Juvenile Counselor Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a juvenile counselor's job description, salary and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a juvenile counseling career.
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Pros and Cons of a Juvenile Counselor Career

As a juvenile counselor, you supervise and guide troubled youth toward a better future. Below are some of the pros and cons of becoming a juvenile counselor.

Pros of Becoming a Juvenile Counselor
Some positions may require only a high school diploma*
May be able to improve the lives of troubled youth*
Most employers provide standard benefits (health insurance, paid vacation, retirement plan, etc.)*
Can work in a variety of settings (correctional facilities, home visits, transporting juveniles, etc.)*

Cons of Becoming a Juvenile Counselor
Slow job growth (5% from 2012-2022)*
The work can be dangerous (one of the highest rates of on-the-job injuries)*
Must be able to work with hostile individuals (must reduce tension, address behavioral problems, etc.)*
May be required to work holidays, nights, weekends and overtime*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Job Description

Juvenile counselors are responsible for providing supervision, care and counseling to youth who have behavioral issues or criminal histories. As a juvenile counselor, you may work in a detention facility or make visits to juveniles' homes, schools or workplaces to assess and record their progress. You provide juveniles with counseling and assistance throughout their time in a correctional or behavioral program.

Salary Info and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for correctional workers and jailers, including juvenile counselors, was $39,780 as of May 2014. The BLS predicted that employment for correctional workers and jailers would grow at a slow pace of 5% from 2012-2022, as smaller budgets and lower crime rates reduce the need for these workers. However, job openings may become available as people leave the industry because of relatively low wages and stressful work conditions.

What Are the Requirements?

Juvenile counselors must have a high school diploma and education or experience working with juveniles in an institutional, group or educational setting. There are no specific degree requirements, but courses in psychology, social work or justice may help you qualify for a position. You may also be required to complete a training program and pass a background check in order to begin work.

What Employers Are Looking for

Most employers of juvenile counselors require applicants to be in adequate physical shape, hold a valid driver's license and pass a background check. Following are some examples of job postings found in May 2012:

  • A New York City government agency looked for juvenile counselors to provide care, security, supervision and transportation of juveniles in a variety of settings. Applicants were required to have a bachelor's degree or a total of 4 years' education and experience working with juveniles or developmentally disabled adults. The job required working nights, weekends and holidays.
  • An Oregon county juvenile agency looked for a juvenile counselor to work in a permanent or on-call position interviewing juveniles and providing counseling, referrals and supervision. Requirements included being able to communicate well with juveniles and their families, having an acceptable driving record and passing a background check.
  • A California county juvenile hall looked for a juvenile counselor to supervise delinquent juveniles and provide instruction for work and leisure activities, provide security and assist in the development of treatment plans. A driver's license was required and education or experience was desirable.

How to Stand out

You can stand out to employers by obtaining an undergraduate degree in a related field, such as psychology, sociology or criminal justice, or by taking some extra classes related to the position. A degree can substitute for experience in some positions. In addition to furthering your education, you can obtain work experience by volunteering at youth centers, schools or another related organization. You may also stand out by becoming certified in CPR and first aid.

Other Careers to Consider

If the slow job growth and physical work of a juvenile counselor seems like too much for you, consider a career as a substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor. These workers provide support and resources for recovering addicts and people with behavioral disorders. Depending on the position, you may need as little as a high school diploma and on-the-job training, but some states require you to pass a licensing exam. According to the BLS, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors earned a median annual salary of around $39,000 as of May 2011, and the number of jobs was expected to increase by 27% from 2010-2020.

If the pay for juvenile counselors seems low considering the work required, you may want to consider a job a police officer or detective. Your job duties would vary depending on your position, but you could investigate crimes, gather evidence, apprehend criminals, enforce the law and assist victims. According to the BLS, most employers require police and detectives to complete a vigorous training program. As of May 2011, the median annual salary for police officers was around $54,000 and for detectives it was around $72,000. Employment was expected to grow by 7% from 2010-2020 for both careers, according to the BLS.

Popular Schools

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    1. Purdue University Global

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    6. Colorado Christian University

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Purdue University Global

  • MS in Psychology
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  • BS in Psychology in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
  • BS in Psychology in Applied Behavior Analysis

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Grand Canyon University

  • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Cognition and Instruction
  • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
  • BS in Psychology

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Regent University

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  • Bachelor of Science in Psychology
  • Bachelor of Science in Psychology - Clinical and Counseling Psychology

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Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

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Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Criminal Justice Behavior Analysis

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Colorado Christian University

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  • Psychology, A.S.

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Saint Leo University

  • BA: Psychology
  • BA: Psychology - Clinical/Counseling
  • BA: Psychology - General

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Northcentral University

  • PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy - Child and Adolescent Therapy
  • PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy - Medical Family Therapy
  • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
  • M.A. in Psychology - Gender Studies

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