How to become a youth worker

Updated 14 August 2023

A youth worker helps young people with many issues ranging from typical teenage problems to behavioural difficulties. A youth worker can work in several organisations, helping everyone from secondary school students to young adults entering the workforce. In this article, we'll explain what a youth worker is and the skills and qualifications required to become a youth worker.

What is a youth worker?

A youth worker is a person who helps young people with their personal, social and educational development. Youth work to improve the lives of children and young people, usually between the ages of 11 and 25. They work in informal settings such as faith-based groups, after school programmes, youth centres and colleges. A large part of their job involves organising activities to help with personal and social development.

What does a youth worker do?

Here are some tasks a youth worker must be able to do:

  1. Build relationships

  2. Administration and project planning

  3. Teach life skills

  4. Training and development

Build relationships

The chief duties of youth workers are to develop supportive relationships with young people that introduce them to new experiences. They tailor these experiences for young people around increasing their confidence, empathy and ambition and to help them realise their own potential. Examples of focus areas for youth workers include teenage pregnancy, health issues, gangs, violence, bullying, abuse and relationships.

To instil these lessons in young people, youth workers must be able to motivate and form trusting relationships. They will also have to work with other people who might have an influence on these young people's lives. This can include parents, social workers, teachers, probation officers and police. A youth worker's relationship with these figures is important, as they must all work together to help guide and support the young people.

Administration and project planning

Although youth workers focus on working face-to-face with young people, they also have administrative duties, such as managing the facilities in which they work and planning projects for their clients. They must plan projects that help students learn to research and debate issues, raise self-awareness and give them tools to develop their own views on controversial issues. Youth workers often hold workshops to educate and discuss issues with young people, such as conference sessions on stereotypes and prejudices and how to challenge them.

A youth worker is also responsible for these young people while they are in their care. This can mean a decent amount of paperwork and administration. You must be able to organise and handle confidential records about young people's history and health. Youth workers may also have to balance budgets and apply for grants. Grants fund many youth programmes, so youth workers must make detailed notes and observations that help apply for grants and funding.

Teaching life skills

A youth worker offers positive and engaging activities for young people to explore issues affecting them daily. This helps the youths learn more about themselves, their skills, attitudes, values and knowledge. The reflective observation and relational experiences created by youth workers help youths to further their growth opportunities. A youth worker often provides individual mentoring sessions to young people to discuss issues affecting them.

With older children, youth worker's should encourage them to take part in the planning of activities and educational projects. Youth workers should address and care about areas and issues of interest that young people are passionate about.

Training and development

Youth workers must undergo a good deal of training and development to provide the best care and education for young people. Part of your job is ensuring your skills are up-to-date and you can deal with young people from all areas of life. A lot of the job involves attending regular development and training opportunities to stay updated on health and safety issues. This can also involve travelling to various locations for conferences and meetings.

Youth workers must be able to take what they have learned and teach new youth workers. Youth workers take part in the recruiting, training and managing of staff and volunteers. They provide staff members with the latest information and techniques for helping young people grow.

What skills does a youth worker need?

Here are the skills that youth workers should possess:

  • Excellent communication skills: Multilingualism can also be extremely beneficial as it allows you to connect with people from different backgrounds.

  • Knowledge of psychology: It's good to be familiar with different approaches in psychology to deal with a variety of people.

  • Sensitivity and understanding: a youth worker must be able to show empathy when talking to young people about their difficulties.

  • Customer service skills: a youth worker will have to deal with many other professionals that work in different areas of child care. Be sure to treat everyone with respect and care.

  • Driving licence and ability to drive: a youth worker may have to drive some young people to different locations and even to their homes.

  • Ability to inspire and motivate: A youth worker must be able to get young people excited about learning new skills.

  • Ability to remain calm in stressful situations: Youth workers must react to potentially volatile and serious situations with a clear head and integrity.

  • Counselling skills: active listening, empathy and confidentiality can help you counsel young people respectfully and responsibly.

Related: What Are Communication Skills

How to become a youth worker

There are various ways to become a youth worker including:

  1. University

  2. College course

  3. Apprenticeship

  4. Volunteering

  5. Applying directly

1. University

One way to become a youth worker is through university. It is best to get a degree that is recognised by the National Youth Agency. The main degrees recognised include:

  • Youth and community

  • Community and youth studies

  • Youth and theology

  • Informal and community education

To join a degree course, you will need two to three A levels or an acceptable equivalent. If you receive a degree in a different subject, you can take a postgraduate qualification to give you professional youth worker status. You will need relevant experience, perhaps through an internship or volunteering, to get on a postgraduate course.

2. College course

You can also do a college course and receive a Level 2 or 3 Diploma in Youth Work Practice. You need a level 2 qualification to work with ages 16 and up. You need a level 3 qualification to work with ages 18 and up. You will need four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 or an acceptable equivalent to receive this diploma. Having a college diploma will give you an advantage when applying for a job as a youth support worker. It also allows you to continue your studies in youth support at university if you choose.


An apprenticeship is an excellent way for you to learn on the job while earning a salary. Through an apprenticeship, you can earn a level 2 or level 3 certificate in youth work. Through the management and supervision of other qualified youth workers and professionals, you can develop the skills necessary to become a youth support worker. You will need five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 or an acceptable equivalent, including English and maths.

Volunteering and work

You can earn a diploma or degree in youth work by volunteering or being hired directly. You could start your career as a part-time volunteer or a youth worker assistant. In most organisations, you need at least one year's experience before applying for a professional youth work job. Being a volunteer or an assistant is a great way to see if this career path is right for you.

Related: How to Find Volunteer Work

Applying directly

You can also directly apply for the position of youth worker if you have relevant experience in a similar area of work. Usually, experience in teaching, career guidance, probation or community development is considered similar work to a youth worker. If an organisation hires you directly with no specific youth work experience, they may ask you to complete a postgraduate award in youth work while you are working.

Related: 8 alternative careers for social workers to consider

Average youth worker salary and working hours

Youth worker salaries vary depending on years of experience, employer and location. Their average salary in the United Kingdom is £11.79 per hour.

Youth workers work an average of 37 to 39 hours per week, but part-time positions are also available. They often work long hours, as they may have sessions with young people after normal work hours or during weekends and holidays.

Common employers of youth workers

Youth workers work in a range of jobs and sectors, including criminal justice and social care in both the private and voluntary sectors. Any organisation that works with students who need additional guidance or help in their lives will need to hire youth workers. The following organisations employ youth workers:

  • Local authorities

  • Charities

  • Schools and colleges

  • Churches and community groups

  • Drug and alcohol services

  • Social services

Related articles

13 Essential Youth Worker Skills

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