Learn what kind of education and training you'll need to become a consumer advocate. Read on to explore education programs, career options and salaries in the field.
Advocates generally work within an organization to address the needs of a particular community or group. As a consumer advocate and service provider, you might work within the public or private sector; common job responsibilities include working with people and managing data. You could work within a state's department of justice to pursue violations of consumer laws. You might also work for a private organization that tests and analyzes new products before they hit the market to ensure that they are safe for public use. Consumers can often check with these consumer advocacy organizations to ensure that they are paying a fair amount for a product or service, or to make sure that a product has passed safety inspection.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for office clerks in general (including those employed by advocacy organizations) was $27,470, as of May 2012 (www.bls.gov). The BLS further details that office clerks employed by government agencies or offices earned median hourly wages of $15.24 in 2012; those who worked for healthcare and social services organizations earned median hourly pay of $13.23. According to O*NET OnLine (www.onetonline.org), business operations specialists earned median annual pay of $65,120 in 2012, while community and social service specialists earned median annual pay of $41,060.
Career prospects vary by area of employment. For example, office clerks can expect job growth of 6% from 2012-2022, per the BLS. O*NET OnLine reports that business operations specialists can expect 3%-7% job growth during that same decade; the agency also reports that community and social service specialists can look forward to employment growth of 15%-21% from 2012-2022.
While no specific college degree is required to work as a consumer advocate, many employers will likely require you to have a bachelor's degree. Common programs for future consumer advocates include a bachelor's degree in human services, psychology, consumer science and social work. Community colleges may also have certificate programs for patient advocates.
Executive directors of consumer protection agencies and government workers often seek graduate degrees such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Classes at this level can help you learn how to better manage your business and may help you make important business connections. If you match great interpersonal, analytic and computational skills with excellent work, higher positions may be made available to you. The highest positions may require more advanced contracting and negotiating skills, since you may work directly with larger government bureaus.