Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Journal of Applied Youth Studies




School of Arts and Humanities




Open Access funding enabled and organized by CAUL and its Member Institutions


Sutcliffe, J., & Cooper, T. (2023). Meaningful youth work careers: Assumptions, misconceptions, and realities. Journal of Applied Youth Studies. Advance online publication.


The existing literature pertaining to youth work as a career is sparse, limited, and outdated, with the literature that does exist representing a largely negative image of youth work as a career. What then of those who have had a long-term career in youth work? The authors use a recent phenomenological research study to question assumptions and identify misconceptions about youth work as a career, and to discuss the findings from this research to provide a more realistic and contemporary understanding of long-term youth work careers. The phenomenological study discussed in this paper interviewed ten degree-qualified youth workers in Western Australia who had experienced careers in youth work spanning over twenty years. The authors will discuss the disparity between the findings from this research with existing literature, including characteristics of continuous employment; sustainability through supportive connections; longevity through leadership opportunities; and a diverse fusion of opportunities, variety, and flexibility in roles undertaken. These characteristics were found to support career longevity in youth work, culminating in a provisional model of the youth work career. This article provides insight into youth work career longevity and invites further conversation and research to further explore if the research conducted is transferable to different contexts both nationally and internationally.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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