‘The key purpose of youth work is to….‘Enable young people to develop holistically, working with them to facilitate their personal, social and educational development, to enable them to develop their voice, influence and place in society and to reach their potential’ – Youth Work National Occupational Standards.  

Youth workers predominantly work with children and young people between 11 and 19 years of age, but can support young adults up to the age of 25, depending on their need.. What makes youth work distinctive from other services is that youth workers have a voluntary relationship with young people which starts from where the young people are at, their interests, goals and experiences.  

Our Becoming a youth worker page provides an easy-to-use guide on the different types of qualifications available in youth work.  We have also provided a helpful FAQ’s section, including information on historical qualifications. 

Purpose of youth work

Youth Work is a distinct educational process adapted across a variety of settings to support a young person’s personal, social, emotional and educational development. It begins with the development of a unique, challenging and developmental relationship with young people, which is utilised to:  

  • Explore their values, beliefs, ideas and issues 
  • Enable them to develop their voice, influence and place in society 
  • Facilitate learning practical and life skills that will help them to realise their full potential  

The Youth Work relationship is underpinned by Youth Work values and principles. The values provide an ethical foundation that informs the way youth workers make decisions about their work.  

These values underpin the key principles of youth work practice, which are:  

  • Active participation and empowerment of young people 
    Youth work should be informed by the lived experiences of each young person, starting from where young people are in relation to their own feelings, values, views and principles. It recognises the strengths and abilities of the young person encouraging them to actively participate and take ownership, to be critical and creative in their responses to their experiences, needs and the world around them. 
  • Voluntary engagement by young people  
    Young people can choose to be involved, to relax, to meet friends, to form new relationships to have fun and to find support. Youth Work recognises each young person as a partner in their learning process, which enables them to fulfil their potential. It requires a trusting relationship between young people and youth workers, built on mutual respect. 
  • Non-formal education and informal learning 
    Youth Work takes place across a range of settings; it is a rights-based informal education process which also take an asset-based empowerment approach that values the strengths of young people, as well as addressing the problems they face. It enables the acquisition of new skills, creates the spaces and opportunities for young people to develop a broad set of social skills and encourages young people’s autonomous agency and political voice, recognising young people as decision makers and leaders. 
  • Equality, equity, diversity and inclusion  
    Youth Work treats young people with respect, valuing differences and promoting the acceptance and understanding of others. It is underpinned by the principles of social justice, equality and rights and embraces and celebrates diversity and interdependence. It recognises the value of the collective identities and inclusivity, fostering positive collection action, a sense of belonging and a sense of community by challenging oppressive and discriminatory behaviours. 

Youth work values

Youth work is underpinned by a clear set of values. These include: 

  • Young people voluntarily participating 
  • Utilising young people’s view of the world 
  • Treating young people with respect 
  • Seeking to develop young people’s skills and attitudes rather than remedy ‘problem behaviours’ 
  • Helping young people develop stronger relationships and collective identities 
  • Respecting and valuing differences 
  • Promoting the voice of young people 

Find out more about the code of behaviour that youth workers work to at the Institute for Youth work.

When is it youth work?

When is a game of football youth work? 
If the person running the football match is doing it because they have a passion for football and wants to improve the football skills of the young players, creating a winning team and climbing the local league, then they are a football coach. 

If football is the means rather than the end and the primary focus is the social and emotional development of the young person, then it is much more likely to be youth work. 

Working as part of a team, taking on leadership roles, taking personal responsibility for their actions, understanding consequences, even thinking about gender roles and diversity issues are all elements the youth worker can explore with the young people through the medium of football. If the young people were interested in dance, cookery or environmental issues, the worker could equally well use these as the hook too. 

Disclosure and barring checks 

All youth workers must be prepared to give information about any criminal record they might have, even if it might normally be considered ‘spent’. The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) will, on request from employers, check the records of anyone applying to work with children and young people, whether on a paid or voluntary basis. 

Having a record does not mean automatic disqualification – some of the best youth workers have a chequered past, and they draw on their experiences in their work. 

Recruiting an appropriate and safe workforce is part of ensuring quality youth work provision. All staff and volunteers who work at the project must have an appropriate level of Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. (To find out what level of check the role is eligible for please see DBS guidance leaflets – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). This must be renewed at least every three years. All project staff (paid and unpaid) should be interviewed. Two references should be obtained to check suitability. More information on disclosure and barring checks. 

Youth worker register

NYA has created a new database for youth workers who are qualified at Levels 6 and 7: the Youth Worker Register for England. By signing up, you are demonstrating your commitment to high quality practice. 

Hosted on the new Youth Work One platform, the Register provides a useful reference point for prospective employers, as well as enable you to tap into opportunities to network with fellow Registered youth workers and take advantage of training or CPD offers more readily. 

By joining the Register you’re helping to build recognition amongst allied sectors of the professional skills and competencies of youth workers.  

You’ll need two referees and an image of your qualification(s) to Register. 

