Historically, employees of youth-serving organizations may have held degrees in social work, teaching, and human services. While such educational backgrounds helped youth workers work effectively and advance in the field, the need for knowledgeable, skilled practitioners on the front lines of youth work has emerged as a critical issue. Several higher education programs are emerging to fill this need for certificate programs, degree programs, and courses specific to youth work.
The Work Force
Recent research has begun to dispel the myth that youth workers are not interested and not involved in higher education. Higher education programs are attracting the attention of youth workers and many have attended and do attend college. An evaluation of the national BEST Initiative found that among 433 youth workers surveyed, the highest level of education completed was:
Some high school……………2%
High school diploma……….11%
BEST Strengthens Youth Worker Practice: An Evaluation of Building Exemplary Systems for Training Youth Workers, National Training Institute for Community Youth Work, 2002.
Institutions of higher education are responding to the varying education levels of youth workers by offering programs that are accessible and useful to people with or without college degrees.
Community-based training and higher education
The road to higher education for many youth workers starts with community-based training provided by capacity-building organizations and experienced practitioners. Comprehensive, competency-based training can create an excellent foundation for pursuing higher education because:
- Such training provides opportunities for youth workers to examine areas of interest and direct their own learning.
- Many higher education programs provide course credit for completing community-based training programs.
Higher education opportunities in the Boston area
Health Resources in Action’s BEST Initiative has co-developed competencies and curricula with local institutions of higher education including:
- UMass-Boston’s College of Public and Community Service
- Springfield College/Boston Campus’ School of Human Services
- Bunker Hill Community College
BEST graduates receive college credits for their BEST Youth Worker Certificate Program once they enroll in a degree program at any of the higher education institutions named above.
Each college has its own procedure for processing these credits. If you have questions about transferring credits to a higher education institution, please contact the appropriate institution representative.