How to Become a Juvenile Counselor

What Does a Juvenile Counselor Do?

juvenile counselor with client

Juvenile counselors perform one of the most vital and rewarding of social duties: helping troubled youth become healthy, happy and productive members of society. For many of these juvenile clients, childhood has been a time scarred by neglect, abuse, and lack of positive role models. A juvenile counselor can help a troubled young client jump into a positive trajectory by providing empathy, advice, and focused care.

The profoundly rewarding and challenging nature of this profession attracts many people who wish to change young lives and respond to the societal ills that have left children in poverty or suffering from abuse or addiction. Juvenile counselors hold positions within and outside of the criminal justice system. They can work in educational settings, private practices, juvenile detention facilities, social work offices, juvenile hospitals, and clinics.

Within the court system, a juvenile court counselor (JCC) works with juveniles who have been convicted of crimes and may either be incarcerated or out on parole or probation. Generally, responsibilities for JCCs include managing individual cases, providing counseling, and supervising delinquents to make sure they follow court orders. A JCC may also organize and supervise a program of work, study and recreation for a group of delinquent or emotionally disturbed wards in county juvenile halls. The goal of a JCC is not only to provide services to a troubled young client, but also to bring that client to a point of reconciliation with society.

Juvenile counselors outside of the justice system also enjoy an impressive variety of career options. With advanced degrees and training, juvenile counselors (JCs) can work as psychological therapists, providing services to troubled youth both inside and outside of the criminal justice system. JCs find employment in schools, in private practice and in group home settings. They treat young people with addictions, mental illnesses, behavioral disorders, or past sexual, emotional, or physical trauma.

Workplace Details

JCCs often hold positions in local and state offices, holding facilities, juvenile halls and halfway houses. These settings are fraught with stress and chaos, and an effective JCC must be able to manage loud altercations, confused and defiant clients, and the potential for violence. Work in institutional settings can also cause emotional turmoil or depression, as JCCs often work closely with many incredibly troubled clients, some of whom will re-offend or develop worse mental health issues over the course of their lives. An effective and well-adjusted JCC, therefore, is able to manage stress and maintain an optimistic outlook even in the face of extreme setbacks and clients who do not immediately improve.

JCs also work in a variety of settings, such as in private practices, schools, or group homes and juvenile treatment facilities. Juvenile counselors in private practices provide counseling to young people with a variety of emotional and mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, addiction, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress from sexual abuse and trauma. Treatment in such settings is incredibly intimate and emotionally draining, but can provide clients with the best opportunity for a breakthrough. In school settings, JCs work as youth guidance counselors, helping students with career choices or providing personal counseling for emotional or social problems.

In group homes or juvenile treatment facilities, JCs usually treat individuals with emotional and mental health issues, and substance abuse and behavioral problems. Again, these settings can be loud, violent, and stressful, with a large number of troubled young adults being forced to share close quarters and interact with therapists they do not necessarily want to be seeing. Young adult clients are often hostile to facilities’ behavioral rules or treatment requirements, and can lash out at their therapists when challenged. However, these facilities provide vital services to young people who might otherwise “slip through the cracks” and never recover. The work JCs do in these settings is invaluable and life-changing, and therefore immensely rewarding.

Salary and Job Outlook

Hover over any state to explore local income and job growth data.

Created with Raphaël 2.1.0 AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE DC FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

ALABAMA
Median Salary: 
$36,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $62,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Birmingham$24,610$36,450$86,280

ALASKA
Median Salary: 
$52,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $74,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Anchorage$30,900$48,070$79,630

ARIZONA
Median Salary: 
$48,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $73,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Phoenix$34,870$47,340$63,900
Tuscon$33,960$56,420$119,680

ARKANSAS
Median Salary: 
$34,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $27,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $44,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

CALIFORNIA
Median Salary: 
$39,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $70,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 120

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Los Angeles$19,880$48,270$75,590
San Francisco Bay$27,980$36,200$62,980
San Diego$20,920$33,920$48,830
Sacramento$32,090$39,370$87,650

COLORADO
Median Salary: 
$49,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $27,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $88,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 35%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Denver$34,710$46,650$94,480
Colorado Springs$27,820$53,200$83,180

CONNECTICUT
Median Salary: 
$41,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $66,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Hartford$24,640$30,150$55,940
Bridgeport$24,780$43,760$75,130
New Haven$33,400$46,130$73,860

DELAWARE
Median Salary: 
$25,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $41,100

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wilmington$21,050$30,700$46,900

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Median Salary: 
$43,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $61,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Washington DC$25,930$43,660$68,100

FLORIDA
Median Salary: 
$37,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $62,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 110

