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Many people choose to work for non-governmental organisations (NGO) because they want to dedicate their career to helping others. A career in the NGO sector can be highly rewarding. It can give you meaningful work, the chance to travel the world and the opportunity to build a wide range of skills.
Money isn’t usually the first thing people think of when they begin to work for an NGO. However, we all have bills to pay and earning a good salary is key in any career. That’s why we’ve put together a breakdown of some of the highest paying jobs within the NGO sector. We’ve also included a section for each job on what NGOs will be looking for when recruiting for these well-paid roles.
Country Director is the most senior position within an NGOs country office. Their role is to oversee all aspects of the NGOs programmes in country and coordinate with HQ. They are responsible for ensuring continued funding of the NGOs in the country they oversee. The Country Director will line- manage the senior leadership team.
If you are looking for a well-paid job within the NGO sector, consider applying for Country Director positions. As the most senior role in a country office, Country Directors are among the highest earners in an NGO. The significant responsibility a Country Director takes on, combined with the skills and experience needed to succeed in the job, means the position is often well paid.
How to Apply
To apply for the position of Country Director in an NGO you will need up to ten years’ experience in the NGO sector. Previous work in field-base roles will be key. You will also need a strong understanding of NGO operations. A master’s degree in NGO management would benefit your application.
Chief Executive Officer
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of an NGO is the position that has overall management responsibly for the organisation. It is one of the highest paid jobs in the NGO sector. The CEO of an NGO reports to the Board of Directors. They usually manage the director-level staff and in large NGOs may have a team of assistants.
CEOs in the NGO sector can expect to earn high wages. Although NGO CEOs will earn less than CEOs in the private sector, they will still receive substantial compensation for their work. In large NGOs, the CEO can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Even in smaller NGOs, the CEO is always the best paid position.
How to Apply
To become the CEO of an NGO you will need significant experience in senior level positions. Previous work within the NGO sector will be sought by many organisations but private or public sector experience in director-level jobs may also be considered.
In an NGO, the Finance Director is responsible for all aspects of the organisation’s financial management. They have oversight of financial systems, payments, income, and the financial viability of the NGO. As the most senior position within an NGOs finance team, the Finance Director is one of the highest paid positions.
Large NGOs will pay substantial salaries to their financial directors. The role requires considerable expertise and previous experience. It is also technically demanding requiring the post holder to have extensive knowledge of financial management. For all these reasons the Finance Director in an NGO will earn a large salary.
How to Apply
You will need considerable previous experience in finance roles within the NGO sector if you want to get a job as a Finance Director. Several years in senior finance roles working on NGO projects will be key. A formal qualification in finance or accounting will also often be required.
Large NGOs will have regional offices that coordinate their country programmes with a region. The head of the regional office is the Regional Director. It is one of the highest paying jobs in the NGO sector. The Regional Director is responsible for designing and implementing the NGOs regional strategy.
The job of Regional Director reports to the NGOs HQ. They in-turn manage the Country Directors within each country of their region. The job entails significant responsibility, often overseeing millions of dollars of funding and with final oversight for hundreds of staff across the region. As a result, it is a highly paid job often earning up to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
How to Apply
You will need extensive experience in management level jobs within the NGO sector if you want to become a Regional Director. Previous experience as a Country Director is often required. Knowledge of strategy development, donor funding and programme implementation will also be key. You should have a strong understanding of NGO finance, supply chain management and HR.
NGO Online Courses
If you are looking to work for an NGO, we highly recommend the online course International Humanitarian and Development Careers. We think it provides one of the best overviews of the NGO sector and gives a clear breakdown of the skills needed to get an NGO job. It also provides valuable information on how to successfully apply for positions within NGOs. Click the link to be taken to the course’s page.
We also think the online course Introduction to NGO Management is a must for anyone wanting to work for an NGO. It goes over how NGOs operate and introduces students to the unique aspects of the NGO sector they will need to know in order to land a job. Follow the link for more information.
Another online course we highly recommend for those wanting to join the NGO sector is How To Design and Fund International Development NGO Projects. Anyone working for an NGO needs a basic understanding of how NGO projects are set-up, and how to input to funding proposals. This course is a must for those wanting to work for an NGO. Click the link to get more information on the course.
Head of Fundraising
Fundraising is a major department in many NGOs. As a result, the Head of Fundraising is one of the best paid jobs. They have overall responsibility for all aspects of the NGOs income generation. This covers both raising money from donors and through public campaigns and advertisements.
Ultimately, the financial viability of an NGO rests with the Head of Fundraising. The level of responsibility, combined with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the role, is why the Head of Fundraising earns a large salary. The Head of Fundraising manages the fundraising team – in larger NGOs this can be dozens of people. This is another reason why it is a well-paid job.
How to Apply
You will need a background in fundraising in order to secure a job as the Head of Fundraising for an NGO. A proven track record of increasing the funding base of NGOs will be a key criteria. Senior management experience, ideally in a similar role, would be an asset. Strong understanding of NGO donors and their requirements is also needed.
Chief Operating Officer
The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of an NGO has oversight of the day-to-day running of the organisation. They are ultimately responsible for ensuring the NGOs operations run smoothly. It is an extensive role covering many functions within the organisation and as a result is a highly paid job. The Chief Operating Officer usually reports to the NGOs CEO.
As part of the NGOs senior leadership team, the Chief Operating Officer will be one of the top earners. They will often manage the Directors of Finance, Supply Chain and HR. The COO is responsible for setting the strategic direction of these departments and this is another reason why it is a well-paid position in the NGO sector.
How to Apply
If you want to work as a Chief Operations Officer for an NGO, you will need a background in operations management. Previous experience in the NGO sector will be needed, but relevant private or public sector experience may also benefit your application. You will need to demonstrate you have previously overseen large teams and been able to effetely implement operational strategies to secure the role.
A well known highly paid position in the NGO sector is that of consultants. The NGOs are increasingly relying heavily on private sector consultants for parts of their operations. Consultants can work on proposals, develop strategies, monitor, and evaluate projects or establish systems and processes. Consultants can earn huge wages in the NGO sector – often several hundred dollars a day.
Consultants for NGOs work on short-term assignments that have a set terms of reference. They produce a piece of work for an NGO before moving onto a new contract often with a different organisation. Successful consultants in the NGO sector can earn a lot of money as they charge both for their time and additional expenses.
How to Apply
To work as a consultant in the NGO sector you will need to have a relevant area of specialism. You will also need to show previous experience working with NGOs. Most consultants work for several years as employees of NGOs before setting up or working for consultancies.
Head of Programmes
The Head of Programmes for an NGO has oversight of the NGOs projects. It is the most senior position in the programmes department and therefore is often a well-paid job. The Head of Programmes manages the programmes team and reports to the Country Director or Chief Operations Officer. The role has extensive responsibility which is another reason why it is well paid.
In an NGO the Head of Programmes is responsible for both programme implementation and feeding into donor funding proposals. They also work closely with donors on ongoing projects and must ensure the NGOs programmes remain compliant with donor regulations. The range of knowledge and skills needed to be a Head of Programmes within an NGO is why post holder receives a substantial wage.
How to Apply
You will need a background in NGO programming if you want to become a Head of Programmes. Previous experience in programme management and grants will be sought by most NGOs. A master’s degree in NGO management, project management or a technical programmatic area will add to your application.
Technical Advisors in the NGO sector work across many areas. They usually provide inputs to functions related to the UN cluster system – such as healthcare, nutrition, shelter, or livelihoods. As Technical Advisors need to have a wealth of expertise in their area, they are often highly paid.
In many NGOs, the Technical Advisors work at HQ and provide inputs to the country programmes. Larger NGOs will have Technical Advisors within a country office providing guidance to programmes teams. Always, the Technical Advisor is a senior-level role. As a result, they earn some of the highest wages in NGOs.
How to Apply
If you want to become a Technical Advisor for an NGO, you will need to build expertise within a technical function. Previous experience as a programme manager is often sought by NGOs. You will also need a formal qualification in your area of expertise and often need to be an active practitioner in order to get a job as a Technical Advisor for an NGO.
Head of Supply Chain
Supply chain management is a key part of the NGO sector. The job of Head of Supply Chain is the most senior role within an NGOs logistics team. As a result, it is a well-paid job. The Head of Supply Chain within an NGO has overall responsibility for ensuring the correct supplies reach the intended locations on time. The demands of the role are another reason why the Head of Supply Chain earns a large salary.
The Head of Supply Chain in an NGO is usually based at HQ. They are responsible for ensuring effective supply chains across all the NGOs country offices. They work closely with logistics coordinators in the field. The large scope of work of the Head of Supply Chain within an NGO is a key reason why post holders can earn a lot of money.
How to Apply
You will need a background in supply chain management in order to apply for the job of Head of Supply Chain within an NGO. Experience working in supply chain or logistics roles at field level within an NGO is also likely necessary. Private sector experience may help your application, but you will need some supply chain experience in the NGO sector to get the job. A master’s in supply chain management may also be requested by NGOs.
NGO’s often employ lawyers to provide legal advice and they are one of the best paid positions within the sector. At HQ level, NGOs often have a legal teams that ensure they remain compliant with all regulations relating to running a non-profit. At country level, NGOs often have a lawyer on call to help them with issues such as legal registration and liaising with authorities. Lawyers are generally among the best paid people in the NGO sector.
Lawyers in the NGO sector are either kept in-house – as staff employed by the NGO, or as an outsource service providers. External lawyers continue to work for their firms but are kept on retainer by the NGO and paid by the service used. Both types of lawyers can earn significant money from NGOs, but lawyers kept on retainer can earn substantial amounts as they can work from multiple NGOs.
How to Apply
If you want to work with NGOs as a lawyer, you will need to be fully qualified and registered to practice law in your country. You will also need an understanding of the legal requirements NGOs have.
Chief of Staff
Within an NGO, the Chief of Staff is the most senior position responsible for human resources. They oversee the NGOs recruitment, retaining and training of all staff across the organisation. They are ultimately responsible for setting systems and processes in relation to HR, and for establishing the culture around staff working within the NGO.
As a senior management level role, the Chief of Staff is a well-paid job within the NGO sector. They often report directly to the CEO or COO. The Chief of Staff often has many staff reporting directly to them – another reason the job is highly paid.
How to Apply
To become the Chief of Staff for an NGO you will need extensive experience in HR management. Most NGOs will look for previous experience within the sector. However similar experience in large public or private sector companies may also be considered. A formal qualification, such as a master’s degree, in HR management will help your application.
If you want more information on how to work for an NGO, explore our list of the top NGO online courses here.