Career Description for a Community Advocate
Community advocacy involves providing information and serving as a liaison between a community and public agencies and government. Community advocates are activists for social issues who organize others and raise funds to effectively lobby for causes that affect all of society or smaller constituencies. Community advocates typically work for lobbies; think tanks; and human rights, animal rights, and environmental organizations.
|Educational Requirements||No formal qualifications required but bachelor's or master's useful for advancement|
|Job Skills||Knowledge and awareness of contemporary issues, strong interpersonal and communication skills, and grasp of day-to-day office skills|
|Median Salary (2017)||$33,120 (social and human service assistants)*|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)||16% (social and human service assistants)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
For most grassroots community organizations, a community advocate does not necessarily need any formal education, just relevant knowledge about the cause. Volunteer work with an organization can lead to paid work as a community advocate. For work with an organized lobby, think tank, or more organized and well-funded interest organization, paid advocates typically have a bachelor's or master's in a related field, such as non-profit organization management, business management, environmental science, political science, or sociology, according to the College Board (www.collegeboard.com).
Community advocates must be in tune with current events and policies that might affect their constituencies. Effective community advocacy requires energy and the communication and personal skills to inspire and motivate others to action. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the day-to-day running of smaller organizations also requires community advocates to have a diversity of skills in finance, marketing, and technical office knowledge.
Career and Economic Outlook
While the BLS doesn't specifically publish information pertaining to community advocates, it does have statistics for social and human service assistants. The BLS expects that jobs for these professionals will increase faster than the average profession, with 16% growth expected from 2016-2026. Increases in immigration, the aging population, interest in the environment, and other causes will create needs for lobbying, fundraising, and organizing by community advocates.
The College Board emphasizes that most community advocates work in the field for their love of the cause more than for the paycheck. The BLS published the median annual salary earned by social and human service assistants, including many community advocates, as $33,120 in May 2017. Those community advocates working in well-funded lobbying organizations typically work full-time and earn much more, with salaries near their private sector counterparts.
Alternate Career Options
Similar career options in this field include:
Some positions require bachelor's degrees in social work, sociology, or psychology, while others require a master's degree in social work, in addition to several years of supervised work experience. These professionals help clients cope with their everyday problems; clinical social workers also treat people with mental and emotional issues. Faster-than-average employment growth of 16% was predicted by the BLS for social workers from 2016-2026. In 2017, the BLS reported an annual median salary of $47,980 for this profession.
These educators and workers normally have a bachelor's degree in health promotion or health education. In addition, some jobs may require that applicants be credentialed as Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES). Their work involves teaching the public about healthy living and collecting data about current conditions of specific communities. The BLS projected faster-than-average job growth of 14% for health educators from 2016-2026. In 2017, the BLS also noted an annual median salary of $53,940 for health educators.