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Graduate schemes and internships in the charity/not-for-profit sector

It can be hard to know where to look for graduate schemes in the charity sector, so we've put together this handy list of options available.

Graduate schemes aren't as widespread in the voluntary and not-for-profit sector as they are in the commercial sector – many charities don't have the resources to run intensive training programmes and prefer to take on staff as and when they’re needed.

However, there are a small number of graduate schemes on offer. Some organisations also offer internships, which may not lead to a graduate job but can give you a head start when applying for work.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the recruitment processes for and running of these schemes may have changed. For example, they might have been moved online. See each charity’s website for information and guidance.

  • Barnardo’s offers volunteering opportunities including in the areas of retail, fundraising and children’s services, along with an office-based position in which volunteers carry out work such as writing reports and organising events.
  • The British Red Cross offers the chance to volunteer as an intern in a variety of areas including marketing, fundraising, youth education, and health and social care.
  • Cancer Research UK runs a graduate training scheme in a range of areas: finance, policy, scientific strategy and funding, technology and HR. It also runs a paid internship scheme with placements in departments such as communications, technology and fundraising. Internships are typically 12 weeks long.
  • Charityworks offers paid, full-time, 12-month graduate trainee positions with partner charities and housing associations, during which trainees take part in a leadership programme that introduces them to the skills needed to work and lead in the not-for-profit sector.
  • Frontline offers a leadership development programme in which graduates spend two years training and working as a social worker. It also offers six-month internships and the opportunity for students to be brand managers.
  • IntoUniversity is a charity that supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to go to university. It runs a graduate scheme, along with unpaid internships, which involve working two to three days a week over a period of two to three months.
  • Macmillan Cancer Support offers unpaid internships in areas such as health and social care, special events and digital engagement.
  • Oxfam offers unpaid voluntary internships in areas such as IT, HR and accounting. Interns usually work for 2 or 3 days each week, and internships might last anywhere between 3 and 12 months.
  • People and Planet is a student-led organisation that aims to give young people the skills and confidence to bring about social and environmental change. It offers paid internships.
  • Teach First is a charity that runs a two-year training programme in teaching. Graduates who take part will gain a PGDE (that’s worth double the credits of a PGCE), the opportunity to take a masters, and a network of friends and associates. Teach First also offers a week-long internship (now mostly online) for those studying a subject related to science, technology, engineering or maths at university – or who have A levels between A* and B in two related subjects. They are currently offering an academic mentor scheme to help schools and students to overcome problems caused by the pandemic, too.
  • The Starfish Greathearts Foundation is a charity that works with community-based organisations to improve the support of vulnerable and orphaned children in South Africa. It offers voluntary internships in community fundraising and trusts and foundations.
  • Wellcome is a research charity that supports scientific research and development. It runs a two-year graduate development programme in which trainees work alongside experienced professionals in areas including policy, funding and operations. It also offers eight-week internships to undergraduate students, in a range of areas including neuroscience and mental health, talent acquisition, and investments.

Don't forget entry-level positions

Schemes like these can be stimulating and structured career entry routes, but when planning your charity career it's useful to remember all your options. This is particularly true as graduate schemes can be harder to come by, and so competition can be greater, in the charity sector than in many others. It's common to start your career in an entry-level job and build skills by working on new projects as they arise.

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