Become a Youth Worker: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Social and human services play a role in many fields, including rehabilitation, psychology and social work. Within these fields, human services workers collaborate with social workers and healthcare professionals to provide services to individuals in need. Those human services workers who have strong communications skills and an interest in working with young people might consider focusing their attentions on youth programs.

Step 1: Prepare for Training

Individuals are usually required to have high school diplomas or GEDs before they can work in the youth services field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), postsecondary educational programs resulting in degrees and certificates can also help aspiring youth workers find employment (www.bls.gov). Programs in human services, counseling and social work can prepare individuals for entry-level work or advanced training in the field.

Step 2: Complete a Youth Services Degree Program

Associate's and bachelor's degree programs that focus entirely on human services can be found primarily through community colleges and 4-year universities. The programs are designed to provide students with the skills necessary to work in crisis shelters, rehabilitation centers and group homes. Those programs that offer a particular emphasis on youth services teach students how to provide aid to youths during difficult situations.

Course topics include leadership development, juvenile delinquency, conflict and change, youth care issues, chemical dependency and psychology. Depending on the school, programs may be offered during the day, evening or online.

Step 3: Obtain On-The-Job Training

Students usually participate in internships to obtain hands-on training working in a human services agency setting. They work in group homes or residential youth centers under the supervision of licensed personnel. The internships and on-the-job training are usually part of a practicum course students must complete in order to graduate.

Step 4: Find Employment

After completing an educational program and on-the-job training, graduates may find career opportunities working with children and adolescents in group homes, foster care agencies, crisis shelters, residential treatment centers or hospital-based children's programs. According to the BLS, employment of social and human service assistants was expected to grow by 22% between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov).

Individuals with appropriate training beyond high school are expected find the best employment options, according to the BLS. The bureau also reported that social and human service assistants earned a median annual wage of $28,850 as of May 2012.

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