Your graduate career options in charity work
Find out about some of the most popular graduate career areas in charity work, such as homelessness and housing work, campaigning and international development.
Popular areas of work in charities for graduates: administration | fundraising | community work | environmental work | international development | campaigning | volunteer coordination | homelessness and housing work
There are many career paths open to you in charity work, from fundraising and administration to specialising in fields such as international development or homelessness. Whatever your goals, there will be tough competition for vacancies and you may find that experience of volunteering gives you an advantage in your job applications. Recruiters in this field often do not specify a particular degree subject as a requirement when hiring, but for some roles, relevant qualifications may give you an edge.
Administration isn’t just about support tasks such as arranging meetings, filing and handling financial accounts. Administrators are often key employees within charitable and non-profit-making organisations, linking the organisation, the public and the media.
A business studies, management or social administration qualification may be helpful, though voluntary and administrative work experience is often more important than academic qualifications. You may need to be willing to tackle some fairly mundane or menial duties in the early stages of your career.
Fundraisers raise money for charities and voluntary or non-profit organisations by increasing personal and corporate giving. They organise and help with traditional fundraising activities such as raffles and sponsored events, and also develop new ideas and activities to attract financial support for their organisations. They may also approach individuals and organisations for sponsorship and donations, and recruit and coordinate the work of volunteers.
A financial, business studies, management, marketing or public relations qualification may be helpful. You’ll also need excellent sales and negotiation skills.
Community workers help to improve the lives of disadvantaged individuals and groups by helping people make the changes they want to see. Typical employers include local authorities, self-help organisations and charities and voluntary organisations.
The work is varied and can include facilitating community groups and establishing new community services, providing advocacy to individuals and groups, raising funds and managing budgets. Qualifications in law, social work, politics, public administration or social sciences can be an advantage, and a relevant postgraduate diploma/degree can also be helpful.
If you are keen to specialise in environmental issues, the career paths open to you include becoming a nature conservation officer or environmental consultant. Alternatively, you could work for an environmental charity or NGO (non-governmental organisation).
Voluntary experience is vital to getting a job in this sector. You may also need a teaching qualification if you want to work in a public education role, such as guiding people around nature reserves. It’s likely you'll need a specialist postgraduate qualification if you want to focus on environmental research.
International development is about increasing the security and living standards of communities around the world while reducing poverty and dependence upon foreign aid and loans. Roles are likely to involve project planning, financial analysis and international coordination.
As a graduate, you’re likely to be employed in an admin role or office-based role. If you’re keen to work in the field, you’ll need voluntary experience (entry-level field-based jobs are rare) and a postgraduate qualification in international development or a similar field.
Organisations such as Amnesty International and the NSPCC petition the government on issues of importance and seek to raise public awareness. A pressure group can be a huge organisation offering opportunities to work around the globe. Alternatively, a single-issue locally based organisation can offer graduates opportunities to work in areas such as research, campaigning, public affairs consultancy, lobbying, membership and legal work. There is typically a great deal of competition for jobs.
If you pursue a career as a public affairs consultant, you’ll provide public or private sector clients with political and public policy advice based on your analysis of information from your personal contacts, political intelligence or media sources.
Volunteer coordinators recruit, train and manage voluntary workers. Typical responsibilities include interviewing and selecting volunteers, supporting and coordinating their work and helping with fundraising activities.
It’s important to have relevant work experience and good knowledge of the voluntary sector if you’re looking for a job in this area. Any degree background is acceptable, but a social sciences or business administration qualification may be helpful.
Homelessness workers are employed by charities and non-profit making organisations such as Crisis and Shelter that provide help for people that are homeless or who have housing problems. In larger organisations, staff can be mostly office-based, whereas those working for smaller employers may have frequent contact with the homeless.
Typical responsibilities include updating and providing information on hostel vacancies and housing rights, making referrals, liaising with voluntary and statutory agencies and helping clients understand their rights.
Relevant work experience is important when job hunting in this area. It will also help if you can show that you are motivated by a genuine commitment to the issues surrounding homelessness.