What Degree Do You Need to Be a Victim Advocate?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Victim Advocate?

A victim advocate is essential in the legal system. They can play a crucial role in these people’s ability to rebuild their lives because of their ability to assist victims of illegal activities. For individuals who wish to provide a voice to others who can’t always speak for themselves, it’s a fulfilling vocation. Become a victim advocate by following a step-by-step process. This article highlights everything you need to know about being a victim advocate and how to get started. 

What Is Victim Advocacy?

It’s one thing to escape from a crime. However, surviving the weeks, months, and years following a crime is another challenge. For most people, becoming a victim of a crime is frequently quite traumatic. Victims frequently have to deal with emotions including fear, sadness, rage, misunderstanding, confusion, melancholy, and sometimes guilt.

Navigating the judicial system after a crime can be challenging. In reality, many folks don’t even know where to begin when looking for justice through the judicial system.

However, victim advocacy is a service that all crime victims can access. Victim advocates serve as representatives for crime victims, as their name implies. These specialists assist victims in their time of need by providing them with emergency care, assistance with basic daily requirements, assistance navigating the court system, assistance finding legal representation, and assistance locating support for mental and emotional issues following a crime.

Almost everyone who has been a victim of crime has the right to utilize a victim advocate’s services. However, victims of violent crimes are more likely to look for or require this assistance. If a person has experienced child abuse, domestic abuse, hate crimes, or sexual assault, they may work with an advocate.

Dealing with crime victims can frequently be incredibly stressful and painful. To begin a profession as a victim advocate, certain qualities are required. For instance, victim advocates should be outstanding communicators and very understanding and nonjudgmental. Since many victims would find it very difficult to trust anyone after their experiences, professionals in this industry must likewise be extremely trustworthy.

Victim advocates should also be emotionally resilient people because they frequently deal with the specifics and witness the results of crimes every day. Victim advocates should generally try to protect the interests of the victims, but they should also consider their well-being. For instance, they should be able to recognize when to take a break and emotionally recharge to continue working.

Role of a Victim Advocate

Making contact with the victim is the first thing a victim advocate must do, usually soon after a crime. Since many victims may be quite wary and find it difficult to trust anyone, the initial meeting is frequently a delicate circumstance. For example, victims of sexual assault will frequently be more receptive to dealing with a female victim advocate than a male victim advocate.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Victim Advocate?

Following the initial meeting, a victim advocate will seek to arrange for the victim to receive any emergency medical care that may be required. For instance, if the victim has suffered physical harm, the emergency room may need to treat them. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, a victim advocate could persuade the victim of a sexual assault to see a doctor and have samples taken for a rape kit. A rape kit may comprise fingernail scrapings, body fluid swabs, and any clothing worn during the assault.

A victim advocate will ensure that a victim’s other fundamental needs are met after her immediate needs have been met. For instance, the advocate might ensure that the victim has access to a phone, transportation, food, and a safe location. It might also be required to find a safe location to live, and a victim advocate can typically assist them in doing so. A victim advocate may aid the victim in doing this by assisting them with the housing and other public assistance applications.

If a victim advocate chooses to do so, she may also speak on the victim’s behalf. However, an advocate can only provide information with the victim’s consent and can only reach out to those whom the victim wishes her to. For instance, the advocate can call any family members or friends and let them know about the crime and the victim’s condition. Informing the victim’s employer that she won’t be at work may also be done by the advocate.

After a crime has been committed, safety plans are also crucial, especially if the victim’s assailant is still at large. A safety plan typically includes a list of actions the victim could take if her attacker contacts her again. For instance, a victim should call the police immediately or flee to a public area if she sees her attacker close to her home or if he calls her on the phone. The victim advocate will assist the victim in completing tasks like obtaining a restraining order.

After a traumatic event like a violent crime, mental and emotional illnesses are also rather prevalent. A victim advocate can suggest support groups or mental health experts who can assist a victim on the road to recovery if she needs mental health care.