Youth Work FAQs

I think I want to get involved in youth work but I need to talk it through more and consider my options?

Everyone’s skills are different and you may find that talking to a career advisor can help you decide whether a career in youth work is right for you. You can get advice online and over the phone from the National Careers Service at 0800 100 900. 

I want to get involved with youth work in my local area so I can get some experience before I get qualified. Who can I contact?

Most providers of youth work training/employers will want you to have some experience of working with young people, whether that’s paid or voluntary, as this shows that you have tried it, like it and are serious about working with young people. Try searching online to find out details of your local youth services, any charities that deliver youth work or ask your local volunteer centre who may know of groups looking for support. 

I would like a career in youth work – how do I become qualified?

Take a look at our becoming a youth worker page. You’ll find information on routes to becoming a youth worker including Apprenticeships, Youth Support Worker and getting professionally qualified. 

I have a criminal record. Will I be able to work in youth work?

Having a record does not mean automatic disqualification. Take a look at this information on DBS checks for more detail. 

Where can I find out about becoming a youth support worker?

A youth support worker is a youth worker who has achieved a Level 2 or Level 3 qualification. We do not hold details of where you can undertake Level 2 or Level 3 qualifications. A range of awarding bodies offer these courses and you’ll need to contact them direct for details. 


Who are the JNC and why are qualifications in youth work recognised by them?

The Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) for youth and community workers is the body that sets the national framework used to grade and pay youth work jobs. 

It recognises youth and community workers’ qualifications which have been professionally endorsed by the National Youth Agency. Find out more 

Where can I find out which universities and colleges are running JNC recognised BA (Hons) and post graduate programmes?

As the body that validates JNC recognised degree and post graduate youth work programmes, we hold a list which is organised by university/college. You can access it here.

I have found a youth work course I am interested in. Is it JNC recognised?

All endorsed youth work courses should state this in the programme specifications on their website. You can check the current list of endorsed courses here

Can I do a Level 2/ Level 3 qualification and still be JNC recognised?

To become professionally JNC qualified you need to have a degree level qualification or higher. You can undertake a Level 2 or Level 3 qualifications as a ‘youth support worker’. 

This is a qualification for people who work with young people using youth work principles and practice.  These qualifications are provided by a range of awarding organisations and prospective students need to contact them direct for a list of current programmes. Find the awarding organisations here. 

I already have a degree (not youth work) and experience of working with young people. I would like to get a JNC qualification. What are my options?

You may like to consider a post-graduate qualification in youth work. However, each university/college may have different entry requirements, so it’s best to locate providers you are interested in and contact them directly to discuss. If you do not have a relevant degree or experience you may struggle to get a place. You can work with young people without a JNC qualification, however having one is likely to enhance your career prospects in youth work. 
How do I find out about training in the other nations in the UK? 

We validate professional youth work qualifications in England only. 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 

Previously gained qualifications

Do my previous qualifications gained in other related work areas count towards JNC professional recognition?

To gain the status of a professional youth worker you need to have completed a full BA or BSc programme or a postgraduate qualification that has been endorsed by the National Youth Agency and are recognised by the JNC. 

The programmes are developed and reviewed against criteria that ensure a quality learning experience for the student that develops them as high-quality practitioners that can meet the needs of young people and employers. A key aspect of this is a high level of field practice working with young people, making theory to practice links. 

If you think you have credits or learning that may count towards gaining a JNC professional qualification you should speak with the university or college that you are hoping to gain a full award with as they will be able to assess this with you.  

If you gained your qualification abroad you may like to seek recognition of them in this country. You’ll need to contact us about this and we’ll explain the process. 

I qualified with a JNC recognised Dip HE/ Foundation degree in youth work. Am I still professionally qualified now that the professionally qualifying level has increased to a BA (Hons)?

Yes. The 2010 changes to the level at which a person is deemed professionally qualified does not alter professional qualifications gained prior to 2010.

How can I check whether mine, or a job applicants’, qualification is JNC recognised?

We have a list of all qualifications which have JNC recognition. You can check it here


I’ve got a RAMP qualification, where do I fit on the JNC qualification scale?

This qualification was accredited though the RAMP training and awards system.  NVQ/VRQs at Levels 2 and 3 replaced the RAMPs training and awards system, which provided locally devised and assessed initial or basic training programmes for people entering youth work. 

RAMP qualifications were associated with the terms ‘locally’ or ‘part-time’ qualified. They are still valid for work as a youth support worker. 

We can’t unfortunately issue a new certificate if yours is lost but we can issue you a letter confirming the qualification and date issue. Please email us your qualification, date undertaken and the training venue

How can I obtain a copy of the JNC payscale?

I’d like to know more about youth work, courses and validation outside of England

We only cover  England – for information on youth work and youth work training in Scotland, Wales and Northern or Southern Ireland visit: 

CLD Standards Council for Scotland

ETS Wales   


Where is my local Regional Youth Work Unit?

Visit www.regionalyouthunits.com to find your local Regional Youth Work Unit 

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