New Zealand Diploma in Youth Work (Level 6)

This qualification will prepare you for a career as a Youth Worker within Aotearoa New Zealand. You’ll learn skills and techniques to support young people (12-24 years) and their whānau by helping them to develop quality relationships and providing guidance on education, training and employment. This programme is offered on campus but with the option to attend online classes to make it as easy for you to access as possible.

About the programme

Want to empower young people to live life to their full potential? 

Youth development is about promoting young peoples’ personal and social development and enabling them to have a voice, influence and place in their communities, as well as in society as a whole. 

Youth Workers support young people (12-24 years) and their whānau by helping them to develop quality relationships and to build healthy connections. They provide support, information and resources, help young people connect with specialist services (when necessary) and work to enhance connections in the community by planning, delivering and evaluating programmes and events for young people. Through guidance on education, training and employment, Youth Workers support and nurture positive youth development - often working collaboratively with other human service providers such as counsellors, social workers, psychologists and educators. 

Our programme will prepare you to enter the workforce through a series of work placements. During one of these, you’ll lead and evaluate a youth development project. You’ll also build a network of contacts for when you graduate! 

Your learning will prepare you for a career as a Youth Worker within Aotearoa New Zealand. Chances of getting a job are good due to the increasing demand for youth work services. And, with further training, youth workers can move into social work, counselling or teaching roles. 

Other career options include Rangatahi Development Worker, Youth Advocate, Youth Facilitator, Youth Leader, Youth  Pastor/Minister or a Youth Support Worker.

Programme content

Our programme provides the training and education you need to ensure you meet the established industry competency standards for youth work. 

You’ll graduate with the latest skills and knowledge about the youth development sector – understanding all about practices and resources that are useful for working with young people, youth culture and their communities, physical and mental health issues among youth, and laws and policies that affect young people. 

During your study, you'll learn how to: 

  • Integrate youth development theories and models of practice in order to respond to the needs and aspirations of young people from diverse cultures and contexts.
  • Apply safe, ethical, and professional youth work practices to ensure the safety and wellbeing of young people engaging in youth development activities.
  • Provide young people with responsive and positive support informed by knowledge of the historical, socio-cultural, economic, and political factors impacting them.
  • Select and apply a range of evidence-based practices informed by Te Tiriti o Waitangi and te ao Māori to support the aspirations of young people and build community connections.
  • Demonstrate leadership in a youth work and youth development context by leading and developing a youth development project.
  • Reflect on and evaluate your own youth work practice in a supervision context and engage in self-care to achieve continuous improvement in your own practice.

This programme has a great mix of learning activities. These include: 

  • Classroom activities – lectures, tutorials, presentations
  • Information gathering
  • Online learning activities
  • Workplace learning through work placement
  • Guest speakers
  • Field trips
  • Project work

This programme has a total of 240 credits which are broken down into:

  • 120 credits at Level 5
  • 105 credits at Level 6
  • 15 credits at Level 7 

The Level 5 courses provide a strong foundation of knowledge, values, and skills for effective youth work practice. At Level 6, your focus will shift towards the theory that you’re learning being integrated with practice. You’ll also start to focus on the development of your own practice so you can make positive contributions to youth development. The Level 7 course, Managing Crisis, is included as it’s a critical component of youth work practice.

