If you can build good relationships with people, and you believe in the advantages of having a strong community, this job could suit you.
As a community development worker, you would help people to improve the quality of life in their local area.
In this job you would need to communicate well and be a good listener. You would need to be non-judgemental and able to get on with people from all backgrounds. You would also need to be enthusiastic and have a positive approach to solving problems.
To get into this type of work you would usually need experience in the voluntary sector or a job connected with the community - housing or social work, for example. To prepare for this job, you could do a college or university course in community development, or volunteer on local projects. For some roles you may need to get Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) clearance.
You would work closely with individuals, families and groups in socially or financially deprived areas. You would provide leadership, set goals and bring local people together to make changes and tackle social inequality, as well as helping people develop the skills to eventually run their own community groups.
Your work would typically include:
- finding out about the community's needs, problems and barriers
- making sure that local people have their say
- developing new opportunities and monitoring existing projects
- helping to raise public awareness about community issues
- encouraging local people to take action
- building links with other groups and agencies
- raising funds
- recruiting and training staff and volunteers
- planning meetings and events
- managing budgets
- mediating between groups who disagree on local issues
- doing any necessary administrative work.
You might address a wide range of issues in the community, such as improving local facilities, leisure and housing, and reducing anti-social behaviour. Alternatively, your job might be project-based to tackle one particular issue.
In a typical full-time job you would work around 37 hours a week, although part-time work is common. You should be prepared to be flexible, as you would often be expected to work occasional unsocial evening hours.
You would have an office base but would spend much of your time out and about in the community, for example visiting local people and groups, and attending meetings.
Starting salaries can be between £15,000 and £20,000 a year. With experience, salaries are usually around £20,000 to £30,000 a year.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You will need practical experience of working in the community or voluntary sector. You could get this experience in a range of ways, for example:
- volunteering in a local community group or charity
- a background in a related career such as housing, regeneration, social work, youth work or teaching.
A very common way in is to volunteer in local projects, such as community or youth groups, tenants’ associations or women’s groups. To get involved, ask around your local community or search at do-it.org to find out about opportunities in your area.
You don't need any qualifications to start as a volunteer, as you will receive some training on the job and may get the chance to take an introductory part-time college course in community work. Your experience and training as a volunteer could then help you move into paid work.
Alternatively, you could start by taking a course in community development at college or university. Part-time and full-time courses from introductory to postgraduate level are widely available all over the UK. Most courses include work placements to help you gain experience.
A foundation degree, BTEC HNC/HND or degree in community development may give you an advantage when looking for paid work. To get on to some courses you may need A levels or an Access to Higher Education qualification. You may also be accepted without the usual qualifications, as long as you have relevant experience and the potential to succeed on the course.
For any job where you would be working or volunteering with children or vulnerable adults, you will need to pass background checks from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
- Disclosure and Barring Service (Home Office website)
Training and development
Your employer will provide you with some initial training when you start, followed by ongoing in-service training to help you develop in areas such as project management or managing volunteers.
You may get the chance to work towards recognised qualifications, such as:
- National Open College Network (NOCN) L1 and 2 Faith Community Development and NOCN L2 and 3 Governance and the Voluntary and Community Sector
- Higher-level qualifications including City & Guilds Higher Level Professional Diploma (Level 4) or BA degrees in Community Development.
With experience, you could study part-time for a postgraduate qualification in community development work or a related area. This may give you an advantage when applying for senior positions.
Projects, communities and issues vary so much that you will constantly need to update your skills and develop new areas of knowledge throughout your career.
Many organisations for community development and social inclusion (such as Federation for Community Development Learning and Community Development Exchange) run short courses, research projects, seminars and conferences.
These can all help your professional development and provide networking opportunities.
Skills, interests and qualities
To be a community development worker you should have:
- the ability to build good relationships and earn people’s trust and respect
- excellent communication and listening skills
- the ability to relate to people from all backgrounds
- a tactful and sensitive approach
- patience and perseverance, for coping with challenges and setbacks
- a non-judgemental attitude
- initiative, enthusiasm and motivation
- a creative approach to problem solving
- good organisation, planning and administrative skills
- skills in researching, analysing statistics and writing reports
- a good understanding of social and community issues
- commitment to equality and diversity.
Community Development Exchange
Homes and Communities Agency
Volunteer Now (Northern Ireland)
You could find work with local authorities, housing associations, NHS primary care trusts, and a huge range of charities and voluntary sector organisations.
Many jobs are fixed-term contracts that depend on available funding. Jobs may be advertised in the local and national press, voluntary sector recruitment agencies and on employers' websites.
For career development, you could choose to specialise in a particular issue, or to broaden your experience and work with different issues or groups. Alternatively, you could move into management or policy making. Freelance work as a trainer or consultant is also possible.
Related industry information
The community learning and development industry is part of the lifelong learning sector, represented by Lifelong Learning UK Sector Skills Council, which also includes: further education; higher education; libraries, archives and information services; and work‐based learning. The sector as a whole currently employs over 1.2 million people in a range of educational institutions, as well as public and private sector organisations.
The community learning and development industry comprises staff working in community based settings, in for example: community based adult learning; community development; community education; development education; family learning; working with parents; and youth work. Much of the activity in the industry is voluntary.
- There are 334,041 people working in the community learning and development industry across the UK.
- In England, 7% of the workforce is employed full‐time, 45% are seasonal/hourly paid, and 40% work part‐time.
- In England, 91% of the workforce described ‘teaching’ as their main activity.
Jobs in the industry include: community development worker, community education officer, youth worker, youth support worker, youth work manager, family learning practitioners; parenting practitioners.