Most victim advocates train by enrolling in a social work degree program. In many positions, victim advocates need to be available at all hours of the day to provide support in person or over the phone. Meetings with victims or victims' families may also necessitate light travel. The administrative and reporting duties of a victim advocate require basic word processing and spreadsheet skills.
Victim advocates should have excellent communication and interpersonal skills to work with victims who may be under stress, since they offer services to clients in times of crises. They should have patience and compassion, as well as the ability to provide objective support and counseling services to victims of domestic abuse, substance abuse and other criminal activities.
Bachelor's Programs in Social Work
A bachelor's degree program in social work teaches students how welfare and other social systems operate in the United States. Programs teach students how to manage social work clients and interact with other human services professionals, including case workers, correctional officers and counselors. The program typically include courses in:
- Professional social work
- Human services concepts
- Welfare systems
- Social and community behavior
- Human services research and analysis
- Social work assessments
Employers prefer to hire victim advocates with 2-4 years of victim support experience. Advocates can accumulate experience through volunteer work with victim advocacy organizations or through related work with social services agencies. Some positions may require specific experience with substance abuse or domestic violence victims or with children and adolescents.
Victim advocates are not required to be licensed or certified. The National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) offers its members voluntary certification through the National Advocate Credentialing Program. NOVA grants provisional advocate credentials to those with formal training and less than two years of experience and basic advocate credentials for those with at least two years of advocacy experience. Victim advocates with 4-8 years of experience can earn advanced credentials. Credentialed victim advocates must adhere to continuing education and professional ethics policies.
Continuing Education Options
Universities with social work programs may offer workshops in victim advocacy, crisis intervention or crisis response workshops that can provide participants with advanced career skills. NOVA offers victim advocate and crisis responder training seminars for both members and non-members. The seminars address the safety, legal and ethical issues in crisis intervention and response.
Victim advocates can advance with a graduate degree in social work or human services. With a master's degree, victim advocates can become directors or managers of victim advocacy programs at law enforcement agencies, nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Program directors and coordinators have a greater range of responsibilities and generally higher salaries. Victim advocacy directors supervise lower-level victim advocates, create long-term crisis intervention plans and work with other human services professionals to provide quality victim support practices.
Students who aspire to become victim advocates should plan to earn a bachelor's degree in social work or a related field such as psychology. Graduate level training is available if students are interested in becoming managers or directors with higher salaries.