional status, you will need to gain a minimum of a BA (Hons) degree in youth work that is recognised by the National Youth Agency (NYA).
Depending on your previous qualifications, you could take one of the following:
- BA (Hons) degree in youth work (actual titles vary)
- postgraduate certificate, diploma or master’s in youth work if you already have a degree in any subject.
Degree course entry requirements can vary, so 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.
If you have previous youth and community work qualifications at diploma of higher education (Dip HE) or foundation degree level, you will not need to gain a degree in order to be counted as having professional status.
It is important for you to get experience (paid or unpaid) of working with young people. You will often need at least one year's experience in order to apply for professional youth work courses and jobs. Find out about local opportunities for voluntary or part-time youth work by contacting your local youth service or by visiting the Do-it website.
More information about volunteering can be found on the following websites:
Another option is to start as a part-time or volunteer youth support worker. You could then take work-based qualifications in youth support work. These qualifications could be used as entry on to a degree course later on, if you wanted to progress and work towards full professional status.
See the Training and development section for more details about youth support worker qualifications.
For any job where you would be working (paid or unpaid) with children or young people, you will need to pass background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). See the DBS website for details.
See the National Youth Association website for information on courses and qualifications at professional youth worker and youth support worker levels.
Contact the Youth Council for Northern Ireland for information on how to qualify as a youth worker in Northern Ireland.
Training and development
If you start as a youth support worker, your employer will provide basic induction training. You may also be encouraged to gain a work-based youth support qualification, such as:
- Level 2 Award in Youth Work Practice
- Level 2 Certificate in Youth Work Practice
- Level 3 Award in Youth Work Practice
- Level 3 Certificate in Youth Work Practice
- Level 3 Diploma in Youth Work Practice.
These are accredited by several awarding bodies and can be taken through your employer or by attending a further education college, part-time.
As a qualified professional youth worker, you will develop your skills on the job. Your employer may also offer regular 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.
You will do child protection training whatever level you work at.
Skills, interests and qualities
To become a youth worker, you will 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 and planning skills
- good negotiating skills
- commitment to equal opportunities
- interest or skills in areas that may interest young people, such as sports or the arts.
National Youth Agency
Eastgate House 19-23
Humberstone Road Leicester
Youth Council for Northern Ireland
Forestview Purdy's Lane Belfast
Tel: 028 9064 3882
Most opportunities for youth workers are with local authority youth services. You could also work for youth offending teams, government-funded projects, faith groups, community groups and voluntary organisations.
With experience, you could progress to team leader and into management. You could also move into social work and teaching.
Jobs are advertised in the local and national press, with specialist recruitment agencies and on local authority websites.
Related industry information
The community learning and development industry is part of the lifelong learning sector, represented by Lifelong Learning UK Sector Skills Council, which also includes: further education; higher education; libraries, archives and information services; and work‐based learning. The sector as a whole currently employs over 1.2 million people in a range of educational institutions, as well as public and private sector organisations.
The community learning and development industry comprises staff working in community based settings, in for example: community based adult learning; community development; community education; development education; family learning; working with parents; and youth work. Much of the activity in the industry is voluntary.
- There are 334,041 people working in the community learning and development industry across the UK.
- In England, 7% of the workforce is employed full‐time, 45% are seasonal/hourly paid, and 40% work part‐time.
- In England, 91% of the workforce described ‘teaching’ as their main activity.
Jobs in the industry include: community development worker, community education officer, youth worker, youth support worker, youth work manager, family learning practitioners; parenting practitioners.