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If you are a student or recent graduate and looking to build a career in humanitarian aid, one of the best ways to get started is to take an internship. Some of the largest and most important humanitarian organisations offer internships, giving you the opportunity to experience work within a fast-paced and dynamic humanitarian agency.
We’ve put together this guide to help you explore some of the leading humanitarian internship programmes.
International Federation of the Red Cross
The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) is one of the largest and best-known humanitarian organisations in the world. The IFRC has one of the top internship programmes in the sector. IFRC interns gain first-hand experience working in a fast-moving and complex humanitarian agency, whilst completing meaningful work and building their professional network.
The IFRC recruits’ interns all over the world. Interns on the IFRC humanitarian internship programme are recruited for specific roles, meaning you can work in areas such as programmes, finance, HR administration or coordination. If you are looking to do an internship in the humanitarian sector, be sure to browse openings with the IFRC.
How to Apply
There are two main requirements for securing an IFRC internship. These are either:
- Be currently studying a university degree (or equivalent qualification) in a field related to IFRC humanitarian work
- Be a recent graduate of a higher education course in a field related to humanitarianism
Browse the IFRC’s recruitment page to find open internship vacancies.
UNHCR is the UN refugee agency. It provides assistance to people in 137 countries who have been forced to flee their homes because of conflict, persecution or disasters. UNHCR offers internships to students or recent graduates looking to gain experience in the humanitarian sector. Internships are available at many of UNHCR’s offices, including their main offices in Geneva, Amman, Copenhagen, and Budapest.
Humanitarian internships with UNHCR usually last for between two and six months but can be extended to eight months. An allowance is provided to interns covering food and local travel. If interns travel abroad for UNHCR, these costs are also covered. UNHCR has a huge range of internships. If you want to begin a career in humanitarian aid, be sure to browse their vacancies.
How to Apply
You find open internships on the UNHCR recruitment page. Apart from being a student or recent graduate, there are no set criteria for applying for an internship with UNHCR. However, some internship postings can include additional requirements.
Follow the link to be taken to the internships page of UNHCR’s site.
World Relief is a faith-based NGO headquartered in the US. They respond to humanitarian crises around the world, as well as assisting refugees and displaced people and those living in extreme poverty. World Relief offers internships of three months to students and recent graduates looking to begin a career in humanitarian aid.
Interns with World Relief have the opportunity to work in a wide range of areas, including finance, communications, programmes, advocacy, policy, grant writing, church outreach, refugee resettlement and humanitarian and disaster relief. There are World Relief internships available across the United States, as well as in 24 countries offices. There are both full-time and part-time internships available with World Relief.
How to Apply
The eligibility criteria to become an intern with World Relief are as follows:
- Be 18 years of age or older
- Commit to 15 hours of work as week as a minimum
- Current student, or graduated within the last three years
- Adhere to the ‘Christian Statement of Faith’ required by all World Relief employees
- Agree to World Relief’s mission, vision, and values
More information on internships at World Relief can be found here.
UNICEF is the UN’s children’s agency. Working in 190 countries UNICEF runs projects assisting children affected by humanitarian crises or living in poverty. UNICEF recruits a wide range of internship positions across its offices. Interns with UNICEF work within a dedicated team whilst building wide ranging and practical knowledge of humanitarian work.
Internships with UNICEF are for specific roles, as opposed to being part of a more general internship programme. This means it’s possible to do internships positions in areas such as programmes, communications, advocacy, administration, and operations. UNICEF interns receive a stipend to go towards the costs of housing, food, and transportation.
How to Apply
Candidates must meet the following criteria in order to apply for an internship with UNICEF:
- Be enrolled in bachelors, masters, or PhD programme, or have graduated within the last two years
- Be fluent in either English, French or Spanish, and be fluent in the working language of the UNICEF office
- Have a strong academic record
- Have no immediate relatives (defined as mother, father, or sibling) working for UNICEF
- Have no relatives with a reporting line to the internship position
- Be over 18 years of age
Follow the link to be taken to UNICEF’s internship page.
Humanitarian Aid Online Courses
If you are looking to begin a career in humanitarian aid, we highly recommend the online course International Humanitarian and Development Careers. We think it provides one of the best overviews of the humanitarian sector and gives valuable insights for those searching for a job in humanitarian aid. Follow the link to the course’s page for more information.
We also think the Humanitarian Action Response and Relief online course offered by Coventry University is a must for anyone looking to become a humanitarian aid worker. It only takes around three weeks to complete and would be a major addition to the CV of anyone looking to work in the aid sector. The link is to the course’s page.
The Enhancing Development Effectiveness and Poverty Alleviation online course provides students with a theoretical basis for working in complex humanitarian settings. We think it’s one of the top online courses for those who want to understand how humanitarian aid works. Click the link to visit the course’s page for more information.
Action Against Hunger
Action Against Hunger is one of the leading humanitarian organisations in the world working in the areas of livelihoods, water and sanitation and mental health. They often recruit intern positions to support different departments. Interns at Action Against Hunger can support key humanitarian functions including programmes, logistics, operations, advocacy, and information management.
Interns at Action Against Hunger work as part of a dedicated team and have a report to a managerial level position. They also receive the support of a careers mobility officers assisting them to develop their career within the humanitarian aid sector.
