How to Become an Advocate
If you’re planning to pursue a career as an Advocate, then keep on reading. This guide contains information about educational requirements, what it’s like to be an Advocate, the median salary and more.
What Does an Advocate Do?
An Advocate, in general, is a person who speaks on behalf of someone else to ensure that person is receiving the rights, benefits or care they deserve. Common Advocate roles include Victim Advocate, Youth Advocate, Patient Advocate and Customer Advocate.
Some common Advocate duties and responsibilities include:
- Becoming a confidante for a client and keeping their information confidential
- Contacting and supporting victims and their families
- Providing crisis intervention for victims
- Educating caregivers about sexual or physical abuse
- Performing safety assessments
Advocates should be very understanding and non-judgmental, as well as excellent communicators. Professionals in this field must also be very trustworthy, as many victims will find it very hard to trust anyone after their ordeals. Because they often face the details and see the aftermaths of crimes, Advocates should also be emotionally strong individuals themselves. Although Advocates should usually work to keep the best interests of the victims in mind, they should also keep their own interests and health in mind as well. They should, for example, know when to stop and recuperate emotionally, in order to keep doing their jobs.
Other key Advocate skills include:
- Ability to work as team player
- Ability to work in cooperation with counterparts in other agencies
- Having knowledge of the dynamics of families where abuse and/or neglect is occurring
- Knowledge of the stages of child development
- Great communication skills
How Do You Become an Advocate?
Education and Training
You don’t need any formal training to become an Advocate, although a master’s of social work (MSW) will increase your range in your job search and your salary. It also helps to be knowledgeable in applicable areas of the law.
Finding a Job
Demand for Advocates is increasing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 11 percent growth for the position through 2024, amounting to a total of 12,000 openings for Advocates. Given this projected growth, aspiring Advocates are likely to find many job opportunities in the public and personal sections, such as in the social and human services.
Any successful job search begins with crafting a high-quality resume that highlights your skills and experience. For guidance on creating a resume, take a look at JobHero’s library of Advocate Job resumes.
Once your resume is complete, search online for job opportunities. As you look for Advocate openings, be sure to make the most of your professional network, including people you met while advocating.
When applying for jobs, write a cover letter that expresses your interest in the position and highlights your qualifications and what you would bring to the role. Take a look at our cover letter samples for inspiration.
Insights from an Advocate
In order to get an inside look at how to become an Advocate, we talked to Melanie Lynn Carlson, who has a MSW and is the founder of Sheltering Life. Here’s what she had to tell us.
What Do Advocates Do?
A lot of people I know started their journey as an Advocate by getting involved in causes they believe in. This can be through volunteering in the community or joining a group that has an advocacy component. Then these budding Advocates realize that they can make advocacy their life’s work and go to school for social work or other closely aligned fields of study.
What Should Someone Consider Before Becoming an Advocate
There are a lot of ways and means to be an Advocate and your interests may change, but advocacy skills can be transferable between different content areas. I think a lot of people get involved in advocacy to “change the world” and they need to hone in on how to define the problem and be able to establish measurable and specific changes you’d like to implement. I think realizing that it does take many people working together to make change and no Advocate works in a vacuum, therefore you need to be able to garner input from the community involved, effectively collaborate and build coalitions.
What type of person excels in this job?
I have seen a variety of working styles that are effective in this field. I would say you need to be inquisitive, passionate, and smart with an ability to clock out sometimes and just enjoy life.
What are some of the most important skills for an Advocate to have?
I think an outsider assumes that Advocates operate on an emotional level, yet analytical, research and collaborative skills are very important. You have to be dedicated to your cause, but also strategic in how you try to enact change. You have to think about your issue on an individual, family, community and political level, in order to maximize your effectiveness.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being an Advocate?
I look forward to work all of the time, but also see ways in which this field can improve. I get personal satisfaction from helping others and love all the teams I’ve worked with. Also, I never have to compromise my core values in order to get a paycheck, which is rare in our economy. My personal experience as an Advocate has enriched my life, as I’ve learned so much from clients and colleagues on how to help others. Advocacy will be my life’s work and I’m looking forward to the rest of the journey.
How Much Do Advocates Get Paid?
Advocates are typically paid on a salary basis. The median annual salary in the United States is $33,634.
Top 10 States for Advocate Salary
Advocates in the following states make the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.
- Louisiana: $19.21
- DC: $19.20
- Kentucky: $18.10
- Alaska: $17.51
- North Dakota: $17.02
- New Jersey: $16.90
- Hawaii: $16.20
- Rhode Island: $15.82
- Virginia: $15.62
- Minnesota: $15.45
Looking for more information? Here are a few additional resources to help you as you continue to explore a career as an Advocate.
National Organization for Victim Assistance – A national resource for victims of crime and Victim Advocates.
Office for Victims of Crime – The National Victim Assistance Academy provides training for a career as a victim Advocate.
The National Center for Victims of Crime – A resource for Victim Advocates and victims of crime.
Victim Support Services – A guide to victim support, including Victim Advocates.