Juvenile Detention Counselor: Career Information and Requirements
Juvenile detention counselors treat and rehabilitate youths who are criminal offenders, in an effort to prevent future crimes. Working with correctional facilities, detention centers and other agencies, juvenile detention counselors provide therapy and treatment recommendations to help offenders re-enter society safely and productively.
Juvenile Detention Counselor Career Information
Job Description and Duties
Detention counselors are employed by state and federal governments to work in the correctional system or as part of social services agencies. Using their knowledge of psychology, social sciences and criminal justice, detention counselors evaluate and monitor the progress of juvenile offenders and develop plans for treatment, training and education. By meeting with an offender and his or her family, the counselor establishes problem areas that need to be dealt with upon release.
To better coordinate psychological, social and health services for released offenders, juvenile detention counselors provide information to correctional facilities and other agencies through case files and reports. With the assistance of a counselor, youth offenders may be able to transition back into society with fewer incentives to commit crime.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that job opportunities for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, including juvenile detention counselors, were expected to rise by 18% from 2010-2020 (www.bls.gov). A growing prison population and an emphasis on treatment and rehabilitation rather than incarceration are expected to contribute to job opportunities in this field, the BLS explained. This occupation, however, is subject to the availability of government funding and the political landscape, which could temper job growth.
As of May 2012, the BLS average annual wage estimate for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $52,380. State and local governments, which employed the majority of individuals in this job category, offered slightly higher average salaries: $52,840 and $53,110 per year, respectively.
Requirements to Become a Juvenile Detention Counselor
According to the BLS, employment requirements in this field vary from one employer to the next, but the minimum expectation is usually a bachelor's degree and related work or field experience, as well as successful completion of a combination of psychological and physical tests. Some employers may require a master's degree in the absence of appropriate related experience.
Bachelor's Degree Programs
Potential juvenile detention counselors will need to complete a 4-year degree program to prepare them for the challenges of working with youth offenders. A major in social work, criminal justice or psychology may provide relevant coursework such as criminology and psychology. More specialized classes may include topics like corrections and probation, offender treatment, counseling, drug addiction and juvenile delinquency. Programs often include internship opportunities for practical experience in the corrections system or a social services agency.
Master's Degree Programs
If an employer requires a master's degree, or if a juvenile detention counselor wishes to advance to a supervisory or administrative role, graduate counseling programs offer opportunities for specialization in assisting specific populations, such as juvenile offenders. Coursework in treatment and assessment methods, group counseling, rehabilitation, criminology and human development focuses on the needs of specific criminal populations. Master's degree programs also meet the education requirements to prepare students for a state license in counseling, which may be required for employment through some agencies.
According to the BLS, state and federal governments usually offer training programs that sometimes culminate in a certification test. The BLS also noted that agencies may have specific age, physical fitness and mental health requirements, in addition to policies requiring a clean criminal record and a driver's license.
The American Correctional Association (ACA) offers professional certification at four levels of juvenile justice, ranging from those who counsel offenders to those who serve as administrators in juvenile justice agencies. Eligibility for certification is determined by education and years of job experience (www.aca.org). The ACA explained that, after passage of the 4-hour proctored exam, certification lasts three years, at which time individuals can become recertified.
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