Working with children and young people can be a challenging, but rewarding career and the diversity of the sectors you could work in offers the opportunity to gain a wide range of experience.
Achieving a degree in childhood and youth studies, education or other humanity-based subjects can open up numerous opportunities across different sectors. Such degrees offer excellent foundations for careers working with children and young people in areas such as early years, youth and community work, education, health or social care. From working directly in settings to outreach work in local communities, from supporting families through social care to influencing policy development and practice in education – the possibilities are exciting and varied.
This guide has been broken down into four main areas – early years, youth and community work, health and social care and education. Please also refer to our Teaching career guide for more information.
Where do I start?
When working in sectors related to children and young people you could be looking at a wide range of occupations.
Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements and career prospects with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.
Job roles in this sector include (but are not restricted to):
- Children's nurse
- Community development worker
- Community education officer
- Early years teacher
- Education consultant
- Educational psychologist
- Family support worker
- Play therapist
- Health play specialist
- Primary school teacher
- Private tutor
- Secondary school teacher
- Social worker
- Speech and language therapist
- Teaching assistant
- Youth worker
As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date on developments in this sector and keep track of any vacancies that are coming up. Below are some key resources to help you research opportunities available. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to target your applications and will help when preparing for interviews.
- Targetjobs – Alternative careers in education – provides an overview of popular career paths outside of classroom teaching and offers an in-depth overview through the Education Alternatives publication from AGCAS, written by experienced university careers advisers and full of inspirational, relevant and up-to-date advice.
- Children & Young People Now – a dedicated magazine/website for professionals working with children, young people and families. It covers childcare and early years, education, health, social care, youth justice and youth work.
- Guardian Jobs – allows you to search and apply for the latest roles in children’s social work, child care and working with children and young people. You can sign up for regular alerts through email.
- Nursery World – offers news and best practice in childcare, EYFS and early years education. The site also advertises job opportunities in the sector.
- Department for Education – provides helpful information about training routes to become an early years teacher. The site also outlines the different skills and standards required in the role.
Youth and community work
- National Youth Agency – the national body for youth work offers resources, a blog from professionals, information on policies and practice and the opportunity to sign up to a monthly newsletter.
- UK Youth – works to better the lives of young people through an extensive network of youth development organisations. The site offers the latest news across the youth work sector and a blog addressing current issues.
Health and social care
- Health & Care Professions Council – a regulatory body covering occupations such as social workers, practitioner psychologists and speech and language therapists. The site offers information on professional regulations and standards, as well as updates on campaigns and events.
- Health Careers – provides information about a career in health, how the health sector is structured and specific information about careers in the NHS and public health.
- British Association of Social Workers – the largest professional association for social work in the UK, which aims to promote the best possible social work services for all individuals. The site offers specific information about building a career as a social worker, including the opportunity to browse job vacancies.
- Times Educational Supplement – provides the latest news, teaching resources and discussion from the teaching world. The TES also advertises jobs in teaching and lecturing and leadership opportunities.
- Department for Education – responsible for education, children’s services and higher and further education policy. The site provides information on the latest news, publications and statistics.
If you haven’t had previous experience of working in relevant sectors, it will be essential to gain some voluntary or paid experience working with children, young people and their families or related support work.
By engaging in relevant opportunities, this will enable you to get a clearer understanding of the nature of the work carried out across different organisations and services. It will also increase your knowledge of the range of challenges you may encounter; how you might respond; and the necessary skills you will need to develop when you start looking for permanent employment.
If you are specifically pursuing a career in teaching or social work, it is essential that you can evidence as much experience as possible as competition to progress onto postgraduate or professional courses is high.
As part of your degree programme you may have the opportunity to take part in a one year or unit-based placement. Either opportunity will provide you with an invaluable insight into working life and offer a unique opportunity to apply the sector knowledge you are learning as part of your studies.
Placements will also enable you to gain transferable skills in the workplace, such as communication, teamwork and time management, in addition to finding out more about a specific job role or area of work, including developing professional knowledge, which will lead to more informed decisions upon graduating.
Your first point of contact to arrange your placement will be the placement office within your Faculty. Find out how to contact your Placements Office.
An internship is usually a work experience opportunity that is offered for a fixed period or a limited amount of time. Internships tend to be undertaken by students and graduates who are looking to gain more relevant/industry specific skills and experience in their particular field.
