This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Youth workers support young people, work with them and their families, help them build healthy connections, and give guidance in health, education, training and employment.
Youth workers usually earn
$15-$27 per hour
Source: Ara Taiohi and Mash Trust, 2016.
Current job prospects
How many people are doing this job?
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
Pay for youth workers varies depending on experience, responsibilities and location.
- New youth workers usually start on minimum wage.
- More experienced youth workers in specialised areas, such as addiction treatment, can earn between $17 and $27 an hour.
- Senior youth workers who work as team leaders or managers may earn up to $33 an hour.
Many youth workers do part-time hours. Some do part or all of their job as volunteers, or receive payment for expenses only.
Sources: Ara Taohi and Mash Trust, 2016.
- MoreBusiness.com website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website - information about minimum pay rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Youth workers may do some or all of the following:
- forge relationships with young people, and their families/whānau, peers, and communities, and schools, training providers and employers
- provide support, information and resources
- help young people link with social services
- plan, deliver and evaluate programmes and events for young people
- write reports, prepare funding applications and manage budgets.
Skills and knowledge
Youth workers need to have knowledge of
- how to work effectively with young people
- practices and resources that are useful for working with young people
- youth culture and the communities they live in
- physical and mental health issues among youth
- laws and policies that affect young people.
For youth workers who specialise in working with Māori communities, knowledge of Māori language and culture is essential.
- may work full or part time, or as volunteers
- may work shifts, long or irregular hours, or be on call
- work in youth centres, community facilities and offices, schools, homes, churches, marae and government agencies, or outdoors when running camping or sports activities
- may travel locally to meet people they work with, and nationally to attend workshops.
What's the job really like?
Just the Job Video
Mavis finds out about being a youth worker - 5.30 mins. (Video courtesy of Learning State)
Clinton: Your questions are about to be answered Mavis. You’ll be spending this evening with Sonya Struginski a youth worker with Te Ora Hou, a Christian-based organisation working with Māori youth.
Sonya: The quality that we look for in youth workers is one needs to be their heart for young people, it’s not really about yourself, it’s about the young people that you’re working with.
Clinton: These young people have been referred by whānau, Child Youth and Family or the police.
Mavis: I’m feeling nervous, and excited too! So yeah, it’s a new experience for me and I can’t wait.
Sonya: Mavis' role tonight will be primarily to support the new girls that are coming along so it’s not all swimming for her unfortunately, but she’ll have a good time, I’m sure of it.
Clinton: Sonya , Mavis and the girls have arrived at the beach and meet up with the rest of the group. Time for action.
Sonya: It’s about the people coming together and feeling safe in a safe space, and that’s our role – to provide somewhere they feel comfortable, they feel nurtured, they feel that they belong, they feel that they’re part of something.
Sonya: Tonight we have a very special guest, I’d like to welcome Mavis Paetai!
Sonya: Listen up closely, because she’s got the instructions!
Mavis: OK, we’re going to play this game, can everyone hop into pairs?
Sonya: Observing Mavis, I think she’s amazing.
Mavis: There’s three moves, and the names of the moves are “princess”, “horse” and “knight”. What are they?!
Crowd: “Princess”, “horse” and “knight”!
Sonya: She has got a good relationship with young people already and is ready to help people, so I can really see her going forward in youth work.
Clinton: There’s plenty of fun and games, and opportunities to learn new skills. These outings provide the troubled youths with a safe environment to relax from life’s stresses and a chance to confide in and get the support they need from their youth workers.
Sonya: A lot of times they just want to have someone listen to them, and if they want your opinion or advice, they’ll definitely ask for it, and if they don’t want it they’ll tell you!
Sonya: Yum! Dinner! Hey! You’re on the wrong side, mate!
Sonya: Oh you can have a dinner break, watch what you’re doing!
Clinton: This is no nine-to-five job. Organising and participating in camps, holiday programmes, and weekly outings can require working irregular hours.
Mavis and crowd: Singing.
Mavis ad Sonya: Hi! How are you?
Client: Good! How are you?
Sonya: Good to see you!
Clinton: Once a month Sonya visits the home of the youths she’s been detailed to. Today she’s catching up with Tayla and her mother Bianca who will shortly be moving to Australia.
Sonya: We’ve just come to catch up with you about Tautoko, so I can show you some photos.
Bianca and Tayla: Oh yeah!
Sonya: It’s quite important for us to go to their house, where they’re comfortable in their space, to be where they are, and sometimes you might just go and sit on the doorstep, and you do that for a whole year of visiting and that’s OK because that’s where they feel comfortable.
Sonya: So this is just some footage from the camp that we went to in Hastings.
