Career Guide

Youth Worker

Daniella Driscoll  · Aug 18th 2022

Youth workers create a safe environment with the opportunity to learn about a diverse range of people.

Youth Worker

Being a people person and keen to help young people’s development is the heart of a youth worker's role. Youth workers support and guide young people to reach their full potential by organising activities and supporting them as their personal mentors.

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What is a youth worker?

Youth workers are the heart and soul of the community for young people. They help guide and support young people aged 11 to 25 with their development and help organise activities to keep them entertained. The programmes you’ll lead allow young people to explore and understand new beliefs, and new ideas and aid in building their confidence, and life skills. You’ll play a significant part in their successful transition into adulthood.

There are many different routes to achieving youth worker qualifications, either whilst working or venturing into higher education.

Youth workers work across many settings from schools, youth centres, and colleges to faith-based groups and community clubs. You may also work with high-risk individuals to deliver targeted street work. It’s a compassionate role, caring for younger and sometimes vulnerable people in various areas across the country.


Youth workers have a wide range of responsibilities within the role. You’ll need to do the following:

  • Attend regular training opportunities to stay up to date with safeguarding and health and safety precautions.
  • Be a mentor and coach to individuals to encourage greater social inclusion.
  • Be a recruiter, trainer and manager to staff, including volunteers.
  • Care for the young people by supporting them through different situations.
  • Challenge inappropriate behaviour and learn to set boundaries between you and the young people.
  • Create reports, undertake administrative tasks, respond to queries, manage budgets and lead presentations.
  • Deliver programmes for young people in areas such as health, smoking, drugs, gangs, relationships, bullying and violence.
  • Develop a respectful and trusting relationship with young people, ensuring they have a safe place.
  • Facilitating various workshops across community settings and schools.
  • Monitor and review regular targets for progression of the local youth work provision.
  • Organise and run a selection of community projects, residential activities, arts-based activities, sporting activities and outdoor education.
  • Work with a whole selection of different people including families and professionals to help young people build a strong support network.

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A youth worker’s salary can vary from not-fully-qualified to professional youth workers and earn between £18,000- £33,000.

This salary can increase even further for local authority youth service managers, around the £40,000 mark. These salaries can also be dependent based on the location you’re working.


There are many different routes to achieving youth worker qualifications, either whilst working or venturing into higher education.

To enter a youth worker role in a higher position, you’ll need to be a university graduate. Titles for courses can vary such as ‘community development and youth work’ or ‘youth and community work’. You’ll typically need two A-levels or equivalent and some relevant work experience to get a place on the course. Or, if you don’t have the formal qualifications, it may be possible to access the course through substantial relevant work experience and proven academic ability.

Becoming a youth worker volunteer is a great stepping stone for your career.

When you’ve achieved the degree level (BA Hons/level 6) of learning in youth work, you can gain a high professional youth work qualification, such as a PgCert or the PGDip (level 7 and one-year full time) and MA (level 7 and one-year full time). The degree and level 7 qualification you’re choosing will need to be validated by the National Youth Agency as ‘JNC recognised’ for you to gain the full status of a qualified youth worker.

Youth work is a constant learning curve. You’re learning every day about how to care for and support young people’s needs with training provided regularly on the job, with the support of experienced colleagues. Depending on the type of youth work you’re doing, can determine the short courses and training in specific areas your employer chooses. As you’ll be working with young people and sometimes children, you’ll regularly receive child protection and safeguarding training from the local authorities.

The Institute of Youth Work (IYW) is based in England and an organisation qualified youth workers can join as certified members. The organisation aims to improve support for youth work and offers a selection of courses and resources to encourage continuing professional development.

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Being a young worker means utilising a range of different skills. These skills include:

  • A second language: this can come in handy if you intend to work with a relevant ethnic group.
  • Calm nature: patience, the ability to remain calm during stressful times and provide reliable support.
  • Commitment: loyal to the work you'll be doing with young people and maintaining that relationship.
  • Computer literate: carry out basic tasks on a computer, report writing and funding applications.
  • Counselling: being an active listener and taking a non-judgemental approach in conversations.
  • Resilience and tolerance: be patient in situations of frustration with a flexible attitude.
  • Respectful towards others: treat young people's concerns with sensitivity, tact, respect and being aware of the confidentially/boundaries set between you and the young person.
  • Sense of adventure: willingness to try new things and learn new skills.
  • Strong communication: being able to build relationships with young people and understanding their situation.
  • Team player: find it easy to work well with others.

Work experience

Becoming a youth worker volunteer is a great stepping stone for your career. The majority of youth work is within the community which means there are many opportunities to volunteer in different programmes and projects. This can help you when applying for apprenticeships, degrees and other youth work roles. Relevant work experience shows your passion, skills and knowledge required to develop into a professional youth worker.

The work you’re best at doing should involve working with young people, within youth work jobs or in community settings.

Each course can vary on how much experience you’ll need to apply. For instance, one course could ask for 100 hours of experience, whilst others may be a lot more or less.

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The work you’re best at doing should involve working with young people, within youth work jobs or in community settings. This includes areas of drug or alcohol misuse, mentoring, advice and guidance or sport; there’s an endless list of areas to join in.

Apprenticeships in youth work are a brilliant opportunity for young people to earn, learn and work. To achieve your level 2 or 3 certificates in youth work practice, you can apply for an apprenticeship. Not only will this help you acquire the qualifications you need, but the opportunity provides you with insight working first-hand in the role. Youth work apprenticeships can benefit you when furthering your career as a qualified youth worker. With apprenticeships as well, the employer who offered you the apprenticeship may continue your employment once you’ve qualified.

Youth workers are the heart and soul of the community for young people.

Many enter this role through volunteering or an apprenticeship with the title ‘youth support worker’. Similar to achieving your level 2 or level 3 qualification through an apprenticeship, you can qualify for your diploma in level 2 or 3 in the workplace as well. Level 2 is to work with youths in the 16+ age group, and level 3 is for the 18+ age group.

Career prospects

Gaining more experience in the youth work field and meeting various community groups can build your confidence and skill. Over time, you’ll be able to take on more of a specialist role and become a team leader or manager. Specialist roles can involve anything from gang prevention to mental health or working with a specific age group. Entry into management roles will usually require at least several years of experience in full-time youth worker jobs, including experience leading a team.

The progression of a youth worker role isn’t defined as there are many different types and needs for those roles across various areas. Before reaching the management level, you may have responsibilities added to your role with titles such as youth worker coordinator or senior youth worker. It is worth noting with youth work that you may have to consider relocating for promotions. This is because senior roles aren’t hugely widespread in every area.

With youth work experience under your belt, there’s an opportunity to go into social work, teacher advice work, community education, outdoor education and training youth. Or you can even go down the youth offending jobs route; there’s a whole selection of different areas to consider.

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