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Victim Advocate: Job Description & Career Info

In general, victim advocates assist individuals who have been abused or assaulted, either domestically or by strangers. Continue reading for more information about career preparation and outlook, as well as potential salaries for professionals in this important line of work.

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Career Definition

Victim advocate jobs are typically often found within a district attorney's office. They may also be funded by non-profit groups, such as those concerned with rape victims or those who have been subjected to domestic abuse. Victim advocates' duties include working with the victim to explain legal procedures and available resources, along with encouraging and supporting the victim throughout the court process. They also try to minimize the physical, psychological and emotional consequence on the crime victim.

Advocates may attend court with the victim and help them obtain court injunctions if necessary. Areas of specialization can include sexual assault or stalking. Victim advocates also perform administrative duties, such as keeping statistics, improving services, investigating complaints and training new staff. Employment may take place in a variety of settings, including hospitals, community programs, jails and shelters.

How to Become a Victim Advocate

Required Education

While it is possible to become a victim advocate by completing a certificate or an associate's degree in a relevant field of study, a bachelor's degree in psychology, criminal justice or social work is preferred. The coursework should include classes in interpersonal communication. An employer may also require counseling or case management experience; some victims advocates train on the job.

Skills Required

The ability to listen is key to working as a victim advocate, as well as a strong sense of compassion and empathy for clients. Other skills may include the ability to identify problems and participate in team problem-solving efforts, along with advocacy and counseling skills.

Career and Salary Outlook

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics BLS) does not keep job outlook and salary data for victim advocates, information for social workers is available. From 2012 to 2022, employment opportunities for social workers nationwide are expected to grow by 19%, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The median annual salary for a social worker was approximately $54,560 as of May 2012 (www.bls.gov).

Alternate Career Options

Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists

Counselors and therapists provide assistance to people struggling with emotional difficulties, mental health disorders or family and marital issues. In addition to listening actively and asking questions, they also help clients understand the reasons for their problems and help them develop coping strategies. In general, a master's degree in family and marriage or clinical counseling and a license are required to enter the field.

According to the BLS, job opportunities for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists across the country are expected to increase by a faster-than-average rate of 29% between 2012 to 2022. As of May 2012, mental health counselors received median yearly salaries of $40,080, while professionals employed as marriage and family therapists earned $46,670 (www.bls.gov).

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

Professionals who work in probation and corrections monitor the activities of criminal offenders and try to help them avoid further violations of the law. Educational requirements typically include a bachelor's degree, as well as successful completion of oral, psychological and written exams. In May 2012, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earned median annual wages of $48,190, with little or no changes in employment nationwide predicted between 2012 and 2022, as reported by the BLS (www.bls.gov).

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