Discover what skills, qualifications and work experience you'll need to get started in the charity and voluntary sector...
Do I need a related degree?
This depends on the job that you want to do. For some roles, such as fundraising, the subject of your degree isn't as important as your practical skills and passion for the charity's cause. However, many charities seek employees with experience in specific areas such as sales, accounting and finance, and marketing, advertising and PR; alternatively, they may expect degrees in business-related areas such as accounting and finance, business, consulting and management, or marketing, advertising and PR.
For some fields, including international development, there are specific roles for people with professional qualifications, such as doctors, midwives, nurses and teachers. Bachelors degrees in logistics, public health or social policy may also be useful, while having a Masters degree in international development or a related area can give you the edge over other applicants.
A degree in social work may be useful for community development and volunteer co-ordinator roles.
What skills do employers want?
You will need to show:
- adaptability and flexibility;
- commitment and motivation;
- communication skills;
- negotiation and persuasion skills;
- organisational skills.
Where can I look for work experience?
Most internships are voluntary. However, some organisations - including People & Planet and the Wellcome Trust - offer paid internships, while large charities - such as the National Trust, Oxfam GB, Macmillan Cancer Support and Age UK - provide placements in a range of fields.
Barnardo's, for example, offers internships in events, marketing, finance, campaigns, children's services, retail, and research and policy, while the British Red Cross provides opportunities to gain experience in developing a project, conducting research or planning events across a wide range of sectors.
The charity sector has a long-established tradition of offering relevant work experience through volunteering, so smaller organisations will also have opportunities that can provide valuable experience. You can make speculative enquiries or search on websites such as Do-it.
There are also numerous organisations that can help you to find volunteering projects abroad, but you must be aware of the high costs that may be involved. Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) offers the International Citizen Service (ICS) volunteering programme, where 18-25-year-olds travel to Africa or Asia on three-month development projects, but you would need to do a little fundraising yourself to cover some of the costs.
You can also develop useful skills while at university by, for example, setting up a student society or organising fundraising activities.
To find placements and internships, search for work experience in the charity and voluntary work sector.
How do I find a graduate job in charity and voluntary work?
Some large organisations, such as Cancer Research UK and IntoUniversity, offer graduate schemes. These are very competitive; you may also need a 2:1 and a specific number of UCAS points to be eligible.
The Charityworks Graduate Programme offers a one-year, full-time paid job in a non-profit organisation. You are also assigned a professional development programme and opportunities to conduct research projects. You could be in an operational role working with service users, or in a corporate role in business development, fundraising, campaigns or research.
Employment opportunities are also advertised by sector-specific recruitment agencies such as Charity People and Harris Hill, or specialist websites including:
Smaller organisations may advertise on their own websites or in local newspapers. You could make speculative applications, sending prospective employers a CV and cover letter. If you take the trouble to find a named contact, you're more likely to receive a reply.
You could also attend a recruitment event such as the Charity Fair, which is organised by the DSC (Directory for Social Change).
Get started by searching graduate jobs in charity and voluntary work.