Sonya: it’s one thing to pick the young person up and take them up for a programme, but it’s another thing for them to know you, to trust you. Because at the end of the day, you’ve got their child in your care.
Clinton: Tayla's mother, Bianca, can see how Sonya’s input has helped her daughter.
Bianca: I think she’s really lucky to have Sonya with her, and her journeys that she’s doing and what she’s doing. Any little problems, now she goes “Text Sonya” you know, and Sonya is there for her.
Clinton: With the family moving to Austraila, Sonya’s support will be missed.
Tayla: I don’t want to leave club.
Sonya: You don’t want to leave?
Tayla: It’s like my other family.
Sonya: Sometimes you build such good, close working relationships with young people and sometimes you see them go through hard times, and also when they move on into other areas, or they move away, it’s also pretty hard to say goodbye.
Sonya: See ya.
Clinton: Mavis’ time with Sonya has given her a good insight into the importance of the role of a youth worker.
Mavis: Just observing and taking on that responsibility makes you think, that’s what a youth worker does, not always having fun or always interacting with kids, you actually have to take a big responsibility, and watching and seeing how the kids react or how things affect them, and all those kinds of things.
Clinton: To become youth worker you will need a natural interest in helping others, any voluntary work with youths and teenagers will be helpful. Youth workers may move into social work, counseling or teaching with further training. There are two options to becoming a qualified youth worker. You can go to an education provider that runs NZQA-approved qualifications in youth work. Or if you have a job with a youth work organisation, you can study towards your qualification through work-based learning.
There are no specific requirements to become a youth worker. However:
- most employers prefer you to have a relevant qualification such as the National Certificate or Diploma in Youth Work or a similar certificate or diploma in a Māori context
- you need to pass a police check if you are working directly with young people
- you will need a full driver's licence if travel is involved.
Qualifications for working at a more senior level in youth work
To work at a senior level you need either:
- National Diploma in Youth Work (Level 6)
- Bachelor of Youth Development.
- Information on the National Diploma in Youth Work
- Unitec website – information on the Bachelor of Health and Social Development (Youth Development)
- WelTec website – information on the Bachelor of Youth Development
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
- Children’s Action Plan website - overview of restrictions on working with children
- New Zealand Legislation website - information on serious convictions that prevent employment with children
A tertiary entrance qualification may be required for entry into a youth work certificate, diploma or degree course.
Youth workers need to be:
- good leaders and communicators who can relate to people of all ages and cultures
- good problem-solvers who are able to remain calm in an emergency
- honest, ethical and impartial, and able to keep information private
- energetic and enthusiastic, with a sense of humour
- able to work well under pressure
- well organised.
Useful experience for youth workers includes:
- voluntary work with youth, such as at a youth work agency, or sports coaching
- work that involves helping people, such as teaching, counselling, social work, community work or church work
- work with an iwi/Māori community or social service, or with people from a variety of cultures.
Find out more about training
- Careerforce ITO
- 0800 277 486 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.careerforce.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Demand for youth workers is good because:
- more organisations recognise the importance of providing services to young people
- more youth workers are being recruited into multi-disciplinary teams where people in a variety of roles work with young people
- new government priorities aim to support vulnerable children
- turnover among youth workers opens up vacancies – in a 2014 survey, one-third of youth workers had been in the job less than three years.
Half of all youth workers are under the age of 35.
Volunteering can help you get into youth work
Volunteering gives you hands-on experience and increases your chance of getting paid work. You can contact a local volunteer centre for help with this, or try directly approaching employers at youth organisations.
Types of employers varied
Youth workers may work for:
- local and central government, which can include entry-level, casual work in Child Youth and Family's Youth Justice Residences and Police youth departments
- charitable trusts, marae and religious bodies
- education or community facilities, youth clubs and organisations
- live-in or justice institutions
- kaupapa Māori organisations – about one-fifth of youth workers surveyed in 2014 worked for a kaupapa Māori organisation.
- 24-7 website, accessed December 2015, (www.24-7youthwork.org.nz).
- Ara Taiohi, 'Stepping Stone', June 2015, (www.arataiohi.org.nz).
- Johnston, K, team leader, rosters and recruitment, MASH Trust, Careers New Zealand interview, January 2016.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- Ministry of Social Development, 'Budget 2015: Four-year Plan', 21 May 2015, (www.msd.govt.nz).
- Satyanand, A, executive officer, Ara Taiohi, Careers New Zealand interview, February 2016.
Progression and specialisations
Youth workers may move into social work, counselling or teaching with further training.
They may specialise in working with Māori or other ethnic communities.
Last updated 20 January 2017