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EACEA National Policies Platform


10. Youth work

10.5 Youth workers

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 28/12/2020 - 13:34

On this page
  1. Status in national legislation
  2. Education, training and skills recognition
  3. Mobility of youth workers


Status in national legislation

According to the National Youth Agency, most people enter youth work as either a volunteer or paid worker/apprentice and are typically called youth support workers. However, to become a professional youth worker, an individual must have an educational youth work qualification such as a bachelor’s degree, post-graduate diploma, master’s degree, or a graduate diploma. 

Those seeking employment around children must undergo a background check from the Disclosure and Barring Service and register with Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, to ensure that children are safe in their care. 

Furthermore, the National Occupational Standards for Youth Work provide a framework for what youth workers need to do and to know in order to carry out their role in a consistent and competent way. This document lists 60 standards and explains the performance criteria as well as knowledge and understandings that underpin the successful achievement of that standard. 

Education, training and skills recognition 

Youth support workers undertake training at level 2 or level 3 resulting in a certificate or diploma in youth work practice. This is a qualification for people who work with young people using principles and practices of youth work and non-formal learning. The level 2 is for the 16+ age group and the level 3 for the 18+ age group. The qualifications are provided by a range of awarding organisations. A list of the organisations offering qualifications at this level are available from the National Youth Agency. Youth work apprenticeships are also available.

When a youth support worker has a level 3 certificate in youth work practice, they may progress to a professional level youth work qualification:

  • Graduate Diploma: two years full time (level 6). For example, a Graduate Diploma in Youth and Community Work;

  • BA (Hons): three years full time and part time equivalent  (level 6). For example, a BA (Hons) in Youth and Community Work or a BA (Hons) Working with Young People and Communities (Youth Work);

  • Postgraduate Diploma: one year full time and part time equivalent – (level 7). For example, a PG Dip in Youth Work;

  • MA: one year and part time equivalent – (level 7). For example, an MA in Applied Anthropology and Community and Youth Work.

Note: The level is given in brackets indicates the position of the qualification on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). The levels can be mapped to the European Qualifications Framework.

These courses are offered by universities or colleges of higher education. A training course will lead to qualified youth work status if it is recognised by the JNC and validated by the National Youth Agency (NYA). The NYA ensures the quality and further development of professional youth work training in England. It does this through validating and monitoring professional qualifications at universities and higher education institutions. 

The NYA has published a list of JNC recognised and NYA validated academic courses and programmes in England hat upon completion provide the status of professional youth worker. 

For more information, please see the NYA’s article on validation.

Mobility of youth workers

Erasmus+ provides organisations engaged in youth work with opportunities to travel abroad to attend seminars, training courses, networking events, study visits, and job shadowing/observation periods. Youth work organisations can apply to either send youth workers abroad, or recieve organisations and be responsible for hosting a group and developing a programme of activities for participants.

Any organisation or group established in a Programme Country can be an applicant, and must apply on behalf of all participating organisations involved in a project.

Opportunities for youth workers can include up to 50 people and can last anywhere between two days and two months. Projects must take place in the country of a participating organisation. 

Under the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with the EU, the UK will continue to participate fully in the current (2014-2020) Erasmus+ as part of the Brexit transition period. According to the European Commission website, the possible participation of the UK in future programmes after 2020 will depend on the outcome of the overall negotiations on the future relationship between the two parties.