Employment Outlook & Career Guidance for Victim Advocates
A victim advocate is a trained professional who supports victims of crime. Their responsibilities might include:
- Providing crime prevention information
- Providing information and politics of victimization
- Furnishing information about the criminal justice system
- Helping victims plan for their safety
- Helping victims apply for compensation
- Helping victims find transportation and safe shelter
- Notifying victims when inmates are released from prison
- Helping victims write comments that will be submitted to courts or parole boards
- Providing emotional support to victims and their families
- Providing victims of all social services opportunities
Victim advocates are also sometimes referred to as:
- Victim Service Provider
- Witness or Victim Specialist
- Witness or Victim Coordinator
- Victim Care Officer
Victim Advocate Career Options
Victim advocates are gaining inroads into both larger cities, as well as suburban areas as most places now see the benefits of providing support programs to victims of crime. The 1970’s and 1980’s saw an increased development of advocacy programs, which helped to study the affect of crime on its victims. In most employment sectors, victim advocates work a full time schedule. However, because crime has no time limits, advocates are likely to be called after hours, weekends and on holidays.
As victim advocates are required to maintain confidentiality to protect the victims, they will often need an extensive background investigation completed. This is especially true if victim advocates choose to work with a government agency.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report salaries for victim advocates. However, SimplyHired, a job website, lists the average annual salary of $40,000, as of 2013. As with all jobs, demographic location, level of education, and employment sector all play a part in determining overall salary. The salary of a victim advocate may also be higher in industries where social workers are employed, as they may perform similar duties as social workers.
Typical Employment Settings for a Victim Advocate
Victim advocates work in a variety of settings. Some advocates are paid and many volunteer. Most victim advocates have degrees that prepare them to work with victims from all walks of life, and to deal with varying circumstances.
Victim advocates typically work in sectors, such as:
- The criminal justice system
- Police stations, courts
- Probation and parole departments
- Prisons and prosecutor’s offices
- Public and private nonprofit organizations
- State and federal legal offices
- Domestic violence programs
- Crisis centers
- Independent consultants
Learn more about how to become a victim advocate.
Job Growth for Victim Advocates
Fortunate for job seekers, but ultimately unfortunate for victims, job growth for victim advocates is expected to grow as opportunities arise, and offices expand their roles. In 2014, 1.1 percent of all persons over the age of 12, or nearly three million persons experience at least one victimization. In 2014, eight percent of all households, or 10.4 million households, experienced one or more property victimizations.
In 2013, there were 1,163,146 violent crimes in America. There were 345,000 robberies, 725,000 aggravated assaults, 8,633,000 property crimes, and 2,000,000 burglaries, therefore increasing the need for victim advocates in all sectors, and in all demographic areas.
Ways a Victim Advocate Can Increase Desirability as a Job Candidate and Increase His or Her Salary
Although requirements vary from state to state, most employers require aspiring victim advocates hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. To increase desirability as a job candidate in this competitive career, earning a four-year degree in criminology, and gaining knowledge in counseling and psychology is imperative.
Many employers prefer victim advocates have previous experience working with victims, which may come as a result of internships or through volunteering in law enforcement, the court system, or social work. Advocates who speak a second language may also have an advantage finding employment over those who do not, especially if employed in a culturally diverse area.
Victim advocates are not typically required to earn any specific professional credentials to practice. However, the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) offers a national credentialing program (NACP) that leads to professional credentialing. Victim advocates can apply for the basic, provisional, intermediate or advanced credential. Beyond earning a credential, another way to stand out is to explore characteristics of the criminal justice system, and more specifically, gain an advanced knowledge in advocacy issues.
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Attributes Employers Often Look For When Hiring a Victim Advocate
Victim advocates work with people from all demographic, economic, and ethic groups. As such, they must have a number of skills to successfully perform their job. These include:
- Excellent communication skills
- Counseling skills
- Problem-solving abilities
- Ability to work in demanding situations
- Ability to offer guidance
- Ability to work with tight deadlines
- IT skills
- Organization skills
Networking Opportunities and Organizations for Victim Advocates
- The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), administered by the Bureau of Justice Statistics
- A national resource for victims of crime and victim advocates – National Organization for Victim Assistance
- The National Victim Assistance Academy, which provides training for a career as a victim advocate – Office for Victims of Crime
- A resource for victim advocates and victims of crime – The National Center for Victims of Crime
- A guide to victim support, including victim advocates – Victim Support Services