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Youth Correctional Counselor: Career Guide

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Youth correctional counselors provide counseling services to juvenile offenders and their families and may act as a liaison between their clients and the courts, schools, and prisons. They are typically employed by government correctional departments to work in juvenile detention centers or in community programs. State and local governments are the main employers for youth correctional counselors. Juvenile correctional counselors with extensive experience or an advanced degree may find advancement opportunities in management or administration.

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Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

Youth correctional counselors help rehabilitate young offenders. Counselors generally work in a juvenile correctional facility, such as a detention center, where they supervise the offenders by enforcing discipline, making and maintaining records, and implementing constructive activity programs. They may also work in social service organizations. Prior to or during sentencing, juvenile correctional counselors may make recommendations as to the appropriate destination for an offender based on their evaluations, such as detainment, care homes, or treatment programs. They also counsel juvenile offenders and their families and provide specialized courses, including addiction recovery and anger management.

Steps for Becoming a Youth Correctional Counselor

The minimum requirements for becoming a youth correctional counselor typically include a relevant bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, social work, or counseling, or some combination of experience and education. Other typical requirements are being a US citizen, holding a valid driver’s license, and being over the age of 21. While the exact steps to become a youth correctional counselor will depend largely on the employer, the following are general steps that one can expect of the process.

  • Attend a degree program and/or gain experience in a related field.*
  • Apply for a job as a youth correctional counselor.
  • Attend an interview.
  • Pass a background investigation.
  • Pass a drug test.
  • Get hired as a youth correctional counselor.
  • Receive on-the-job training once hired.
  • *A bachelor’s degree or a combination of undergraduate education and relevant experience is usually, but not always, the minimum requirement to become a youth correctional counselor. Check the requirements of a particular job to better understand the exact qualifications.

    Youth Correctional Counselor Job Training

    Juvenile correction counselors generally must complete on-the-job training. The specific training required depends on the organization that has hired the counselor. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, for example, requires all new hires to attend a mandatory 16-week training academy followed by a two-year apprenticeship program at the youth facility to which they’ve been assigned. Prospective youth correctional counselors should visit the employment page of the organization for which they would like to work to learn more about specific training requirements. Counselors may also specialize in a specific area, such as providing group therapy, with additional training.

    Other Helpful Skills and Experience

    Prospective youth correctional counselors with previous counseling experience or experience with young people in a correctional setting, in law enforcement, or in the criminal justice system may find that experience advantageous when looking for employment. Juvenile correctional counselors must have the ability to actively listen, effectively communicate both orally and in written form, be comfortable interacting with individuals from diverse backgrounds, and work effectively in a stressful environment. Military experience, supervisory roles, or other positions of authority are often considered beneficial. The ideal candidate is able to empathize with a juvenile offender’s problems while remaining calm and mature.

    Possible Job Titles for This Career

    • Juvenile Correctional Counselor
    • Juvenile Detention Counselor
    • Youth Correctional Counselor

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    Youth Correctional Counselor Salary and Job Outlook

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups youth correctional counselors with probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, who earn a median salary of $51,410 per year.1 The BLS projects employment growth of 6% for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists through 2026.1 The benefits package that counselors receive typically includes health and dental coverage, sick and vacation pay, and educational opportunities.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    • What type of schedule do juvenile correctional counselors generally work?

      Counselors should be prepared to work irregular hours, including nights, weekends, and holidays. Counselors may be assigned to day, evening, or night shifts. Occasionally, counselors are assigned to rotating or “swing” shifts and may have irregular hours.

    • With what age group does a juvenile corrections counselor generally work?

      Juvenile clients are typically 18 years or younger.

    • How old do I have to be to become a juvenile correctional counselor?

      Organizations generally require a juvenile correctional counselor to be a minimum of 21 years of age.

    • Do youth correctional counselors carry firearms?

      No. Youth correctional counselors rarely carry a firearm. In some states, juvenile parole or probation officers may be armed, but this is also rare.

    Additional Resources

    1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm

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