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Miami$25,770$52,790$65,630
Orlando$26,510$36,600$48,020
Tampa$30,000$36,440$48,440
Jacksonville$27,720$35,880$49,820

GEORGIA
Salary Data Not Available

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

HAWAII
Median Salary: 
$40,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $27,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $66,200

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Honolulu$33,550$44,680$73,500

IDAHO
Salary Data Not Available

2014-2024 Job Growth: 0%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

ILLINOIS
Median Salary: 
$37,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $61,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Chicago$18,250$35,780$60,700

INDIANA
Median Salary: 
$43,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $28,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

IOWA
Median Salary: 
$31,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $57,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

KANSAS
Median Salary: 
$41,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $36,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,000

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Kansas City$37,430$44,460$52,730

KENTUCKY
Median Salary: 
$44,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $23,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $62,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Louisville$21,790$45,010$67,040

LOUISIANA
Median Salary: 
$36,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $59,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New Orleans$16,930$24,230$48,220
Baton Rouge$25,590$36,500$59,120
Lafayette$30,370$42,700$53,690

MAINE
Median Salary: 
$34,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $47,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$40,340$44,910$51,180

MARYLAND
Median Salary: 
$32,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $62,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 28%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Baltimore$25,890$31,290$48,460
Frederick$18,840$46,000$75,430

MASSACHUSETTS
Median Salary: 
$44,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $72,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boston$35,670$61,700$80,480

MICHIGAN
Median Salary: 
$40,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $55,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Detroit$25,760$37,760$49,290

MINNESOTA
Median Salary: 
$38,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $59,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Minneapolis - St. Paul$28,410$39,580$61,350

MISSISSIPPI
Salary and Job Growth Data Not Available

MISSOURI
Median Salary: 
$41,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $58,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
St. Louis$22,880$36,370$56,950
Kansas City$37,430$44,460$52,730

MONTANA
Salary and Job Growth Data Not Available

NEBRASKA
Salary and Job Growth Data Not Available

NEVADA
Median Salary: 
$44,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $74,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Median Salary: 
$33,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $55,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

NEW JERSEY
Median Salary: 
$57,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $35,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $96,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 4%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Newark$34,250$45,970$71,980
Trenton$64,070$92,680$118,350

NEW MEXICO
Median Salary: 
$22,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $16,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $47,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 27%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Albuquerque$17,190$39,930$49,320

NEW YORK
Median Salary: 
$51,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $30,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $89,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New York City$35,700$58,950$91,650
Buffalo$21,630$42,280$58,840
Rochester$24,130$30,410$47,940
Albany$31,370$65,680$98,990

NORTH CAROLINA
Median Salary: 
$47,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

NORTH DAKOTA
Median Salary: 
$56,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $62,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Fargo$27,220$45,650$62,130

OHIO
Median Salary: 
$43,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $60,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cleveland$32,700$42,030$60,310
Cincinnati$31,410$41,490$58,850
Dayton$28,080$38,400$59,080

OKLAHOMA
Median Salary: 
$34,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $23,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $58,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

OREGON
Median Salary: 
$47,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $74,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$26,950$58,320$118,810
Salem$20,160$35,000$38,800

PENNSYLVANIA
Median Salary: 
$51,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $68,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Philadelphia$17,390$35,070$70,050
Pittsburgh$24,860$35,540$63,400
Harrisburg$47,370$57,320$76,750
Allentown$16,520$23,140$62,850

RHODE ISLAND
Salary Data Not Available

2014-2024 Job Growth: 5%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SOUTH CAROLINA
Salary and Job Growth Data Not Available

SOUTH DAKOTA
Salary and Job Growth Data Not Available

TENNESSEE
Median Salary: 
$38,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Nashville$32,590$39,910$51,180
Memphis$29,770$42,150$57,230
Knoxville$29,730$38,460$48,350
Chattanooga$17,530$34,680$48,940

TEXAS
Median Salary: 
$60,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $38,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 310

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Dallas - Ft. Worth$44,640$64,850$85,290
Houston$46,820$62,460$79,310
San Antonio$36,670$56,250$75,380
Austin$43,190$60,960$78,100

UTAH
Median Salary: 
$37,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $44,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

VERMONT
Median Salary: 
$52,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $61,300

Job Growth Data Not Available

VIRGINIA
Median Salary: 
$38,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $29,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $53,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Virginia Beach$30,300$42,390$49,230
Richmond$31,240$36,050$56,690

WASHINGTON
Median Salary: 
$49,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $29,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $116,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 23%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Seattle$30,110$44,860$75,180

WEST VIRGINIA
Median Salary: 
$27,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $33,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 3%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

WISCONSIN
Median Salary: 
$46,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $67,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Milwaukee$33,230$46,100$65,360
Madison$31,960$53,650$70,410

WYOMING
Salary Data Not Available

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

The mean annual salary for a juvenile counselor is $47,510, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is $44,580 for individual and family counselors, $57,620 for school counselors and $44,160 for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors. Juvenile therapists with doctorates in behavioral psychology command much higher salaries, particularly if they are employed in private and group practice settings.

The job market for juvenile counselors is quite healthy, depending on level of education and experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for counselors are expected to grow by 12% between 2014 and 2024, which is considered faster than average.

Compare Salaries by City

Los Angeles CA Median Pay

$48270 Per Year

$23.20 Per Hour

Houston TX Median Pay

$62460 Per Year

$30.002 Per Hour

Steps to Become a Juvenile Counselor

1

Obtain your undergraduate degree.

To qualify for an entry-level position, a juvenile court counselor or JC should have at minimum a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college in the human services field. Acceptable majors include psychology, social work, criminal justice, or counseling. Criminal justice is a popular degree choice for many people interested in working with at-risk youth, and may provide the most appropriate training and work opportunities for a prospective JCC. In addition, an entry-level JCC should also have one-year of experience in the field (this can be obtained through an undergraduate internship or volunteer position).

Show Me Schools »

Individuals pursuing this rewarding career path may begin as youth counselor technicians with an associate’s degree, while taking online or evening classes.

2

JCs proceed to earn a graduate-level degree.

To be considered for employment as a juvenile counselor/therapist, most states require that the applicant complete a master’s degree (in a specialty such as family counseling, human services, criminal justice, counseling psychology, or social services). The applicant must also have completed extensive hours of supervised clinical training beyond the master’s degree level.

3

What about training?

Training (practicing the skills of a profession) is also an essential aspect of all juvenile counselor/therapist degree programs and usually involves an internship or residency of one to two years in duration. These programs give student professionals the chance to view actual clinical situations; work alongside trained mentors; and practice, with supervision, the many roles that counselors are expected to fulfill. Supervised and mentored training is a key component of the counseling certification process; most states require at least 1000 hours.

Many state agencies conduct on-the-job-training for juvenile court counselors and JCs. This training helps counselors keep updated on recent legislation or court decisions affecting juvenile law, as well as “best practice” treatment modalities. Training also includes unarmed self-defense methods, physical fitness, basic first aid (CPR), and safe juvenile transportation/driver training procedures.

4

Get licensed if necessary in your state.

State requirements for education and training vary greatly; many states require a master’s degree or higher in order to be licensed. In addition, counselors may be required to accumulate a certain amount of supervised clinical experience and also take a state-recognized exam, for which there is usually a fee. A demonstration of personal integrity and adherence to professional conduct codes is also a common requirement.

Licensing and certification requirements also depend upon the level of responsibility of the individual work position. Some entry-level positions do not require licensing, while nearly all management or senior level positions do. If a JC or JCC will be working individually with clients, particularly clients who possess a mental health diagnosis or legal record, certification will almost certainly be necessary. JCs who work for non-governmental facilities or under direct supervision may not need to be certified.

The American Counseling Association website offers a state-specific directory for researching licensing.

5

Explore optional career paths.

Having gained further experience, counselors working within the justice system may enjoy promotion to intake counselor and case manager positions. With further coursework, additional positions become available such as probation counselor, adult correctional counselor, recreational therapist, and school guidance or youth counselor.

Exploring Degree Paths

If you have a high school diploma or GED, you’re probably qualified to work as an assistant in group home or corrections setting. (Such workers are sometimes referred to as counselors, mentors, or coaches.) In this role, you’ll enforce rules, model good behavior, provide positive interaction, and help staff and youth with everyday tasks. This is a great way for aspiring juvenile counselors to gain experience in the field.

BACHELOR'S DEGREE

4 years

Most entry-level juvenile counselor positions require a four-year degree in behavioral science. Counselors at this level can provide supervised therapeutic counseling within an agency setting. (Note: this is more common in private agencies than public ones.) They can also serve as program directors and middle managers within treatment facilities.

Students interested in counseling juveniles should major in a behavior science like social work, psychology, sociology, or criminal justice. Almost all two- and four-year colleges offer introductory coursework in these subjects. If you begin your education at a community college, look for one that has strong articulation agreements with local universities.

Show Me Schools »

Your program and coursework will vary depending on your major. However, you might find the following classes helpful in your future career.

Counseling psychology

Learn how to apply psychological concepts to help clients achieve goals and relieve distress.

Human development

Study how humans change physically, cognitively, socially, and emotionally throughout their lives.