These opportunities can be paid for a period of between one to four months and typically take place over the summer, with closing dates generally around January to March, but some can be earlier.
Finding placement and internship opportunities
The websites below provide further information about placement and internship opportunities working with children, young people and their families:
- MyCareer is the Careers and Employability Service's online jobs board can be used to search for internships, work experience and summer opportunities across sectors and locations.
- TARGETjobs provides a specific section on different career sectors, including healthcare, public service, charity and social work and teaching education; with the ability to search for placement and internship opportunities.
- Prospects has a search function to look for work experience opportunities both as a current student and as a graduate within public services, including charity and voluntary work, healthcare, social care and teaching and education.
- Getting information about schools allows you to explore opportunities outside of the Portsmouth area by providing a list of educational establishments in England and Wales. You can use the advanced search facility to filter by education phase and location to quickly find a suitable school to approach for experience.
The University of Portsmouth provides the following opportunities to students:
Student Ambassadors work as part of the Recruitment and Outreach Team to support the widening participation and outreach activity. They predominantly work with children and young people aged 9-18 years old on a variety of activities targeted at raising aspirations and encouraging them to think about their progressions routes. This can involve going out to local schools and colleges, as well as hosting campus visits.
These are paid opportunities which involve a formal recruitment process. The roles are advertised through MyCareer at the start of the academic year. If you have any questions then you are able to contact the Recruitment and Outreach Team on email@example.com.
Getting involved in volunteering gives you the opportunity to develop employability skills and experience a variety of working environments to assist you in discovering the right career path for you. It provides the chance to network, meet new friends and boost your confidence.
Volunteering also enables you to gain practical experience and working examples to support your graduate applications. If you choose to commit a significant amount of time and impress the organisation during your volunteering, they may also provide you with a professional reference.
Volunteer to get practical experience
Approaching local organisations, charities or community groups who would benefit from your skills is one way of gaining that all-important experience. The competencies developed will be invaluable and enhance any speculative applications you make.
The Careers and Employability Service offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank, which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies. Similarly, you can access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located in the Careers and Employability Centre.
Examples of roles related to working with children, young people and their families that the Volunteering Team have previously advertised and recruited for are outlined below.
Getting experience in Early Years
As working as an Early Years Practitioner involves encouraging learning and development through play and teaching, it will be essential to have gained experience in an appropriate setting that has enhanced skills and knowledge around literacy, language, numeracy and planning educational activities. In particular, engaging in experience that provides the opportunity to observe children to monitor their progress will be desirable.
This experience could be gained through a wide range of opportunities, including within a classroom environment, volunteering at a local playgroup or play scheme or within children’s centres.
Examples of early years-related roles that the Volunteering Team have previously advertised and recruited to include:
- Children’s Activity Support Volunteer with Gosport Discovery Centre – assisting in preparing materials for a range of engaging activities and in delivering the activity sessions with children and their families.
- Nursery Volunteer with The Roberts Centre – engaging in stream training and interacting with children through a range of play activities.
- Home Visiting Volunteer with Home-Start Portsmouth – visiting a family within their home to assist based on their needs; supporting with access to local services and/or connecting with their local community; and assisting with practical help such as playing or reading stories.
Getting experience in youth and community work
If you are looking to gain entry to further professional training then substantial youth and community work experience – either paid or voluntary – will be essential. When looking to pursue this career path most entrants will gain experience by volunteering which may enable them to gain qualifications in Youth Work Practice, offered by a range of awarding bodies.
As this particular role offers guidance and support to young people in their personal, social and educational development, you have the opportunity to engage with individuals in a variety of settings from colleges to faith-based groups; from schools to youth centres.
There is also the option to engage in the work of the Institute for Youth Work which aims to improve quality and support in youth work; promoting a range of events, courses and resources which encourage continuing professional development, alongside your degree course. There are a range of membership options available to anyone involved in youth work, even if it is in a voluntary capacity.
Examples of youth and/or community-related roles that the Volunteering Team have previously advertised and recruited to include:
- Volunteer Youth Support Worker with Motiv8 – working within a youth centre to provide engaging, fun and safe activities to young people from within and around the local community, including sports, arts, games and group work sessions, with a focus on supporting personal and social development.
