- What do youth workers do?
- Youth worker career path
- Youth worker salaries
- Qualifications & training
- Youth worker skills
- Pros and cons of being a youth worker
- Youth worker work-life balance
- Youth worker employers
- Related jobs
Are you an enthusiastic person in touch with the younger generation? Do your friends turn to you for advice without judgement? If you want to help make your community a better place to be and support young people, you may be interested in a career as a youth worker.
Interested in a career as a youth worker? Explore graduate opportunities in education and teaching and take your first step towards a career in this role.
What does a youth worker do?
As a youth worker, it is your responsibility to organise and engage young people aged between 11 and 25. This includes encouraging them to join your programmes designed to help them explore who they are as a person while building life skills and confidence. Your day to day duties involve the following tasks:
- Create programmes to help educate young people to controversial but important life topics such as drugs, smoking, gang violence and bullying.
- Create secure and stable relationships to keep young people safe and provide them with the confidence to explore their thoughts and emotions
- Organise community development projects, sports activities and art based projects
- Recruit and train volunteer youth workers
- Challenge poor behaviour, demonstrating why it’s negative and use it as an opportunity for the young person you’re working with to learn and improve
- Apply for grants and funding, including planning and writing applications
- Completing basic administrative tasks such as replying to emails and responding to queries
- Attend training opportunities to learn new techniques and expand your own knowledge
Youth worker career path
Your role as a youth worker often starts on an assistant or volunteering basis. As an entry level or youth support worker, you assist a fully qualified youth worker with their tasks and groups. You work in a supporting role, helping to set up activities, purchasing supplies and general administrative tasks such as answering emails and calls. You develop your talents for helping young people and learn how important open communication is amongst the young people you are working with. You lead work with young people under the watchful eye of a fully qualified youth worker.
You eventually progress to become a fully qualified youth worker as you train on the job, helping other youth workers. Once you have some experience as a fully qualified youth worker, you may decide to explore specialist areas such as mental health or drug use. Equally, you may find you work well and effectively in certain vulnerable groups and specialise there.
There is no fixed progression structure in youth work. However, you can expect the top end of your career to involve taking on managerial responsibilities. You may have a job title like senior youth worker or youth worker manager. You could decide to run your own community youth project, hiring qualified youth workers to carry out and develop your initiatives while you focus on funding and research.
If a managerial role doesn’t suit you, you may consider using your specific skill set to go into similar roles such as social work or family support officer. You can explore 4 potential career paths in the public sector.
Youth worker salaries
Because of the non-commercial nature of youth work, you may find it having a lower salary than jobs in the private sector. Here are the salaries that you could earn at different stages of your career as a youth worker:
- Entry level youth workers with incomplete qualifications can expect to earn anywhere from £18,000 to £28,000 per year
- Fully qualified youth workers with experience can expect to see their salaries rise from £24,000 to £42,000 per annum.
- Going into a managerial position, such as youth service manager, you can expect to earn in excess of £40,000 per year. This varies depending on the size of authority you work for.
Qualifications and training
To start your career as a youth worker, it is essential to have a National Youth Agency (NYA) recognised qualification. You begin with either a level 2 or level 3 qualification which qualifies you to be a youth support worker. With experience, you can reach level 6 and above qualifications which is equivalent to a degree. These qualify you to be a professional youth worker. You can learn more about the qualifications that you need and where to get them with the National Youth Agency.
Having some work experience is often crucial for securing a place on a course or a role as a youth support worker. Work experience shows you are up to the task and have some level of experience as a youth worker. You can explore the courses available to you as some ask for a certain number of hours of work experience in order to join. This changes per course but you should expect to gain about 100 or more hours of work. You can find work experience in different areas such as community work or leading a youth group, for example with the Scouts or Girl Guides. Work experience often opens up doors to getting qualifications. You are able to apply your volunteer work to the working portions of your qualification.
For internship opportunities within youth work, check out our internships in the public sector.
Youth worker skills
Being a youth worker requires a very specific set of skills due to the transformative nature of the role. You are the go-to person for the young people you work with and the following skills help you support them:
- Resilience. Your job involves dealing with challenging circumstances on a regular basis, amongst a variety of different people and backgrounds. You need to be resilient so you can take every situation you face and push through to a solution, often time and time again.
- Patience. To the young people you work with, you are the authority figure and person they can confide in. This means always being willing to listen and respect the opinions of the young people you are working with. Being patient helps you support them without becoming frustrated at any setbacks or negative attitudes.
- Creativity. Part of the job is coming up with new programmes and activities on a regular basis. A flair for art or sports is beneficial because it gives you a passion that you can utilise and inspire the young people with.
- Communication. Not only do you need to confidently lead and communicate your programmes and activities, but you are also required to present to funding bodies. Having great communication skills helps you with this. You can brush up on your communication skills by completing this module on perfecting presentation skills.
Pros and cons of being a youth worker
- Work fulfilment. You make a real difference in the development of young people in your community. You may help a young person deal with the problems they are facing in a constructive and positive way which could help them throughout their life and prevent them from following negative paths. This is a highly fulfilling and meaningful aspect of the job.
- Variety. You wear many hats as a social worker, making each day different. You are presented with new challenges as your youth centre and projects grow.
- Opportunities. The nature of the role requires on the job training, sometimes involving master degrees, which enables growth within your career.
- Confrontation. As a youth worker, you are often at the forefront of the low points in your community. You are exposed to desperate situations and be the one to deliver bad news. This is a less positive aspect of the role and can be difficult to deal with emotionally.
- Fatigue. Social workers often suffer from something referred to as ‘compassion fatigue’, where you experience anxiety over other people's issues. Therefore, it is important to look after your own mental health in this role.
Youth worker work-life balance
Working life of a youth worker is a standard working week at around 35 hours per week. The role often requires you to be available beyond standard working hours for after school clubs or weekend activities, so flexibility in your working week is necessary. You are also expected to conduct outreach work which may be out of normal working hours.
This role requires you being careful with your time, as being a youth worker could see you working around the clock. You are not working to the best of your ability when you are overworked or burnt out, so establish your working boundaries early on.
For more information on establishing a good work-life balance, read this Bright Network article on how to achieve a work-life balance.
Key graduate youth worker employers
Here are some graduate employers you can keep an eye on for future youth worker opportunities: