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BA (Honours) Youth Work

There are few things more important or rewarding than making a positive difference to the lives of young people. This degree will help you develop the knowledge and skills needed for a dynamic career in youth work, and with the fast pace of change in the sector, it's an exciting time to get involved - whether you plan to work in statutory or voluntary settings. The BA (Hons) Youth Work is a professional qualification recognised across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Designed to support young people's personal and social development, it's ideal if you work with young people in informal settings, or if you have an informal educational role in a formal environment. You can also achieve intermediate qualifications - a certificate and a foundation degree - while progressing through this degree course and you'll be well prepared to engage with further research, study, enquiry and practice where knowledge of working with young people is required.

Study Mode

Online Education, Distance Learning & External study modes available

Key facts

Code: Q55 Made up of: 360 credits

On entry to the qualification you must be a current practitioner in the field or be prepared to obtain relevant work experience early on in your studies - which you'll need to verify - the minimum level of work experience required is one session (2-3 hours) per week for six months in the last three years. You are also required to be living in the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, the Republic of Ireland or have a British Forces Post Office (BFPO) address outside the UK.

For the work-based modules, you'll need to be working directly with young people for a minimum of five hours a week in an informal education setting, in either a paid or voluntary capacity (this increases to six hours a week for the third work-based module). You'll also need to identify work-based learning support from appropriately qualified individuals in your organisation.

Note: anyone working with young people needs to meet the 'fit person' criteria, which includes criminal record clearance for the country in which you're working.

Fees: Our fees depend on where you are ordinarily resident. We have a range of funding options to help you with payment. When you apply to study we will tell you the fee and funding options that are available to you. Before you apply you can read What you can expect to pay.

Career relevance and employability

Youth workers engage with young people in a wide range of roles and settings, including in youth services, in voluntary and community organisations, in schools and colleges, and in youth participation projects. The BA (Hons) Youth Work includes work-based learning at each level of study, and is mapped to the National Occupational Standards for Youth Work. It is recognised as a professional youth work qualification by the National Youth Agency (NYA) on behalf of the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) for England; the ETS Advisory Committee for Wales; the Standards Council for CLD for Scotland; and the North/South Education and Training Standards Committee for Youth Work in Ireland.

This degree course will develop your skills across the National Occupational Standards for Youth Work, including:

  • assessing young people's needs
  • working with young people in groups
  • designing learning activities
  • planning and evaluating projects
  • working in teams and in community-based organisations.

There's more information about how OU study can improve your employability in the OU's Employability Statement from our Careers Advisory Service. You can also read or download our publication OU study and your career and look at our subject pages to find out about career opportunities.

Educational aims

This degree is suitable for experienced practitioners working directly with young people (aged 13-19 years) in informal settings or with informal educational roles in a formal environment. It will provide knowledge and skills required for working with young people, give professionally recognised status (subject to validation) and will also prepare you to engage with further research, study, enquiry and practice where knowledge of working with young people is required.

Through your study you will:

  • develop a systematic and critical understanding of the application of theoretical, practice and research knowledge and skills in relation to working with young people in diverse and multi-agency settings
  • develop as a reflective practitioner who is able to develop, interrogate and evaluate ethical practice within the framework of professional principles, purposes and values that applies to professional practice with young people.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

On completion of this degree, you will:

  • have a systematic and critical understanding of the key ideas, theoretical debates, issues and policies relating to informal education work with young people
  • have a critical understanding of the principle methods and approaches used in work with young people and leadership, and management of that work
  • understand the principles, purposes, values and ethical issues affecting work with young people and the tensions that arise within practice
  • understand the contested and changing nature of practice and the changing and diverse experience of young people.

Cognitive skills

On completion of the degree you will be able to:

  • critically assess and evaluate different approaches to the study of work with young people, reflecting on the dynamic two-way relationship between theory and practice
  • synthesise and critically evaluate research literature and carry out a piece of personal research utilising appropriate methods and showing awareness of their limitations
  • critically engage with the social issues that affect young people and exercise informed judgement in relation to them.

Practical and/or professional skills

On completion of the degree you will be able to:

  • operate as a reflective practitioner working with young people, recognising and managing complex situations and applying ethical principles and anti-oppressive practice as appropriate
  • design, lead, implement and evaluate activities, programmes and projects that support young peoples' development and learning
  • critically apply the research, analytical and evaluative skills needed for effective practice and the promotion of equality across working with young people
  • work in partnership and in teams, ensuring an environment that values other professionals and supports the development of self and colleagues.

Key skills

On completion of the degree you will be able to:

  • communicate complex information, arguments and ideas effectively and appropriately, using diverse media and to diverse audiences
  • find, critically evaluate and use information or data accurately in complex contexts
  • select and use ICT tools to improve your learning and contribute to your community of practice
  • as an independent leaner, plan, monitor and evaluate your learning and seek ways to improve your performance.

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