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How to get into youth development work

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Children are our future. That sentiment is important because the better start in life children can get, the brighter their futures will be. Youth workers play an enormous part in this, whether they deal with troubled youths who have had a bad start, or they help others with their career beginnings. As a youth worker, you could be dealing with teaching, youth psychology, rehabilitation or social work.

Youth work is incredibly challenging and rewarding, but it is not for everyone. You need to be sure that you are the type of person who is good at dealing with conflict, as well as being a great communicator and someone who is willing to go above and beyond for your work. If you do want to start on this career path, below are some methods of study that will help you succeed.

A degree

This is the perfect way to start off your career path. With a degree in youth work or youth teaching, you will gain an understanding of how children develop while gaining hands-on experience helping and teaching them.

A degree, such as an early childhood education degree is an excellent way of getting into this sector. In studying for the degree you would learn all about early childhood and how to create a happy and safe learning environment for children. You will learn how to teach small children effectively while keeping their behavior in line. Make sure that you choose a degree with a curriculum that follows the standard of National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential.

Other degrees could be aimed more at working in crisis shelters, rehabilitation centers and youth homes. They will concentrate on teaching you crisis management and conflict resolution skills that will be useful when facing difficult situations. Try to find a course that both matches your desired career and one that fits your schedule. An online course will be far easier to do if you are already working or have a busy home life because you do not need to travel, and you can train when it works best for you.

An internship or on-the-job training

Now that you have the degree, you need to gain some real-world experience. Youth work is a sector that is very much about gaining experience because of the hands-on nature of the roles. Additionally, some training courses will allow you to do on-the-job training while you study for the course. This will certainly be more time intensive, but the course and the experience will complement each other, allowing you to become employable more quickly. Work experience can be found in group homes, schools, foster care agencies, crisis shelters or hospital-based children’s programs. Your lecturers are likely to have contacts within the industry that you can utilize in order to secure a placement.

Employment

Once you have gained enough experience and with a good degree behind you, you can start looking for paid employment. Sometimes the institutions where graduates have worked while studying will offer them a permanent, paid position if they really impressed and they are looking for permanent staff. Again, you will be looking for work in schools, foster care agencies, group homes, crisis shelters and hospitals. The median wage for a child and youth worker is $12.95/hour but it can range from $9.70 to $17.92, depending on how far you progress in your career.

Career advancement

There are several ways to advance in this sector, depending on where you are starting and where you want to reach. If you are a teacher, then you can advance to be a principal or a school administrator. If you started in youth work, then you can pursue higher educational opportunities to become a child psychologist, counsellor or rehabilitation worker. Youth work and teaching are jobs that people will often do for the love of them, but they can be highly stressful jobs that take their toll mentally and emotionally. Frontline youth work and teaching can then become something that you might want to move away from as you get older.

Youth development work is a rewarding career path to go down. If you get the right training from a high-quality institution and gain some great real-world experience, you can use that experience and expertise to help many young people have a high quality of life.