Youth counselors work for a variety of employers, such as educational institutions, religious organizations and government agencies. Planning for a youth counselor career can start with enrolling in a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology program.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that counselor employment is expected to grow faster than the average occupation in the coming years. Job growth will occur as insurers and employers seek to reduce costs by using skilled counselors as an alternative to psychologists or psychiatrists. The best youth counselor career opportunities will go to candidates with advanced education and specialized training.
Job duties of youth counselors vary depending on their specialty and employer. Generally, they supervise and interact with children or teenagers, assisting with their problems and ensuring their physical and emotional needs are being met. Some youth counselors specialize in working with people with disabilities, while others work only in elementary or high schools or with religious organizations. Substance abuse youth counselors work with young people to help them overcome addiction issues.
Interviewing clients and their families, meeting with them regularly and referring them to other social services are some of youth counselors’ typical responsibilities. Scheduling and coordinating activities, meeting with social workers and other professionals, writing reports and completing client paperwork are also important aspects of this position.
A youth counselor may work in any setting involving children and adolescents, including schools, correctional facilities, group residential homes, hospitals, clinics, government agencies or private practices. Youth counselors may work independently or as part of a team of psychologists, social workers and teachers. While they often work at a desk, they may travel to meet with clients at their home or school. Because of the nature of their work, stress can be a factor in a youth counselor’s job.
National salary data compiled by CareerBuilder.com indicated that youth counselors typically earned between $21,318 and $39,639 as of August 2010, with an average salary of $28,692. Recent bachelor’s degree program graduates will typically start out at the lower to middle end of the salary scale and move up with experience.
Education and training requirements for youth counselor jobs vary by employer, and licensing requirements vary by state. Many entry-level positions in this field are open to applicants with a bachelor’s degree.
The first step for individuals interested in a youth counselor career can be a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology with a concentration in child advocacy. Coursework typically includes lifespan development and psychology, multicultural issues, learning and motivation, child psychology and abnormal psychology.
An applied psychology education prepares graduates to:
Many agencies offer opportunities for continuing education. It’s possible to gain an entry-level job with a bachelor’s degree and use an employer’s tuition assistance program to pay for a master’s degree.
If you possess good self-esteem, excellent communication skills, a strong desire to help young people, maturity, flexibility and a creative approach to problem solving, you may have what it takes to attain success in a youth counselor career.