Career Definition of a Victim Advocate
Victim advocate jobs are typically often found within a district attorney's office. They may also be funded by non-profit groups, such as those concerned with rape victims or those who have been subjected to domestic abuse. Victim advocates' duties include working with the victim to explain legal procedures and available resources, along with encouraging and supporting the victim throughout the court process. They also try to minimize the physical, psychological and emotional consequence on the crime victim.
Advocates may attend court with the victim and help them obtain court injunctions if necessary. Areas of specialization can include sexual assault or stalking. Victim advocates also perform administrative duties, such as keeping statistics, improving services, investigating complaints and training new staff. Employment may take place in a variety of settings, including hospitals, community programs, jails and shelters.
|Educational Requirements||Bachelor's degree preferred; possible to gain positions through certification or an associate's degree in a related field|
|Job Skills||Compassionate communication skills, good problem-solving skills, good ability to work as a member of a team and familiarity with court procedure|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$58,560 (all social workers)|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)*||12% (all social workers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
While it is possible to become a victim advocate by completing a certificate or an associate's degree in a relevant field of study, a bachelor's degree in psychology, criminal justice or social work is preferred. The coursework should include classes in interpersonal communication. An employer may also require counseling or case management experience; some victim advocates train on the job.
The ability to listen is key to working as a victim advocate, as well as a strong sense of compassion and empathy for clients. Other skills may include the ability to identify problems and participate in team problem-solving efforts, along with advocacy and counseling skills. Knowledge of court procedure is also useful.
Career and Salary Outlook
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics BLS) does not keep job outlook and salary data for victim advocates, information for social workers is available. From 2014 to 2024, employment opportunities for social workers nationwide are expected to grow by 12%. The median annual salary for a social worker was approximately $58,560 as of May 2015.
Alternate Career Options
Similar career options in this field include:
Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists
Counselors and therapists provide assistance to people struggling with emotional difficulties, mental health disorders or family and marital issues. In addition to listening actively and asking questions, they also help clients understand the reasons for their problems and help them develop coping strategies. In general, a master's degree in family and marriage or clinical counseling and a license are required to enter the field.
According to the BLS, job opportunities for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists across the country are expected to increase by a faster-than-average rate of 19% between 2014 to 2024. As of May 2015, mental health counselors received median yearly salaries of $41,880, while professionals employed as marriage and family therapists earned $48,600.
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
Professionals who work in probation and corrections monitor the activities of criminal offenders and try to help them avoid further violations of the law. Educational requirements typically include a bachelor's degree, as well as successful completion of oral, psychological and written exams. In May 2015, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earned median annual wages of $49,360, with a 4% growth employment nationwide predicted between 2014 and 2024, as reported by the BLS.