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What is community and youth work?

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Are you interested in studying for a community and youth work degree but want to know more about what this means? Here, we explore what youth work involves and what you can expect from a career in this rewarding field.

A young man sitting in a chair smiling and talking to another person off camera

What is a youth worker and what do they do?

The role of a youth worker is to provide support to individuals – usually older children and adolescents – through a variety of informal educational activities and learning opportunities which aim to help them gain new skills and enhance their social development. Often these individuals will be disadvantaged young people from vulnerable communities, and it’s the job of a youth worker to create a positive environment where these people can build their self-esteem and self-confidence, as well as improve their ability to manage their personal relationships and achieve their potential.

Youth work is both educational and enjoyable, extremely rewarding, but often challenging. Day to day tasks as a youth worker can range from counselling individuals and holding group discussions to organising recreational activities, for example, sports, drama, or wellbeing – promoting health-related issues such as relationships or drugs. You may also support or manage voluntary workers to run groups and community centres. Working with employees from other organisations can play a part in your role as a youth worker too, including police, teachers, social workers and probation officers.

As a youth worker, it’s likely you’ll become a role model to many young people, as you’ll be empowering, inspiring, and teaching them to make informed decisions and take responsibility for their own lives.

"The University of Sunderland has a fantastic reputation with regards to youth work and the department is renowned for their contributions to the field. As a youth work practitioner, I believed that the knowledge and teaching content would be beneficial to my practice and allow me to develop my skills."

Ruth Walker
BA (Hons) Community and Youth Work
MA Childhood and Youth Studies


What jobs can I get with a youth work degree?

Qualified community and youth workers are in high demand in the UK and there are tens of thousands of youth work jobs currently available in the sector. The average salary of a professional youth worker starts at £25,131 but there's the potential for this to increase up to £42,718 as your experience progresses.

Youth workers will often find employment within local authorities or charities, but there are several other possible routes you may wish to explore once you have your degree. Graduates from the University of Sunderland have gone into a variety of roles, including mental health, social work, prisons, schools, housing agencies, children’s rights and counselling. Many youth work jobs are project based, covering issues such as poverty, homelessness, education and substance abuse.

Our community and youth work courses

We offer three undergraduate routes into community and youth work. You can choose the traditional undergraduate BA (Hons) Community and Youth Work* course, which can be studied either full-time or part-time. You can complete an Integrated Foundation Year first, which is a four-year version of the full-time degree, which may be suitable for those who didn’t quite achieve the grades required for direct entry, or those who have relevant work experience and want more time to develop their study skills. We now also offer the BA (Hons) Community and Youth Work (Integrated Degree Apprenticeship) which offers the opportunity to study alongside developing your practice within your own workplace.

Our BA (Hons) Community and Youth Work course has 100% Overall Satisfaction, according to the National Student Survey 2022. 

Our youth work degree combines an honours degree with a professional qualification in youth work and is accredited by the National Youth Agency. As youth work is a vocation, you’ll have the opportunity whilst studying to get plenty of real-life experience, as placements are integral to the course. By the time you graduate, you'll have spent at least 800 hours in professional practice, so you’ll be well prepared to enter the world of youth work.

You’ll gain a wide range of vital, practice-related skills if you choose to pursue a youth work degree at Sunderland, which will be invaluable in the workplace. To be a great youth worker, it’s important to learn to think strategically, have sound self-awareness and have the ability to empathise and be a good listener. You will also require excellent communication, planning and teamwork skills, and the modules you’ll study on our youth work course will ensure you graduate with these skills.

If you already hold a bachelor’s degree, we also offer a postgraduate qualification. The MA Childhood and Youth Studies degree provides three different pathways depending on your interests, previous experience and career goals.

To find out more information and apply for one of our community and youth work degrees, visit our course pages. Or view a full list of our Social Sciences courses.

*Please note, this course is not recruiting for 2024/25 entry.

Published: 28 June 2022