Is it worth having a Youth Work degree?

worthless degree

I understand that folk have misgivings about having anything to do with Facebook, even if its founder has come over all philanthropic. Whatever our IDYW Facebook page goes from strength to strength as a forum of communication and discussion. In the last week to give, but one example, a University of Cumbria student, having been told to give up his degree, asked,

Is youth work actually declining at the rate that some of us think it is? Or are some just being downright pessimistic?

At this point there have been 67 comments in response. To give you a flavour here are a few of them.

I think it depends what sector you want to work in and if you want to work for jnc pay and conditions. Local authority youth work is turning more into caseload rather than open access or into more of a supporting the community to set up their own groups. Charities seem to employ youth workers but can’t necessarily afford to pay jnc rates. Over the last 10 years I have worked for charities and a local authority and I now work for the MOD as a community development worker and do youth work within that. So I think it really depends on where in the country you are and the sector you pick.. Youth work in its traditional open access will come back around like it has done before its just a question of waiting it out.

This reminds me of my teenage self. Long story short My guidance councillor had discouraged and belittled my longing to be a youth worker as it wasn’t seen a career.
Fortunately I ignored her personal opinions and I worked my arse off to become a youth worker including obtaining a degree in the field. See, she didn’t understand youth work nor value it. At the time the diploma was only advertised. My point being is that not only has the emphasis for accredited degrees within youth and community become a “thing” it is continuously growing with many colleges now offering courses. We live in a capitalised society. And unfortunately the suits do not like, my career guidance councillor, value nor understand youth work. Hence funding terms and conditions, cuts, struggle, fight. But the nuts may get tighter but we should only get stronger. Youth work should get stronger. I have every faith it will too. It’s a long process. How you see youth work should be through your eyes, not of others.

For 10 years or more, youthwork has been undermined by other agencies that work with young people, but who are not youth workers (connexion,
national citizenship service, schools, family support services, Police, Community Reassurance Projects, housing associations) I’m not saying there is not a place for them, but at 1 time we would work alongside and in partnerships, but now, these other agencies often claim to be doing youth work, but it’s often not really Youth Work as we know it. After closure of my local authority service and redundancy, I’ve tried to jump though these hoops, I need to raise a family, pay a mortgage, earn a living, I try to bring a youthwork approach into it as much as I can, but it’s simply not youth work as it once was. The world of commissioning, targeted work, restricted budgets and the need for services to justify themselves against the fear of cuts, has set agencies / services into competition with each other. Also In the age of commissioning and where there might be a profit to be made, the likes of Capita and Circo are snapping up contracts. Policy and legislation has changed, Every Child Matters (does not matter anymore), and a host of other “so called professionals” are vying for youth provision contracts (often not using youth workers to deliver) they want to maximise profit, or do it on the cheap so don’t want to pay JNC salaries. Also when following proscribed agendas, pushing assessments of individuals, doing casework, that may discriminate, label and ultimately result in the imposition of sanctions upon individuals, they want employees that follow the company / government line. Evidenced improvement in health, employability, reduction in crime-ASB, improvement of school attendance and the short term reduction in cost to the local authority is what matters most now! Things are unfortunately in a real mess for young peoples services!

I graduated last year. Was employed for the first time 3 months ago since finishing my degree due to a lack of funding nowhere would hire new youth workers. After starting this new job in September, the youth centre then went into administration 7 weeks later leaving me redundant with immediate effect. Unfortunately I think there is more of these closures and cuts to come.

Youth work is not dead! Like many have said, just have to find different ways to deliver. I’ve been a youth worker for over 10 years. I only worked in the statutory sector for a short while, always been in the voluntary sector. My colleague and I recently set up our own company to ensure that we can still deliver quality youth work provision. Check us out

Visit IDYW Facebook to read more and indeed join in. Maintaining a dialogue with one another is vital to keeping our tradition alive.



  1. And of course there is always the point that the degree is not just about the particular qualification, not just about youth work, but also about the process of learning and becoming educated for which, hopefully, the achievement of the degree is not a full stop but a beginning.

  2. A youth degree is also a standard . A professional standard . Which in my view will serve people well . Yes the process of getting it is a journey well worth taking and one that can and should be continued. We in Ireland are now on the process of establishing The Irish Youth Worker Association. A degree in youth work will be the standard for membership. There is no question, that the values and principles of youth work in Ireland have been eroded over the past number of years by savage funding cuts by the state . By the state wanting to control the outcomes of the work. By the increase in justice projects . By short term work contracts for workers.all this has happened without any real engagement of the youth work sector . It is our hope in IYWA to engage with the state around these issues. We need to professionalize we need to be seen as professionals . Youth workers need a professional standard . Youth workers need a degree .

    • Jean and Mick – many thanks for the responses. I’m going to do a new post based on your thoughts as away of continuing and opening up the debate. Best Wishes.

  3. Thanks again Tony. Amazing how we are struggling with the same issues! Youth Work is a unique, valuable and highy skilled profession, unlike any other. It’s often undermined and devalued by governments, other professions, some training institutions, policy writers and even some people who claim to do youth work without a professional framework.

    But there’s hope. There are many of us who understand its profound positive impact on young people and our communities. Many passionate people advocating for the integrity and longevity of youth work into the future. People who understand that our integrity in underpinned by ethics, research, evidence and qualifications.

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