As a youth specialist, your job is to improve children’s social and psychological welfare by ensuring they receive the proper medical and psychological care, and in some cases making sure their home lives are healthy. The children you help and how you help them depends who employs you. You may be removing children from a bad home or placing them in a good one as a social worker, or getting them medical care or counseling if you were a youth specialist in a juvenile facility.
Communication is an essential skill for a youth specialist; you must communicate with both children and their parents, as well as other professionals working on behalf of the children. You need time management skills to manage your schedule and also to coordinate schedules for the children's support services. You also need planning skills to develop care plans for the children. Solid organizational skills allow you to keep case files and records in good order. Some positions may require a valid driver’s license so that you can travel to clients or transport children as needed.
The required education depends largely on the organization. You may work for a school, hospital, juvenile detention center, nonprofit organization or government agency. Some of these positions are more interested in your experience than anything, and may only require a high school diploma, while others require an associates degree or higher in a related field, such as education, psychology, criminal justice or social work. Many social worker positions often require at least a bachelor's degree and a state license. Some jobs may want you to know first aid and CPR.
Where to Work
As a youth specialist, your job is to help children better themselves, but the organization or agency that employs you will determine how you accomplish that. You may work with the government or a private organization to assist teen mothers, interview prospective adopters and arrange adoptions, or you may be a social worker with a local government agency to ensure that children are living in safe conditions. You may also work with a nonprofit agency that helps at-risk youth avoid trouble, or in a juvenile detention center to helps kids learn how to function in society after their release. Schools may employ you to handle misbehavior or teen pregnancy.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report salaries specifically for youth specialists, however, many youth specialists are social workers. According to the BLS, as of May 2014 the average wage for social workers was $46,180. Some of the top-paying employers of social workers were schools and psychiatric and abuse hospitals, paying as much as $72,510. According to job site Indeed, the average salary for youth specialists in April 2015 was $37,000.
2016 Salary Information for Social Workers
Social workers earned a median annual salary of $47,460 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, social workers earned a 25th percentile salary of $36,790, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $60,790, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 682,000 people were employed in the U.S. as social workers.