Level 5 courses  
Understanding Youth Development 
Matua Mōhio ki te Ao Taiohi
This course builds the foundation of youth development practice. It’s where you’ll first learn and engage with theories and cultural perspectives of human development. You’ll then use this knowledge to evaluate the key principles of positive youth development.
Understanding Youth Culture and Identity
He Aronga ki te Ao Taiohi
Learn about the whakapapa (history) of youth development practice and its relationship to ever-changing youth culture. You’ll have the chance to creatively reflect on your own identity and cultural development.  
Building Intentional Relationships
Te Hononga 
Be introduced to the importance of building quality relationships with young people. Develop your understanding of the difference between professional youth work and friendship, and learn about different strategies you can apply when working with young people e.g. coaching, mentoring. 
Promoting Family, Whānau, and Community Cohesion 
He Haere Kōtui  
Learn about the importance of social environments and connectedness in the development of young people.   
Assessing and Managing Risk
Ngā Ᾱhuatanga o te Whakatonutanga 
Explore the impact of risk-taking behaviour and how this contributes positively and negatively to a person’s development. Learn how to describe the types and sources of risk for young people, identify triggers for high-risk behaviours, and understand how a youth development worker’s responsibilities and possible actions are limited by legal and ethical requirements.  
Entering Professional Practice
He Aronga ki te Ao Ngaio 
Learn how to describe the formation of your own identity and discuss how this has influenced the development of your practice. Be introduced to governing ethics, protocols, and laws, and the part these play in youth development. You’ll also discover how to manage your workload and own self-care to minimise personal risk in youth development work.  
Introduction to Evidence-based Practice
He Aronga ki te Ao Rangahau 
Build your foundational research literacy skills (including academic writing and presentation skills). 
Te Reo Māori and Tikanga Be introduced to oral and written Māori language, and build your awareness and experience of tikanga, especially regarding pōwhiri and mihi whakatau. 
Level 6 courses    
Working with Groups
Mahi Ngātahi
Learn about different models and methods of group work in youth development. Discover how to facilitate groups to support young people’s development and use feedback, experience, and professional supervision to reflect on your own practice.
Supporting Youth Participation
He Tautāwhi i te Whai Wāhitanga o te Taiohi
Learn why young people have a right to have their voice heard in decisions that affect them and the obligations of professionals to hear them. Gain an understanding of how youth participation underpins positive youth development. Support a youth initiative during work experience and use the feedback from young people to reflect on your practice.
Developing Professional Practice
Whakawhanake Ngaiotanga
Develop a concept of your professional identity and your ability to work within the professional codes, conventions, legal requirements, professional values, and ethics of practice. This will build on your intentional and group facilitation skills and will demonstrate your ability to identify, analyse and question workplace ethics.
Design, Deliver and Evaluate Initiatives 
Whakarite Rautaki mō te Taiohi
This course focuses on the importance of community engagement and building treaty-based partnerships through the delivery of positive youth development initiatives. Using feedback from young people, community members, and your supervisor, you’ll assess the design and delivery of initiatives and consider how the initiative could be improved in the future.
Enhancing Youth Resilience
Kia Manawaroa te Taiohi
Explore a holistic approach to understanding youth resilience. You’ll learn about the key internal and external factors that facilitate youth resilience and take these understandings to develop a plan for young people. 
Honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi
Te Mana o te Tiriti
Actively engage with and personalise the impacts of Te Tiriti o Waitangi on your life and your cultural identity. This then provides a base for you to explore what culturally appropriate youth development practice is within the context of the Treaty partnership. It involves 16 hours of noho marae experience.
Level 7 course  
Managing Crisis
Tikanga Whakahaere Wā Mōrearea
Learn about the impact of stress and crisis on young people. Using case studies and simulations, you’ll practice the skills you need to respond to young people and communities in crisis, and to support the uptake of positive coping strategies. 

Work placement information

During this programme, real and simulated workplace practice is used to ensure that you feel confident and prepared to be an effective youth worker. This are a fantastic opportunity to gain hands-on experience of what youth work is really like and to start building some contacts for when you graduate.

You’ll undertake work placements with at least two different agencies (or two significantly different areas within the same agency). This will total 200 hours across the programme.

You’ll also need to engage in a professional supervision relationship with a qualified professional supervisor for (a minimum of) 8 hours across the programme.

Otago Polytechnic Youth Work staff will coordinate your work placements, professional conversations in the workplace, and the practical assessment of work-based tasks.

Further study options

To further your learning and practice, you could study the Bachelor of Youth and Community Leadership at the University of Canterbury.

We are part of Te Pūkenga

When you apply to study with Otago Polytechnic, you will be enrolled with Te Pūkenga, the new national network of vocational and applied education in Aotearoa New Zealand. You will learn in the same way, in the same place, and with the same people, and you will graduate with a Te Pūkenga qualification.


While every effort is made to ensure that this sheet is accurate, Otago Polytechnic reserves the right to amend, alter or withdraw any of the contained information. The fees shown in this document are indicative only. Both domestic and international fees are subject to change and are dependent on the development and implementation of Government policies. Please note that additional fees may from time to time be required for external examination, NZQA fees and/or additional material fees.