Becoming a Youth Worker

There are a number of ways to become a youth worker, and a number of qualifications available at different levels.

The 3 most common routes into Youth Work are:

  • Apprenticeship
  • Youth Support Worker
  • Professional Youth Work

You can find out more about the 3 main routes into Youth Work below and more about the various available qualifications further down the page.

Routes into Youth Work

Apprenticeship

Level 2 or 3 certificate in youth work practice

An apprenticeship is a way for young people and adult learners to earn while they learn in a real job, gaining a youth support worker level 2 or 3 certificate in youth work practice and real experience of working with young people. As an employer hiring an apprentice provides you with the opportunity to develop workers’ talents and gain a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce. 

Many youth work providers are now employing youth support worker apprenticeships. Find out more about getting onto a youth work apprenticeship. 

Youth Support Worker

Level 2, 3 or diploma in youth work practice

Most people enter youth work as either a volunteer or a paid worker/apprentice and are typically called youth support workers. 

Youth support workers is a youth worker who has achieved a level 2 or 3 qualification or a diploma in youth work practice. These are qualifications for people who work with young people using youth work principles and practice.  The level 2 is for 16+ age group and the level 3 is aimed at the 18+ age group. 

We do not hold details of where you can undertake level 2 or 3 qualifications. These qualifications are provided by a range of awarding organisations. To find out more about getting a place on a course contact the awarding organisation direct. 

AIM Qualifications

Professional Youth Worker

Degree and post-graduate level learning

If you have gained a qualification that enables access to degree level learning, you can move on to gain a professional level youth work qualification such as: 

  • BA (Hons): three years full time (and part time equivalent) – level 6 
  • Graduate Diploma: two years full time – level 6 
  • PG Dip: one year full time (and part time equivalent) – level 7 
  • MA: one year (and part time equivalent) – level 7 

These courses are offered by universities or colleges of higher education. Your course will need to be ‘JNC recognised’ and validated by the National Youth Agency for you to gain the status of qualified youth worker

JNC recognition ensures your degree reflects the current demands of the role and that the course delivers a suitable level of work experience too. You cannot change the status of your degree later so think carefully before embarking on a course of study which is not JNC recognised. 

The courses reflect different occupational needs, and have a range of titles, including: 
• youth and community 
• community and youth studies 
• youth and theology 
• informal and community education. 

Whilst most universities will have entry requirements, all institutions offering youth and community courses will welcome applications from those without academic qualifications providing they have relevant experience and interest in working with young people.

Click on the link below to view a map with all universities or colleges offering a professional level youth work qualification, including their contact information.

Available Qualifications

Level 2 / 3 Certificate in Youth Work Practice (Apprenticeship)

JNC: Yes (Youth Support Worker Level)
An apprenticeship is a way for young people and adult learners to earn while they learn in a real job, gaining a youth support worker level 2 or 3 certificate in youth work practice and real experience of working with young people.

Level 2 Award in Youth Work Principles

JNC: non-JNC
No. of Hours: 110

The Youth Work Practice, Level 2 Award programme is an introductory accredited youth work qualification that builds confidence and skills in all those working with young people.

Level 2 Certificate in Youth Work Practice

JNC: Yes (Youth Support Worker Level)
No. of Hours: 260 (inc 40 hours placement in a youth work environment)
This qualification embraces the National Occupational Standards for youth work. It supports the skills and knowledge learners need to become a competent Youth Support Worker.  This qualification is designed for people who are already working in a youth work environment

Level 3 Certificate in Youth Work Practice

JNC: Yes (Youth Support Worker Level)
No. of Hours: 270 (inc 60 hours placement in a youth work environment)

This qualification embraces the National Occupational Standards for youth work. It supports the skills and knowledge learners need to become a competent Youth Support Worker. This qualification is designed for people who are already working in a youth work environment. Significant commitment is required for this qualification as you will need to undertake and lead on a 20 hour youth work project.

Level 3 Diploma in Youth Work Practice

JNC: Yes (Youth Support Worker Level)
No. of Hours: 370 (inc 80 hours placement in a youth work environment)

This qualification embraces the National Occupational Standards for youth work. It supports the skills and knowledge learners need to become a competent Youth Support Worker. This qualification is for people who have been working with young people, paid or voluntary for more than one year. This qualification opens the pathway of studying youth work at degree level.

BA (Hons) (Level 6)

JNC: Yes (Professional Youth Worker Level) (please see NYA list of validated courses)
No. of Hours: three years full time (and part time equivalent) (inc at least 800 hours of assessed professional practice)

Each programme providing learners with this qualification is purposely designed by the respective institution to meet particular requirements set out by the National Youth Agency in order to provide learners with the skills and knowledge required to become a Professional Youth Worker. These qualifications are aimed at those already working in a relevant employment setting (either paid or unpaid) and support career development in numerous ranges of contexts and professions.

PG Diploma / MA (Level 7)

JNC: Yes (Professional Youth Worker Level) (please see NYA list of validated courses)
No. of Hours: one year full time (and part time equivalent) (inc at least 400 hours of assessed professional practice)

Each programme providing learners with this qualification is purposely designed by the respective institution to meet particular requirements set out by the National Youth Agency in order to provide learners with the skills and knowledge required to become a Professional Youth Worker. These qualifications are designed for graduates already working in a relevant employment setting (either paid or unpaid) and allow learners to further progress their professional development.

Additional Information

NYA is developing a professional pathway for qualification in youth work from level 1 to level 8. 

We are working to create qualifications for new levels 4 and 5, creating more flexibility to help more people train in youth work. 

To find out about youth work training in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, contact: 
CLD Standards Council for Scotland 
ETS Wales 
Youth Council for Northern Ireland – contact Maurice Devlin or Anne-Marie McClure 

Regional Youth Work Units 

Youth Work Unit West Midlands – send an email
Youth Focus North East – send an email
Partnership for Young London – send an email
Youth Work Unit, Yorkshire & Humberside – send an email
Youth Focus North West – send an email
Youth Focus South West – send an email

Career in Youth Work

What is Youth Work

Am I Qualified?

Youth Work FAQs

COVID-19 Readiness Level

Readiness Level

G

What does this mean?

** From 6th September 2021 we can confirm that the youth sector moves to GREEN in the readiness framework**

(Version 8)