Sociology of the family

Examine how government institutions, work, and economic factors shape family relationships.

Introduction to juvenile justice

Understand the history, purpose, and evolution of our correction system as it relates to children.

While in college, look for opportunities to work or volunteer with at-risk youth. Serving as an assistant in a residential or corrections program is a great option.

MASTER'S DEGREE

2 years of graduate study

Master’s-level training is helpful if you want to open a private practice, supervise the work of other counselors, or provide therapeutic counseling within a public agency.

Juvenile justice organizations hire counselors from a variety of disciplines, including social work, mental health counseling, addictions counseling, and marriage and family therapy. Each discipline has a unique approach and philosophy. Before choosing a program, take some time to shadow different professionals and see which discipline resonates with your personal values and interests.

Master’s programs in the helping professions are mostly found at four-year universities. A growing number of online schools (many of them for-profit) also offer these degrees. Before enrolling in online classes, note that these continue to be somewhat controversial within the counseling profession. That’s because counseling education is very interactive and experiential with a great deal of fieldwork woven throughout. Therefore, if a residential program is available to you, it’s almost always a better option.

Several accreditors provide quality control for master’s programs in the helping professions:

  • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE)
  • Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)

While accreditation is voluntary, it’s also a sign that the school takes its educational mission seriously. Students who graduate from accredited programs have an easier time becoming certified and may also have advantages when it comes to employment and graduate school admissions.

Some useful subjects taught in most disciplines include:

Child and adolescent counseling

Understand common problems in this population, effective treatments, and ethical issues that can arise.

Trauma informed therapy

Study evidence-based treatments for children and families who experience trauma.

Child, youth, and family services

Learn how community-based professionals can identify and assist families at risk for abuse and neglect.

Addictions counseling

Practice assessing, diagnosing, treating, and referring patients with substance abuse disorders.

Master’s students also complete hundreds of hours of fieldwork and practical experience prior to graduation. Some also engage in original research and publication.

Keys to Success as a Juvenile Counselor

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Strong, quick judgment and above-average analytic abilities

Juvenile counselors and therapists rely on these skills in order to handle complex cases. They must be organized and capable of managing a large number of juvenile cases, keeping all the legal, social service, and treatment records straight for each client. They must also have a thorough understanding of juvenile law, counseling, effective treatment methods, abnormal psychology, and crisis intervention techniques. Qualified JCs should be able to respond to all contingencies and emergencies pertaining to their clients, and should always know where to turn for additional services or information particular to their clients’ needs.

Compassion, confidence and stellar stress management skills

These qualities allow counselors to succeed in working with at-risk and troubled youth. Besides the desire to strengthen family and community ties, they should have the ability to inspire trust and confidence.

Strong oral and written communication skills

In order to be effective counselors and advocates for their charges, counselors must be good communicators. A JC must also be an active, empathic listener who can make clients feel comfortable, facilitating honest and thorough conversations.

People skills

JCCs who hold positions in the criminal justice system must work effectively with all stakeholders in the justice system in their locale. That means they must know how to befriend and collaborate with lawyers, police officers, clients’ families, and judges, as well as clients themselves.

Additional Credentials

The American Correctional Association (ACA) offers a variety of certifications for corrections professionals (including juvenile counselors). To certify, candidates must pass an exam.

  • Certified Corrections Officer/Juvenile (CCO) - provides direct service to juvenile offenders
  • Certified Corrections Supervisor/Juvenile (CCS) - middle-level managers in juvenile corrections facilities
  • Certified Corrections Manager/Juvenile (CCM) - oversee major units and programs
  • Certified Corrections Executive/Juvenile (CCE) - high-level administrators in charge of policy development for their agencies

The National Partnership for Juvenile Services offers a Certified Juvenile Services Practitioner (CJSP) credential for juvenile justice professionals. Candidates must meet experience requirements that vary by education level (i.e., 1,000 hours for bachelor’s-trained counselors).

Juvenile Court Counselors may be interested in pursuing the Professional Juvenile Justice Administrator (PJJA) credential administered by the National Juvenile Court Services Association (NJCSA). Candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree, have three years experience managing juvenile justice programs, and complete additional NJCSA coursework.

In addition, many juvenile counselors hold voluntary certifications related to their primary discipline (for example, National Certified Counselor or Certified Children, Youth, and Family Social Worker).

Erika Price, PhD

Dr. Erika Price has a PhD in Social Psychology from Loyola University Chicago, and serves as an instructor at North Park University and The Chicago School for Professional Psychology. A recent Postdoctoral Research Associate, Erika has studied Open-Mindedness and Political Tolerance with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

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