Careers advice and planning

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

5 Mar 2024, 09:54

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.

A charity worker with a lavender ribbon pinned to her shirt symbolising cancer support.

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 as well as training schemes open to both graduates and non-graduates. Some organisations also offer internships which may not lead to a graduate job but can give you a head start when applying for work. These internships are often unpaid.

Below, we have listed charities who have previously offered graduate/training schemes or internships. However, charities often change the exact details of what they can offer and when, so you should check individual charity websites for the latest opportunities and information.

  • The British Red Cross offers the chance to volunteer as an intern in a variety of areas including marketing, fundraising, education, and health and social care. Its international youth volunteering programme also provides 18-30-year-olds the opportunity to volunteer across Europe for up to 12 months helping refugees and other vulnerable people.
  • Cancer Research UK runs the Accelerate Trainee 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, fundraising, policy and business strategy. Internships typically last 12 weeks.
  • Charityworks offers paid, full-time, 12-month 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.
  • Citizens Advice is a legal and advocacy charity that provides free and impartial advice. The charity recruits for a range of trainee-adviser roles in areas such as general legal, debt and money advice. Positions are open to graduates as well as non-graduates.
  • Frontline offers a two-year social work training programme. Graduates become qualified social workers in the second year and complete a fully funded masters degree. It also offers three-week paid summer internships, seven-month graduate internships positions and the opportunity for students to be campus brand ambassadors during term time.
  • Macmillan Cancer Support has previously offered unpaid internships in areas such as health and social care, corporate partnerships, special events and digital engagement.
  • Oxfam offers unpaid voluntary internships in areas such as IT, HR, digital media 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. The charity also offers three different two-day taster programmes: a general taster programme, a STEM Talent Taster programme and a BAME Talent Taster programme.
  • 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 paid summer internships to undergraduate students in a range of areas including neuroscience and mental health, talent acquisition, and investments.
  • Worthwhile has previously offered a social impact scheme where candidates take up an entry-level position within a small organisation and receive 17 days of training over 12 months. Previous training topics have covered areas such as sector and social issues, managing and communicating.

Don't forget charity 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 structured training 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.

Finding positions within charities and the third sector can be difficult as these organisations do not advertise them widely. However, you can start by browsing the vacancies on targetjobs and then widen your search to charities’ own websites.

Next: search graduate jobs, schemes & internships

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