Juvenile & Correctional Counselor
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In 2019 approximately 696,000 youth under the age of 18 were arrested in the US, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The primary crimes committed were property crimes, assault, drug abuse, and theft. Since 1993 the number of juvenile arrests has been on a steady decline primarily due to prevention systems aimed at helping troubled youth before they offend or change behavior before committing crimes that require incarceration.
Juvenile and correctional counselors are essential in helping delinquent youth change their behavior and avoid future arrests or incarceration. These specialized counselors work primarily in juvenile detention centers, although some work in social service programs with delinquent youth who have been incarcerated. It should be noted that juvenile and correctional counselors are not licensed, mental health counselors.
Juvenile and correctional counselors typically have either a certificate, associate, or bachelor’s degree in juvenile corrections, criminal justice, social work, or related field. Often juvenile and correctional counselors must complete state-required training in corrections and juvenile offenders.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2020), juvenile and correctional counselors are classified as probation officers and correctional treatment specialists. On average, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earn $58,790 per year. Openings in this career are projected to grow 4 percent nationally between 2019 and 2029, which is on par with the expected average for all jobs. However, the BLS projects that counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists will grow 14 percent in the same decade. Many juvenile and correctional counselors can fall into that category, particularly if working in social services rather than at a detention center.
There are many ways to become a juvenile and correctional counselor and make a difference in delinquent youth’s lives. Continue reading to learn about the necessary education, training, certification, and licensing.
How to Become a Juvenile & Correctional Counselor
Education & Training to Become a Juvenile & Correctional Counselor
While professionals who work with delinquent youth are often called juvenile and correctional counselors, they are not licensed mental health therapists. However, they do provide many similar services to their clients, such as meeting one on one with youth to determine long-term goals, setting goals, teaching skills to reach those goals, and assisting with accessing social services.
Education requirements for juvenile and correctional counselors vary based on state and employer requirements. At a minimum, aspiring juvenile and correctional counselors must graduate from high school to obtain a GED. Not only does this demonstrate a minimum level of education, but it also shows dedication in completing a course of study.
Aspiring professionals with a diploma or GED can complete a one-year certificate or two-year associate’s degree in juvenile corrections. These programs are offered at community and junior colleges across the country.
For example, Central Oregon Community College has a one-year certificate in juvenile corrections that prepares participants for work with juvenile offenders. Students can complete the certificate or continue for an additional year to earn an associate’s degree. Required coursework includes youth and addictions, a survey of the criminal justice system, and an introduction to criminology. Students must also complete a supervised work experience.
Many juvenile and correctional counselors go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work, psychology, behavioral sciences, criminal justice, or a related field. Students should focus on classes that help them gain the skills necessary to work with youth offenders, including psychology, child development, sociology, and education.
One such program is offered at Bellevue University in Bellevue, Nebraska. Students can complete an online bachelor’s of science in child protection and juvenile justice where they will learn to work with at-risk youth who are facing addiction, poverty, abuse, mental illness, or other issues.
Before working in juvenile corrections, most states require professionals to complete a training course. These programs vary in length and intensity and can be paid or unpaid. In California, for example, juvenile and correctional counselors must complete a Standards and Training for Corrections (STC) Juvenile Corrections Officer Core Course. Upon completion of the 160-hour course, students must pass a proficiency exam.
Supervised Hour Requirements for Juvenile & Correctional Counselors
Many counseling certifications and licenses require candidates to complete supervised work experience. Juvenile and correctional counselors typically do not have to have a set number of supervised work hours to work in this field. However, requirements vary by state and employer, so candidates should check with their local board to ensure they meet the requirements.
Students who complete a course in juvenile justice will often be required to complete supervised work experience as part of their graduation requirements. At Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon, students in the associate’s in applied science (AAS) in juvenile justice degree program are required to complete three quarter-credits in a cooperative work experience. The college helps place students with agencies for on-the-job training. This provides students with unique insight into the profession while still completing their studies, as well as gaining hands-on experience that can help secure employment upon completion of the program.
To become an American Correctional Association (ACA) certified Certified Corrections Officers/Juvenile (CCO/JUV), applicants must have at least one year of work experience as a corrections officer. This voluntary certification demonstrates competency in this field and can help with advancement opportunities or in securing employment.
Licensure and Certification for Juvenile & Correctional Counselors
The primary certification juvenile and correctional counselors earn is the American Correctional Association (ACA) Certified Corrections Officers/Juvenile (CCO/JUV) certificate. To be eligible for this certification, candidates must have a high school diploma or GED. Candidates must submit an application for certification along with an application fee. The fee for the exam is $150 for ACA members or $190 for non-members.
Once the application is approved, candidates will be able to sit for the certification exam. The exam consists of 200 multiple choice questions and must be completed in four hours. Candidates must pass the exam with at least 70 percent or higher to earn the CCO/JUV certification. A score of 90 percent or higher earns the candidate an honors credential.
Licensing requirements for juvenile and correctional counselors vary by state. Some states require juvenile and correctional counselors to be peace officers and pass the required training. Nearly all employers and states require juvenile corrections officers to have CPR and first aid certification as well as pass a background and drug test. In some states, candidates must pass a fitness test and a medical exam to ensure they are physically fit to perform the required job duties.
Depending on the job or state requirements, candidates may be required to pass a psychological test as well to determine if they are mentally and emotionally capable of providing services to delinquent youth. Candidates must also meet minimum age requirements, which is at least 21 years of age for many states.
The requirements to become a youth correctional officer in the state of California are:
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Be 21 years old
- Pass a background check
- Be able to carry a firearm
- Pass a medical exam
- Pass a drug test
- Participate in a residential training program at the Basic Correctional Juvenile Academy
- Be a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident
What Do Juvenile & Correctional Counselors Do?
Juvenile and correctional counselors work primarily in state or local juvenile detention centers. However, a few are employed in social services assisting youth before entering or after leaving a detention center. Day to day duties can include:
- Meeting with juvenile offenders and their families to determine needs and goals
- Evaluating the client’s mental health with the use of psychological tests and questionnaires
- Counseling clients on behavior changes to help meet their goals
- Providing referrals to psychological, health, and social services
- Facilitating group counseling sessions
- Assisting clients with the transition to life outside of detention
- Writing reports on client progress and mental health for prosecutors and judges
- Making recommendations on treatment, sentencing, and release of clients
- Maintaining client records
How Much Do Juvenile & Correctional Counselors Make?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies juvenile and correctional counselors as probation officers and correctional treatment specialists. Here are the number of professionals in this field and the percentages for wages based on the BLS data from May 2019.
- Number employed in the US: 87,660
- Average annual salary (mean): $58,790
- 10th percentile: $34,630
- 25th percentile: $41,950
- 50th percentile (median): $53,020
- 75th percentile: $71,240
- 90th percentile: $94,770
According to BLS projections, jobs for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists are anticipated to grow four percent between 2019 and 2029. This is on par with the national average job growth for all jobs.
Juvenile & Correctional Counselor Professional Associations & Resources
- American Correctional Association
- Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
- National Training and Technical Assistance Center
- National Partnership For Juvenile Services
- Federal Bureau of Prisons
- The American Jail Association (AJA)
- Correctional Peace Officers Foundation
- United States Department of Justice
- Corrections USA
- American Correctional Association
- Federal Bureau of Prisons
- American Probation and Parole Association
- Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association
- National Institute of Corrections