Steps to Become a Victim Advocate

Being an advocate for victims is not simple work. The job itself can be emotionally taxing and unpleasant. Because of this, success in the position necessitates a certain skill set and education in victim advocacy. Advocates for victims must approach each case with a compassionate attitude that encourages trust and avoids bias.

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum academic needed to work as a victim advocate. The degree may be in psychology, forensic psychology, social work, sociology, or criminal justice, depending on the topic of study. However, a master’s degree in a subject like criminal justice or behavioral science is required for those who want to move into a high-level position in the victim advocate industry.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Victim Advocate?
Image of female lawyer in doctor’s office

Through a curriculum based on fundamental psychology and criminal justice courses, some programs, like an online bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology, can enable students to start a path toward becoming a victim advocates. Atypical psychology, social psychology, and human cognition are common psychology courses. Criminal law and procedure, criminal conduct, and police psychology are common topics in criminal justice courses.

Although obtaining a bachelor’s degree can put a person on the proper path to becoming a victim advocate, doing so does not ensure employment in the area. This is especially true for advanced victim advocate roles, which only consider applicants with graduate degrees.

Although certification is not mandatory for victim advocates, getting certified may open up career prospects since some organizations prefer hiring qualified people for high-level roles. Information on accreditation is available from organizations like the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA).

State Licensing Requirements

You must receive a state license if you wish to practice as a psychologist, social worker, or mental health counselor. You must earn a master’s or doctoral degree from an authorized college or university, complete two years of post-graduate training, and pass the National Counselor Examination given by the National Board for Certified Counselors to become a certified mental health counselor. 

You must hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree to practice as a social worker. However, you must obtain a master’s degree in social work and at least two years of post-clinical master’s experience before being licensed as a clinical social worker. You must take and pass the national examination the Association of Social Work Boards offers to obtain the desired license level.

You must complete an American Psychological Association (APA)-accredited doctoral psychology program, a period of clinical training (typically 2,000 internship hours and 2,000 postdoctoral hours, although some states may require more or less), and the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology to become a state-licensed psychologist (EPPP). More information on the state licensure criteria to become a psychologist is available here.

National Certification Options

Although obtaining national certification isn’t necessarily required to work as a victim advocate, it can help establish you as a leader and authority in your industry and advance your career.

Victim Advocate Certification

The National Advocate Credentialing Program (NACP) offers credentialing at four levels, 40 hours of pre-service training, and 32 hours of continuing education every two years for advocates. No prior experience is necessary. You need to invest a minimum of 3,900 hours or a maximum of 15,600 hours, depending on what level you’re aiming for. The NACP provides certification for the following;

  • Child abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Drunk driving
  • Homicide
  • Sexual assault
  • Campus advocate
  • Identity theft/financial crimes
  • Human trafficking
  • Comprehensive services
  • Program management

ABA Certification

Complementing your professional role as a victim advocate with ABA certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board is a great way to position yourself as a leader in applied behavior analysis in your field.

You must complete a master’s degree in psychology, education, or behavior analysis that includes accepted graduate courses in behavior analysis and a specified supervised practical experience to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Suppose you have a master’s degree in one of these three fields. In that case, you may also be eligible by completing a verified course sequence, which can be done through various schools as either a stand-alone course sequence or as a graduate certificate.

However, if you have a master’s degree in a different area of the human services sector, you might soon be eligible for this title. This is due to the BCBA removing the degree requirements in January 2022, making the BCBA available to a wide range of master’s-level practitioners in the human services sector. Counselors, social workers, and other professionals can now finish the VCA since many schools that offer the VCS have already lifted the degree limits in anticipation of this development. Then, in 2022, you’ll have the choice of completing the practical experience and examination requirements to obtain the BCBA certification.


Advocates for victims can provide a voice to those frequently silenced by fear, uncertainty, and a sense of overwhelm. The assistance of these professionals can help survivors not only receive justice but also cope with the effects of a crime on their lives. If you want to advocate for victims, this article guides you to what degrees and certifications you need to be one.

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