Women who have suffered from domestic violence might need help in a number of areas. They may need to find a safe place to live or obtain financial assistance, counseling or health care. Since domestic violence that results in physical assault is a crime, this also means dealing with the legal system. Domestic violence advocates help women with many of these needs.
Domestic violence advocates fall into the occupational category known as social and human services assistants, according to ONET Online. National standards for this occupation are non-existent, so requirements for domestic violence advocates vary by employer. Advocates might be employed by a district attorney’s office, women’s shelter, sexual assault crisis center, law enforcement agency or social services agency. Not all advocates are paid staff. If you are new to the field and have a hard time breaking in, working as a volunteer may be a good way to begin a career as a domestic violence advocate and gain experience for the credentialing process. An organization may be more likely to hire an individual who has proven herself as a volunteer.
Education and Training
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that a high school diploma is usually adequate educational preparation for social and human service assistants. Domestic violence advocates, like many social and human service assistants, are often trained on the job. Training is also available in a number of venues, according to the National Organization for Victim Assistance, or NOVA. For example, the National Advocate Credentialing Program sets standards for minimum content and hours of training. Forty hours is the usual requirement. A number of states and organizations, including the Armed Forces, offer NCAP-approved training. Local organizations such as women’s shelters might also offer training. In addition, some colleges offer training. The University of Georgia, for example, offers a 42-hour, seven-week online victim advocacy certificate course.
Credentialing is an Advantage
Domestic violence advocates are not required to be licensed. Credentialing is optional, but may be attractive to employers. NOVA administers the NACP, which accredits training programs for domestic violence advocates. The NACP offers four levels of credentialing, beginning with a provisional advocate credential that requires completion of the basic 40-hour NACP course. Advocates with experience can apply for the basic, intermediate and advanced credentials, which also have more rigorous educational requirements. Some organizations may prefer or require credentialing.
Getting the Job
In most cases, the process of submitting an application and going through an interview is the usual mechanism by which a domestic violence advocate is hired. Include any certificates or training records with your application. The BLS does not track salaries or estimate job growth specifically for domestic violence advocates. As a group, however, the number of jobs for social and human service assistants is expected to increase 28 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is double the projected growth rate for all occupations. Social and human services assistants earned an average annual salary of $30,880 in 2012.