Young received degrees from Wheaton College, Illinois, and Oxford University, as well as a law degree from Cornell University, New York. In 1965 he was employed with law offices of Millbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy, New York.
Young began his work for the Nixon administration in 1970 when he was appointed Special Assistant to the National Security Council. In 1971, Young was assigned to the Domestic Council, where he worked with Egil Krogh, deputy to John D. Ehrlichman. This assignment was concerned with domestic and external security.
In this role, Young investigated information leaks within the Nixon administration, ultimately being jointly responsible with Egil Krogh for the founding of the White House Special Investigations Unit, subsequently known as "The Plumbers" ("We stop leaks"). (It is said that Young's grandfather was a plumber, and that this was his inspiration for the name.)
The Plumbers unit, which included E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy among its staff, participated in clandestine (and ultimately illegal) activities, the most notorious being the attempted 1971 burglary of the offices of Daniel Ellsberg's former psychatrist and the attempted 1972 burglary of the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate complex.
Investigation of these attempted burglaries resulted in Young's resignation from government service. Young was spared jail through the grant of limited immunity on the motion of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (the "Senate Watergate Investigation Committee") and the approval of United States District Judge John J. Sirica on July 5, 1973.
Young subsequently moved to Oxford, England, where he completed a doctorate and went on to found and run a consulting firm, Oxford Analytica, an international consulting firm that draws upon the faculties of Oxford University and other universities to provide leaders with timely and authoritative analysis of world events, of which he is Managing Director. He bases the format for these briefings on the "Daily Brief" he helped prepare for Nixon.
Since 1975, Dr Young has also served as Lecturer in Politics at Queen's College, Oxford University. He is a Senior Associate Member of St Antony's College, a Dominus Fellow of St Catherine's College, and Senior Common Room Member of University College. He has served as an Associate Member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs and the International Institute of Strategic Studies since 1980.