If you'd like to positively impact people and communities a job in the UK charity and voluntary sector could be for you. Discover what this highly rewarding industry has to offer

The charity and voluntary sector, often referred to as the 'third sector', 'not-for-profit sector', 'community sector' or 'civic sector', aims to create social rather than material wealth.

What areas of the third sector can I work in?

There's more to the charity sector than raising money, but one thing is for certain - you'll need a genuine passion to improve and enrich society to succeed. If you'd like to make the world a better place the charity and voluntary sector gives you plenty of opportunity to do so. The industry needs a range of skills and you could find work in:

  • accountancy and finance
  • administration
  • advice and counselling
  • business development and project management
  • campaigning, lobbying and fundraising
  • corporate social responsibility (CSR)
  • human resources (HR)
  • information technology (IT)
  • marketing and public relations (PR)
  • research and policy
  • retail
  • social care
  • support services
  • teaching, education and training
  • volunteer management and co-ordination.

When researching potential third sector careers, it's likely you’ll discover some overlap with a number of other sectors such as:

Charity employers still need accountants, project managers, IT support officers, marketing executives, HR officers, retail managers and social workers.

There's a range of opportunities in the third sector. In a small organisation, you may need to be a jack-of-all-trades, while larger charities look for employees with specific professional skills and experience.

For examples of job roles in this sector, see charity sector jobs.

Who are the main graduate employers?

According to the UK Civil Society Almanac 2019 the voluntary sector contributed approximately £17.1billion to the UK economy in 2016/17 and employs roughly 870,000 paid workers.

There are 168,000 charities in England and Wales but the majority of UK charities are based in England. The South East has the highest proportion of charities, while the North East has the lowest.

Employers in the third sector include small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), social enterprises, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and large charities such as:

  • Age UK
  • Alzheimer's Society
  • Barnardo's
  • British Heart Foundation
  • Childline
  • Macmillan Cancer Support
  • MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières)
  • RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)
  • The Princes Trust
  • The Salvation Army
  • UNICEF
  • Wellcome Trust.

Many charities focus on issues surrounding social services, housing, education, human rights, community development, international development, health and medicine, and conservation and environment.

Popular graduate charity employers include:

  • Amnesty International
  • British Red Cross
  • Cancer Research UK
  • Mind
  • National Trust
  • NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children)
  • Oxfam
  • Save the Children
  • WaterAid
  • WWF (World Wildlife Fund for Nature).

What's it like working in the third sector?

You can expect:

  • the majority of jobs to be based in towns and cities in office environments
  • a lower salary and reduced job security compared with the private sector
  • to work on temporary contracts due to short-term funding
  • a predominantly female workforce
  • flexible working conditions, including the opportunity for part-time work and home working
  • to travel during the working day for some roles. You may need to visit service users or travel between sites. International travel is also possible if the charity you work for has an international agenda
  • work to be stressful when resources are low
  • huge job satisfaction and career progression opportunities
  • strong competition for paid employment.

To find out about typical salaries and working conditions in your chosen career, see job profiles.

What are the key issues in the charity sector?

Funding, Brexit and the intense scrutiny of the public and media are just some of the hurdles that those working in the charity sector need to overcome. To find out more take a look at the challenges facing the third sector.