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Becoming a Juvenile Counselor

What It Means to Be a Juvenile Counselor
Required Qualifications
Frequently Asked Questions About Being a Juvenile Counselor
Spread the Word

What It Means to Be a Juvenile Counselor

Juvenile Counselors supervise detained youth in their daily activities in a secure detention facility. Youth are in custody and are waiting processing of their cases in either the Family or criminal court system. Juvenile Counselors guide youth through a broad array of activities including school, meals, chores, wake-up and bedtime routines, family visits, escort to appointments, recreation and other programmatic events. Juvenile Counselors are the chief staff responsible for the well-being of youth in Secure Detention.

As a Juvenile Counselor you will:

  • Be assigned to a team of professionals working directly with youth on a housing unit.
  • Provide constant supervision of all individual and group activities while being cognizant of where all residents are and what they are doing.
  • Assist with teaching a variety of pro-social, academic and vocational skills to residents.
  • Provide counseling to residents both individually and in groups surrounding facility rules, regulations and guidelines.
  • Assist in the preservation of safety and security by performing daily contraband searches of individual residents and facility searches.
  • Observe residents for changes in mood and behavior and consistently counsel youth while reporting and documenting any serious concerns.
  • Provide a range of crisis intervention methods including verbal de-escalation skills and safe physical restraint.
  • Help and encourage residents to behave positively by assessing and evaluating them using a behavior management/reward system.
  • Work as an integral part of an interdisciplinary team that meets regularly to plan for and structure a healthy environment for residents.
  • Mentor residents within a group setting and helps them develop positive plans and goals. 

Required Qualifications

  • A baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university; or
  • An associate degree from an accredited college or university, or completion of 60 semester credits of study at an accredited college or university, plus two years of full-time satisfactory experience working directly with youths (ages 10-18) or developmentally disabled adults or adolescents (ages 10 or up) in a group, community, educational, or institutional setting; or
  • A four-year high school diploma or its educational equivalent, plus four years of full-time satisfactory experience as described in “2” above; or
  • A satisfactory combination of education and/or experience that is equivalent to ‘1,” “2,” or ‘3” above. Experience may be substituted for education on the basis that one year of full-time satisfactory experience as described in “2” above is equated to 30 college semester credits. However, all candidates must possess a four-year high school diploma or its educational equivalent.

Frequently Asked Questions About Being a Juvenile Counselor

What kind of training will I receive?

As a new Juvenile Counselor, you’ll receive a combination of classroom and hands-on mentoring experience/training for a total of three months. At the start of your training, you will be paired with a seasoned Juvenile Counselor currently working in secure detention who will mentor and coach you through the first three months of your employment. You will also receive classroom training from members of the James Satterwhite Training Academy to bolster your knowledge of juvenile justice youth and give you the tools you need to successfully work with a high needs teen-age population.

What is a typical day like?

It really depends on what tour you are assigned to. Given that secure detention operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you can be assigned to the AM Tour from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., the PM Tour from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. or the Night Tour from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.  Your day would follow the typical day of a youth in Detention. If not scheduled for court, the youth would wake up, shower, be escorted to the cafeteria for breakfast, then go to school, break for lunch, return to school, attend after-school activities, complete homework, have dinner, attend evening recreation, shower, relax and go to bed. All the time, Juvenile Counselors would be supervising a group of youth in all of those activities. There can be up to 14 youth in a group and we try and maintain a 6:1 youth to staff ratio.

Am I sitting at a desk? 

While there are staff desks located on each youth living unit, this is not a sit-behind-a-desk-job. It is mostly a job that requires regular interaction with youth.  Whether you are inside a classroom, counseling a youth, leading an activity in the gymnasium, or escorting a youth for their medication, just to name a few things you might typically do – the majority of a Juvenile Counselor’s time is not spent behind a desk.

Do I have to work weekends and holidays?

Yes, most Juvenile Counselors, especially new Juvenile Counselors, work weekends and holidays.  As a result, Juvenile Counselors get every third Sunday off in addition to their off days of Monday/Tuesday or Wednesday/Thursday or Friday/Saturday. Days off and tours are generally assigned by seniority.

Is there overtime?

There is sometimes mandatory overtime in Detention. If someone calls in from the shift after yours, you may have to work a second shift.

What about emergencies?

All staff working in juvenile detention are trained in crisis intervention. When additional assistance is needed, Juvenile Counselors generally call for assistance from Special Officer Staff, who are in charge of security for the facility, and an array of supervisors. There are always folks who respond and Juvenile Counselors never work alone.

What are the opportunities for further advancement?

Promotional opportunities to supervisory positions and the opportunity to work in other parts of the juvenile justice continuum beyond Detention are a possibility.


The staring salary for a Juvenile Counselor is $37,492. After two years, you automatically receive a base salary increase of $43,116. There are also frequent overtime earnings and a night differential for working hours between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.


Juvenile Counselors receive the same benefits as other ACS employees. Learn more


Begin the application process by signing up to take the Juvenile Counselor Civil Service Exam. Interested candidates are able to take the exam through June 29, 2016.

Spread the Word

Download the Juvenile Counselor Recruitment Poster