Community workers help those who are marginalised and excluded from society to change their situation and tackle the problems that face their community. They sometimes work with communities as a whole, but they may also focus on specific groups, such as women and travellers. Community workers operate in teams, liaising closely with the police, social workers, teachers, local authorities, probation officers and other agencies. They represent the voices and needs of target groups and disadvantaged communities to policy makers at local and national level. Their typical responsibilities include:
- working with community groups providing a range of activities
- identifying and building on communities’ assets and capacities
- helping communities to share knowledge and resources effectively
- setting up new services by liaison with interested groups
- recruiting and training paid and voluntary staff
- attending meetings and presenting verbal and written reports
- managing finance and payroll
- making funding applications
- facilitating self-help in the community
Local travel can be a regular feature of the job, although overseas travel is rare. Overseas work is possible however with organisations such as Goal.
The job of a community worker can require regular unsocial hours including evenings and weekends. Community workers operate mainly in disadvantaged communities within inner-city areas, rural areas and small towns.
Community work organisations and agencies include:
- community development projects
- local urban and rural development groups
- organisations concerned with particular groups (women, travellers, new communities) or issues (unemployment, migrant rights, drugs, poverty)
Career development in community work can be somewhat limited as promotion usually depends on staffing levels.
Entry into the profession is possible for both university graduates and school leavers, although a recognised qualification in community development work (such as undergraduate certificates/diplomas or primary degrees, or postgraduate/higher diplomas or masters degrees) may be beneficial.
While opportunities are open to graduates from all disciplines, those with appropriate degrees are more likely to be accepted onto a postgraduate programme. Relevant subjects include:
- social sciences
- social or public administration
- political science
- social work
- town planning
Applicants for postgraduate programmes will normally need to have experience of working with communities, neighbourhood groups, youth organisations or other similar groups.
Newly-qualified community workers will normally train on the job with the support of experienced colleagues and continuing professional development will be made available through a range of courses, seminars and conferences.
In line with national provisions for the protection of children and vulnerable adults, applicants for jobs and training programmes will normally be required to undergo checks with the Criminal Records Bureau.
To find out about other public sector careers available to school leavers, see the public sector section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.
- Ability to relate to people from a wide range of backgrounds and to engage with target groups
- In-depth understanding of related policies
- Excellent written and oral communication skills including report writing
- Commitment and enthusiasm
- Good leadership, motivational and organisational skills
- Capable of working both on own initiative and as part of a team
- Sincerity, patience, tact and the ability to earn the trust of others
- Excellent listening skills and confidence in talking to people both in groups and on a one-to-one basis