A bachelor's degree is required to become a youth correctional counselor. Some states may have a training program that also needs to be completed. Youth correctional counselors must be 21 years old, a U.S. citizen, have no felony convictions and pass psychological and drug tests.
Youth correctional counselors are government employees whose job it is to assist in the counseling and rehabilitation of youth offenders and juvenile delinquents. Through college courses and vital behavioral training, these counselors acquire the skills necessary to help young people get their lives back on track.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree|
|Other Requirements||State-mandated training program may be required|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)*||4% for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists|
|Average Annual Wage (2015)*||$54,080 for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Youth correctional counselors (YCCs) are employed by state or national governments to help juvenile law offenders become productive citizens. They work with youth offenders individually and in groups, and are responsible for the offenders' rehabilitation and transition back into ordinary life. Depending on the situation, a YCC might interact with offenders on a daily or weekly basis at a previously determined location, or at a live-in facility, where the YCC would be much more involved in everyday activity and supervision.
Planning and Counseling
YCCs are responsible for counseling juvenile delinquents in group sessions as well as individually. Like other forms of youth counseling, this involves discussion of the subject's personal life and feelings, though in correctional work emphasis is placed on specific deviant behavior. While typical issues such as self-image and family relationships are often discussed, the YCC must be prepared to deal with extreme situations that can involve dangerously criminal behavior, drug and alcohol abuse and sexual abuse.
The job of the YCC is not limited to basic counseling; the ultimate goal is to rehabilitate the child in question. YCCs are responsible for acting as liaisons and working with family members, teachers, medical professionals and parole officers, along with the YCCs' own supervisors and anyone else related to the case, to plan and structure a therapeutic program that's tailored to fit the offender's needs. These programs typically include a firm set of rules to govern the child's behavior, as well as a series of well-established goals and objectives that the YCC will help the offender work towards.
Supervision and Evaluation
The YCC is responsible for monitoring and evaluating individual youth offenders, and building a case file that will be presented to a parole officer or other court official. YCCs consistently use tests and activities, in accordance with the individualized rehabilitation program, to determine the progress of the delinquent and the likelihood of a repeat offense. Continuing to work with other parties involved, YCCs must be able to adapt their strategies and incorporate the results of their evaluations into future plans for the offender's counseling.
In more extreme cases, such as when the YCC is working in a live-in correctional facility, supervisory duties are extended to include monitoring most daily activities, as well as restraining offenders or preventing their escape if necessary.
A YCC must be a highly-trained youth behavior professional, with knowledge of psychology, sociology, therapeutic techniques and the law. As a result, a bachelor's degree in some form of behavioral and/or criminal science is almost always required. Excellent communication skills are also important in this line of work; in the state of California, for example, prospective YCCs must pass a written exam that tests the applicant's skills in reading comprehension and writing, presented within the context of the job, as well as basic math. In addition, applicants are usually put through psychological testing to help determine maturity level and emotional condition, and physical testing may also be applied. In nearly every case, a YCC must be at least 21 years old, and felony conviction, positive drug testing or lack of citizenship is grounds for immediate disqualification.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't provide employment and salary information specific to youth correctional counselors, though it does offer statistical information on a few related occupations, such as probation officers and correctional treatments specialists. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists may work with juvenile delinquents and are often tasked with aiding in the rehabilitation of criminal offenders. The BLS expects their employment to increase by 4% from 2014 to 2024. As of May 2015, the BLS reported that the average salary of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $54,080 per year (www.bls.com).
Youth correctional counselors monitor and evaluate juvenile delinquents and young offenders, providing counseling services, as well as reports to parole officers or court officials. Working to rehabilitate young offenders, they must be adaptable to extreme situations and have strong communication skills. Job opportunities for probation offices and correctional treatment specialists, including those that work with youth, are predicted to grow slower than average over the 2014-2024 decade.