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What starting salary can I expect as a graduate working for a charity?

Unpaid volunteering roles are commonplace in the charity and not-for-profit sector, but there are plenty of roles in charities that will reward graduates with a good starting salary.
Anyone applying for a charity should be placing the value and the impact of their work above the salary they will receive

Graduates applying for roles in the charity sector will find that salaries vary considerably depending upon the organisation they are applying to. Your salary will also depend on factors such as location. In the UK, placements in London may be awarded some additional living allowance but this depends on the individual charity. A number of charities have international positions – £15,000 will get you considerably further in some countries outside of the UK.

It may take some time before graduates who start work in this sector are earning over £20,000. This is a career choice best suited to graduates who care more about the value and the impact of their work than the salary they will receive.

Charity graduate scheme salaries

A limited number of charities run specific schemes for graduates.

  • Cancer Research UK: the graduate programme offers a range of different schemes and an annual salary of around £24,000.
  • Charityworks: this network of significant charities, such as The Children’s Society, Terrence Higgins Trust and The National Autistic Society, runs a management training scheme for graduates. The programme runs for a year, for which graduates will be paid £16,000 to £18,000 depending on location. There are three options within the graduate programme: corporate, operational or portfolio.
  • The Wellcome Trust: has a relatively new graduate development programme. Graduates receive an annual salary of £26,000 for the duration of their two-year programme.
  • IntoUniversity: a charity aiming to develop the skills required to go to university among those disadvantaged by their economic, social, linguistic or cultural background. The charity has developed its graduate programme in the last couple of years; graduate trainee education workers are paid £20,400 per annum.

Charity direct entry roles

Charities that do not hire graduates onto specific schemes will still have entry-level roles that may be suitable for those who have recently left university. Direct entry roles are not specifically for graduates, but that does not mean graduates cannot apply.

These positions vary considerably – not all roles will involve participating directly on projects; you could work in the HR or finance functions, for example. Relevant experience is required for many roles, and you could obtain this in another career sector before making the move into charity work.

In an entry-level assistant role in charity administration, fundraising or marketing you're likely to earn around £15,000 to £20,000. Salaries for more responsible roles such as membership coordinator, development executive or marketing officer tend to be around £20,000 to £40,000, and earnings increase for those in senior and strategic roles.

Are any charity internships paid?

The majority of positions with charities will require applicants to have had some background in charity work, ideally related to the cause that the charity supports. Charity internships are typically volunteer roles, though your expenses may be reimbursed, as is the case at Macmillan Cancer Support. As these roles are voluntary, graduates who undertake them may still be able to claim state benefits providing that:

  • any money earned from volunteering is solely used to cover expenses incurred in that role
  • the applicant continues to meet the wider conditions for receipt of their benefits