- Mentoring Young People Volunteer with Hampshire County Council’s Children’s Services – meeting with a young person to deliver ongoing support agreed as part of their intervention package to divert them from becoming looked after by the Local Authority. Supporting the activity programme attended by the young person, for example attending presentations and encouraging attendance.
- PALS Volunteer with Enable Ability – encouraging young people aged 6-16 years old with physical and/or mild-moderate learning disabilities to integrated into leisure and sports activities; assisting with confidence building, providing care and support and ensuring the safety and welfare of the young people.
Getting experience in health and social care
Roles within the health and social care sector can be varied, but most will require hands-on experience. Many undergraduate and postgraduate courses directly related to social care will include placements, offering you the opportunity to gain experience alongside a qualification. If, however, you are looking to secure a place on a social work degree or postgraduate course, for instance, you will need a substantial amount of work experience to strengthen your application. This may include, but is not limited to, paid or voluntary work in a local youth club, elderly care home or health care setting; working with a relevant third sector organisation; working in after-school clubs or with members of the community through targeted projects.
Specifically for those students undertaking a Social Work degree – either at undergraduate or Master’s level – The Prince’s Trust offer a 12-week placement programme, with the opportunity to support vulnerable young people with a range of issues and build relationships with professional youth workers. Work activities may include community projects, one-to-one sessions and supporting young people with the transition into work, education or training.
Examples of health and/or social care-related roles that the Volunteering Team have previously advertised and recruited to include:
- Advice and Advocacy Volunteer with Hampshire County Council’s Children’s Services – providing advice and advocacy for children who are permanently excluded from school, meeting with families to advise them of their rights and provide information about the exclusion process.
- Cancer Support Centre Befriender Volunteer with Wessex Cancer Trust – offering practical and emotional support to adults, teenagers and children at all stages of their cancer journey, working as part of the community team helping to make a difference to individuals and families.
- Safeguarding Officer Volunteer with Over The Wall – acting as an ambassador of the Safeguarding Policy, helping to ensure the mutual protection of children, volunteers and staff as part of a summer camp programme of activities.
Getting experience in education
Whether you’re interested in getting directly into teaching or you are looking to work with children and young people in other educational environments, such as within arts, heritage and culture, gaining direct experience in such settings will enable you to explore your options.
There is more specific information about finding school-based experience in our dedicated Teaching Career Guide, but below are some examples of education-related roles that the Volunteering Team have previously advertised and recruited to. These include:
- Reading Project Volunteer within a local primary school – each academic year the Careers and Employability Service work with a range of local primary schools to deliver the Reading Project scheme, working with school children in Years 2 to 6 to assist them with their reading and literacy skills.
- Education Support Volunteer with the National Museum of the Royal Navy – assisting with the delivery of sessions to schools, including colleges and universities, with outreach sessions within school assemblies and classroom presentations.
- School/College Volunteer Support Worker with Motiv8 – working alongside staff to deliver an alternative programme of educational activities to young people from a range of schools, focusing on teamwork and communication skills.
Tips for success when looking for experience
Use your networks
Utilise your personal networks to find out if anyone you already know working in different sectors who can offer a work experience opportunity. When you are studying at university your network also extends to your tutors and other members of Faculty staff who may be researching in the areas that interest you. They may have opportunities or contacts they are willing to share with you.
Use your initiative and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively – send a targeted CV and a covering letter focused on why you are interested in working with them and why they should be interested in you as a candidate.
Making the most of your experience
Once you have secured your experience, it will be important to recognise that you will be working in a professional environment – your appearance and attitude will need to reflect this. Importantly, let your enthusiasm for the opportunity shine through and aim to get involved – a positive, ‘can do’ attitude will help you to stand out.
Many of the professional roles involving work with children, young people and their families involve being a reflective practitioner. Therefore, taking the time and opportunity to reflect upon your experience will be important. Consider keeping a reflective log and address the following questions:
- What did I learn from the experience?
- What went well?
- What could I have done differently?
- What are the longer-term implications of my experience?
- Has this helped me to explore my options?
- What are my next steps?
By keeping this log you will also start to build an evidence bank of examples of good practice – implementing particular skills – which can be used in future applications and/or interviews.
Before you leave your work experience
- Ask if the organisation/your manager will write you a reference to use for future applications.
