What Is a Youth Worker? Definition, Qualifications Needed and How To Become One

A Youth worker is a person that works with young people to facilitate their personal, social and educational development through informal education, care (e.g. preventive) or leisure approaches.[1] All types of educative approaches are not ethical for youth work, examples for unethical forms of education are indoctrinating, inculcating, and brainwashing. Youth workers can work in many contexts and according to the roles they are known as enablers, facilitators, emancipators, animators or could be known by the set of activities they use to reach out to youth. The validity of youth work approaches are based on whether they are educational, participative, empowering, promotes equality of opportunities, etc. The basic principles of youth work are respecting young people, providing accessible and value oriented opportunities (genuinely useful) for voluntary participation, accountability, being anti-oppressive (e.g. social model of disability, unconscious bias training) in processes, confidentiality, reliability, trustworthiness, and being ethical in keeping boundaries.[2]

In the UK and elsewhere, the main distinction is usually made between statutory, those who work as part of a government run initiative, and non-statutory, those that work in any other context.

See the article Youth work for a full explanation, and the article History of youth work for a brief time line. In some circumstances, the term should be carefully distinguished from Child and Youth Worker which refers to therapeutic work in the USA and Canada.

What is youth work?

Youth worker average salary

Youth workers work an average of 37 hours per week, but part-time positions are also available. They often work long hours, as they may have sessions with young people after normal work hours or over weekends.

What does a youth worker do?

A youth worker is a person who helps young people with their personal, social and educational development in an informal setting using educational processes, care and leisure approaches. They work with young people between the ages of 11 and 25 in settings such as faith-based groups, schools, youth centers and colleges.

Building supportive relationships

The chief duties of youth workers are to develop supportive relationships with young people that introduce them to new experiences while working to increase their confidence, empathy and ambition and to help them realize their own potential. Examples of focus areas for youth workers include dealing with and providing education on teenage pregnancy, health issues, gangs, violence, abuse and relationships.

Maintaining administrative tasks and project planning

Although youth workers focus on working face-to-face with young people, they also have administrative duties, such as managing the facilities in which they work and planning projects for their clients. Projects help students learn to research and debate issues to raise awareness and to give them tools to develop their own views on controversial issues. Youth workers often hold workshops to educate and discuss issues with young people, such as stereotypes and prejudices and how to challenge them.

Teaching self-confidence and self-awareness

A youth worker offers positive and engaging activities for young people to explore issues affecting them daily. This helps the youths learn more about themselves, their skills, attitudes, values and knowledge. The reflective observation and relational experiences created by youth workers help youths to further their growth opportunities. A youth worker often provides individual mentoring sessions to young people to discuss issues affecting them.

The main duties and tasks of a youth worker include:

How to become a youth worker

If you are interested in becoming a youth worker, here are the typical steps to follow:

1. Volunteer

Consider where you would like to work as a youth worker. If you want to work at a youth center or a young offenders organization, try to find part-time or volunteer work there. You can volunteer at different organizations to build a portfolio of experience and make important contacts.

2. Earn a degree

To become a youth worker, you need to complete an undergraduate degree in community studies or youth work. Certain universities allow students to study while also working part-time as a youth worker to gain experience. Universities often have stringent criteria for selecting students for these degrees, as youth work is a competitive career choice. There are full- and part-time programs available to become a youth worker. A few institutions also offer distance learning programs.

3. Complete postgraduate studies or certifications

Working as a youth worker requires one of the following qualifications:

What key skills does a youth worker need?

The essential qualities a youth worker should have are patience, creativity and energy. Hiring managers look for candidates who are non-judgmental, mature and sensitive. Other qualities that recruiters focus on are:

Common employers of youth workers

Youth workers work in a range of jobs and sectors, including criminal justice and social care in both the private and voluntary sectors. The following organizations employ youth workers:


What is the meaning of youth work?

“Youth work” is defined as activities that intentionally seek to impact young people. This is primarily a set of loosely affiliated activities that have been defined, redefined, examined, and reinvented in subsequent generations.

What do youth workers do UK?

As a youth worker, you’ll set, organise and run community programmes aimed at young people aged between 11 and 25. Through these programmes, you’ll help them to explore and understand their ideas, values and beliefs, building their confidence and life skills so that they can make a successful transition to adulthood.

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