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Clark University - Youth Work Practice Certificate

Youth Work Practice Certificate

Clark University's Professional Certificate in Youth Work Practice is committed to building the field of youth work by integrating foundational and cutting-edge youth development theories with authentic youth work practice in the professional education of youth workers. Local youth workers co-created this program and the curriculum.

The Youth Work Practice Certificate is open to anyone who is currently employed in youth work or aspires to be, including current Clark master's degree and PhD students, as well as practitioners in the Worcester community and around the country.

View the Youth Work Practice Certificate Brochure »

What is Youth Work?

Youth work is about building trust-filled, mutually respectful relationships with young people and helping them to develop knowledge, skills, and a sense of purpose. Whether leading a youth development organization, managing youth programs, or working at the frontlines with young people, youth workers put the health and happiness of young people at the center of their efforts.

Course of Study

Clark University - Youth Work Practice Certificate

Designed for aspiring, novice, and expert youth workers, the program consists of six core courses that can be completed at whatever pace is easiest for the student, from a full-time schedule in just two semesters, to a more flexible part-time program.

Students will learn to:

  • Identify and analyze community forces that positively and negatively affect young people and how to apply this analysis to youth work
  • Appraise and respond to complex and ambiguous youth work problems and to think and act on one’s feet
  • Involve young people in their own analysis of oppressive systems
  • Develop, run, manage, evaluate, and fund theoretically grounded youth development programs and organizations
  • Network with other youth development professionals and share resources

Our teaching and learning approach encourages reflection, empowerment, and development of a professional collective identity. The program has been co-created with Worcester youth workers, and emphasizes the value of community discussion and collaboration between novice and expert practitioners; novices develop the language, practices, and identity associated with the field by working alongside experts, while experts’ learning deepens in their role as informal mentor to the novices and through collaboration with other experts.

Required Courses

Clark University - Youth Work Practice Certificate

Completion of the certificate requires 2.5 units of required, core coursework:

IDCE 340: Fundamentals of Youth Work 
(1 Unit/Course, can be waived with two or more years of experience)

Fundamentals of Youth Work consists of 15 content-oriented sessions that include classes on youth protective factors (e.g., youth development, youth culture, positive discipline, advanced group work, and building relationships with families), classes on youth risk factors (e.g., abuse, mental health, sexual behavior, and substance abuse); sessions on program development and management (e.g., program planning based on youth and adolescent development principles; time management) and practice sessions. Each of these classes are facilitated by the instructors, and bring in youth-development professionals in Worcester as co-trainers. Additionally, we foster an environment for youth workers to feel empowered in their work, be reflective and deliberate in their practice, learn from peers, and develop strong community networks with other youth workers.

IDCE 303: Youth Work:  Everyday Practice and Social Justice
(1 Unit/Course)

This course advances the theory and practice of community-based youth work. Given the current challenges facing public schools, labor markets, and local governments, non-profit community-based youth organizations become important actors in youth development. This course focuses on six case studies about everyday dilemmas facing youth workers. It situates each dilemma into its broader context (e.g. family, peer, school, neighborhood, juvenile justice, policy, and media, etc.). Literature is used to illustrate how the cases exemplify larger social problems.

IDCE 318 Reflection and Deliberate Practice (0.5 units)

Course Description: The Reflection and Deliberate Practice seminar provides students an opportunity to develop a professional identity as a youth worker. By working through an action-reflection- theorizing- action cycle, students learn to reflect-on and reflect-in practice, ultimately increasing their effectiveness as youth work professionals.

(1 Unit/Course)

Through completion of a field placement internship with a local organization, students will earn a community-based learning credit. Along with internship requirements, students will participate in regular reflection sessions . Students who are youth workers can do their internship at their organization with permission from their advisor.

Elective Courses

Students pursuing the certificate will be able to fulfill the remaining 2.5 required units/courses by selecting from the following available electives:

  • IDCE 30225: Grant Writing
  • IDCE 30296/IDCE 30298: Non-Profit Management
  • EDUC 381: Critical Pedagogies
  • IDCE 30203: Community Program Evaluation
  • IDCE 30238: Public Communication
  • IDCE 30293: Youth and Community Development
  • IDCE 30221: Education and Development
  • PSYC 258: Seminar in Emerging Adulthood

Tuition and Aid

The tuition and fees for this certificate total $6,000.00. Financial assistance in the form of scholarships, tuition remission, partnerships, or federal aid may be available depending upon the applicant. Please contact us for additional information if you are interested in financial assistance for this certificate.

Application Information

Clark University - Youth Work Practice Certificate

Application Deadline: August 1

Students interested in pursuing the Youth Work Practice Certificate will need to submit an application to the Graduate Admissions Office. There is no fee to apply for the certificate, and a complete application includes:

The Youth Work Practice Certificate is open to students who have completed their high school diploma or equivalent, as well as students who have completed their undergraduate or graduate degrees.

Applications can be mailed to:

Graduate Admissions Office
Clark University
950 Main Street
Worcester, MA 01610-1477


If you have any questions about the Youth Work Practice Certificate, please feel free to contact us for additional information.