Getting a job in the social, community and youth sector

Graduate careers in the social, community and youth sector: getting a job, applications, working life and salaries.

How to get a job in the social, community and youth sector

Within the community and youth sector, a lot of people volunteer initially: sometimes they were involved in a particular organisation when they were growing up. It is usually very competitive to get paid employment in this sector and graduate training programmes are not at all common.

Within social work/social care, the career path is more straightforward, as state agencies advertise their vacancies formally. Although they are unlikely to have a formal graduate training programme, they regularly hire graduates.

Different areas of work

The main areas within social care/social work are:

  • Mental health initiatives
  • Probationary services
  • People with learning and physical disabilities
  • Issues relating to the elderly
  • School truancy
  • Adoption and fostering
  • Housing.

Because of the nature of the community and youth sector people typically have to be quite flexible and to be prepared to ‘turn their hand’ to a range of duties. The main roles would be:

  • Running community development programmes
  • Delivering training seminars
  • Evaluating programmes and submitting proposals for funding
  • Training-in voluntary staff
  • General administrative duties including working within a very tight budget.

Some private organisations have corporate social responsibility programmes: this is one of the few areas where the private sector has contact with the community sector.

The application process

Social work jobs will usually be advertised formally within the press; application forms are sometimes used but CVs are more common.

Within the community and youth sector, the best method of application is to send a CV direct to the organisation. Assessment centres are almost unheard of in this sector. Some jobs will be formally advertised. There might be quite a large panel interview as there are often a number of different stakeholders, eg the board of management.

When to apply

There is ongoing continuous recruitment in this sector, with no particular time frame for applications.

Qualifications and skillls required to work in the social, community and youth sector

To become a registered social worker in the Republic of Ireland, you must have one of the CORU-approved qualifications in social work. (See for details of recognised courses.) A similar qualification exists in Northern Ireland (

Formal qualifications relating to youth work, teaching, group facilitation, training etc are all beneficial to working in the youth and community sector.

The key skills required to work in these fields are interpersonal skills: being able to communicate and empathise in often stressful situations; being resilient and very committed; having a mature and balanced approach. On the administrative side there is often a heavy workload so administrative skills are important: excellent attention to detail, financial awareness and budgetary skills are very advantageous, particularly in the community sector.

Opportunities for professional development

Within social care there are usually professional training courses run centrally: there is a constant need to update skills as the social care issues change on an ongoing basis. As funding is always tight in the community and youth sector, training can be hard to get but there are initiatives to access training such as Business in the Community. The training is less likely to be a professional qualification and more likely to be once-off on a given topic such as group work or team building.

Working life

Working in social care can involve both traditional and shift work requirements in certain areas. There is often local travel involved and the work can be emotionally demanding.

Within the community and youth sector, the working environment is typically quite casual: it is usually not a rigid office environment. However, flexible hours will be required including evenings and weekends. Funding is always tight and this affects pay rates, benefits etc.