- Ensure you have the contact details of colleagues who may act as mentors, sources of advice or may even help with finding employment opportunities in the future.
- Ask for feedback on your performance – this may include seeking your manager’s or colleagues’ perspective on what you need to do to further enhance your employability in order to be successful in your chosen area of work.
Make sure you have clearly identified what you have gained from the work experience in terms of skills, experience and personal development. You could complete our Key Skills Audit to help you think about the different skill sets you have developed, for example, when you have worked with others, problem solving skills and work ready skills.
Finding a job
Graduates wanting to work with children and young people enter a variety of sectors with a range of employers including local authorities, local and national charities, state and independent schools, nurseries and health authorities. Sure Start Children’s Centres and the National Health Service (NHS) also offer positions which may be related.
Useful websites to help you start your job search
- MyCareer –can be accessed through the Careers and Employability Service website to search the latest vacancies, save job searches and set up job alerts across sectors.
- LG Jobs – Local Government Jobs advertises roles across the public sector, including in care and social work, community work, criminal justice, educational services, housing and youth work.
- CharityJob – includes a job search function for roles across the third sector, including advice, information, advocacy, care management, social work and teaching.
- Third Sector – a leading publication outlining the latest news and developments in the voluntary and not-for-profit sector. The site includes the opportunity to browse jobs by sector, including children and youth, community and social care.
Finding a job in Early Years
- Day Nurseries – provides information about different nurseries across the UK and has a job search function available.
- EduStaff – outlines job vacancies across different levels of education, but has a specific search option for EYFS positions.
Finding a job in youth and community work
- YMCA – YMCAs across England and Wales employ staff who contribute to improving prospects for vulnerable young people and wider communities. The site outlines current job opportunities.
- National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders – NACRO works with young people and young adults across housing, education, health, justice, support and advice. The site outlines current opportunities with NACRO and promotes roles with other organisations in the sector.
- Youth Custody Service – A fast-track programme to become a Youth Justice Worker Specialist, delivered by the HM Prison & Probation Service.
- jobsgopublic – allows you to find public sector jobs in local government, charity, education and housing, including specific youth work vacancies.
Finding a job in health and social care
Jobs with the NHS are generally advertised through NHS Jobs and NHS Trust websites, whereas jobs in independent healthcare are normally advertised on company websites or via specialist recruitment vacancies.
If you are interested in management positions within the NHS, then the NHS offers a Graduate Management Training Scheme.
Other opportunities can be found through the websites below:
- Community Care Jobs –an online source of social care jobs, including roles with children and young people, within youth justice, linked to mental health or to health more broadly.
- Step Up to Social Work – the information provided through the GOV.UK website explains what qualifications and experience you need to apply for this intensive full-time training programme, which covers everything trainee social workers need to know in 14 months.
- Frontline – is a charity offering a programme to high potential graduates and career changers to become front line children's social workers as part of their two-year leadership programme. Visit the site for further information.
- Graduate Entry Training Scheme (GETS) with Hampshire County Council – offers newly qualified social workers the opportunity to accelerate their learning and experience in a local authority. Their GETS scheme is unique to Hampshire County Council and provides an insight into the structure and practice of the service provider. Support is through the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment, ensuring employees develop a foundation in the necessary skills and confidence for their role.
Finding a job in teaching and education
Vacancies within schools are likely to be advertised through the institutions themselves or through the local education authority (LEA). Alternatively, you may find jobs advertised through:
If you are looking to get into higher education – working for universities – or further education – working for colleges – they commonly use their own websites to advertise vacancies, however, there are specific recruitment websites, including:
There is further information about how to develop your career in teaching through our specific career guide on teaching.
Tips for finding a job
Keep your online job search flexible as some employers might use different titles to describe the same role.
Keep up to date with news and trends across relevant sectors by following professional organisations on social media – this information might help you to identify opportunities to network and tap into the hidden job market.
Useful Twitter feeds
Check out the following Twitter feeds for news and information about current projects and to tap into the hidden jobs market.
The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:
- Career options
- Further study
- CV and covering letters
- Application forms
- Job search
We have an online jobs board advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy that delivers a personalised job matching service.
You can also access our services by calling or emailing us:
Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone us: +44 (0)2392 842684