How to Apply
The conditions for joining the Action Against Hunger’s humanitarian internship programme are as follows:
- You are enrolled in a training course at a French educational institute
- Your current training is under a ‘professional training contract’
- Your training is certified by the ‘National Register of Professional Certification’ (RNCP)
- You are available to intern for between 12 and 24 months
You can find open internship positions at Action Against Hunger here.
UN Human Rights Office
The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) is the UN’s human rights body. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the UN Human Rights Office proactively works to improve human rights around the world. The OHCHR internship programme aims to provide students and recent graduates with a practical understanding of human rights and their implementation.
Interning with OHCHR is ideal for any young person interested in a career working on human rights issues. Interns can cover a range of tasks including researching human rights topics, supporting vital meetings, drafting analytical papers, and backstopping for technical staff. Internships with the UN OHCHR vary in length depending on the organisation’s needs.
How to Apply
Applicants to internship position with OHCHR must meet one of the following criteria:
- Currently be studying in a graduate programme
- Be enrolled in the final year of an undergraduate degree
- Be a recent graduate and undertaking the internship within one year of graduation
Internship vacancies at OHCHR can be found on their recruitment portal.
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross is one of the largest and most important humanitarian organisations in the US. It is the part of the global Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. The American Red Cross offers a series of internships throughout the academic year for students and recent graduates.
Internships with the American Red Cross last for 10 weeks. They begin either in the fall, winter, or summer. Internships are offered at the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington D. C., and in regional offices. Interns at the American Red Cross receive a deep insight into how a large-scale humanitarian organisation operates. There are both paid and unpaid internship at the American Red Cross. Interns typically work 40 hours a week.
How to Apply
You must be an undergraduate or graduate student at the time of the internship to apply to the American Red Cross.
More information on the American Red Cross internship scheme can be found on their website.
International Organisation For Migration (IOM)
Founded in 1951, the International Organisation for Migration is one of the world’s leading bodies working with people on the move. It became part of the United Nations in 2016. IOM recruits hundreds of interns each year across their offices. Interns at IOM gain first-hand experience of the organisation’s activities, whilst receiving on the job training in humanitarian action and coordination.
Candidates on the IOM internship programme are given specific assignments to complete that complement their academic studies. They are also under the guidance of a supervisor who ensures their learning outcomes are met and assists with career development. Internships with IOM last from between two and six months. IOM pays a stipend to interns to cover food and some living expenses.
How to Apply
If you are interested in a career in humanitarian aid and taking an internship with IOM, you need to meet the following criteria:
- Be enrolled in the final year of a bachelor’s degree or be currently studying on a graduate programme
- Have graduated from a degree programme within the last year
- Be sponsored by a government institution or NGO to work in an area related to IOM’s operations
Vacancies for internships with IOM can be found on their website.
World Food Programme (WFP)
The World Food Programme, part of the United Nations, is one of the largest humanitarian organisations globally. They respond to famines around the world and assist governments and communities to improve food security. WFP has internships around the world and looks for talented and motivated individuals looking to start a career in humanitarian aid.
Internships with WFP usually last between two and eight months. Most WFP interns receive a financial allowance. WFP also covers insurance and any travel expenses. Interns are recruited by WFP for specific roles and are attached to a division within the organisation.
How to Apply
IOM sets out the criteria to join its internships programme as the following:
- Attending a recognised university or be a graduate within the last six months
- Completed at least two years of undergraduate study
- Motivated team player open to new challenges
- Working knowledge of English (additional UN languages are beneficial)
- Wanting to develop a career in humanitarian aid
You can browse open internships at IOM here.
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World Vision is one of the largest Christian humanitarian organisations in the world. They have projects in over 100 countries and specialise in areas such as education, protection, women rights, disaster response, health and nutrition and water and sanitation. World Vision offers a remote internship programme, allowing students and recent graduates to intern from anywhere in the world.
Internships with World Vision last for three months and run in the spring and summer. World Vision aims for their interns to get practical and valuable experience working in the humanitarian aid sector. Interns at World Vision get the chance to learn new skills that will benefit their future careers, as well as an opportunity to network with professional humanitarians.
How to Apply
The World Vision internship programme is open to current university students and recent graduates in the United States.
You can browse the internships currently being recruited by World Vision here.
Save the Children
Save the Children is one of the largest humanitarian organisations assisting children affected by conflicts, disasters, and poverty. The US branch of Save the Children offers year-round internships that aim to provide unique learning experiences for those wanting to become humanitarian aid workers. It also aims to give interns a deeper insight into how a major non-profit organisation is ran.
Interns at Save the Children US are attached to dedicated team and work for forward the strategic interests of the department they join. Save the Children interns work for between 12 and 24 hours a week and are paid. They also receive mentoring and onboarding training, as well as weekly learning opportunities. Internships can be done remotely, or at one of Save the Children’s office Fairfield, CT, Lexington, KY, or Washington D. C.
How to Apply
Interns at Save the Children must be on an associate, bachelor’s or graduate degree or have completed a degree within the last six months. Candidates must also be eligible to work in the US. Save the Children internships start in either January, June, or September.
More information on internships with Save the Children US can be found here.
Doctors Without Borders
Doctors Without Borders is the world’s leading humanitarian medical organisation. World famous for its work providing medical relief in conflict and disaster zones, Doctors Without Borders has offices in 70 countries. The US headquarters of Doctors Without Borders off an internship scheme with intakes in January, May, and September of each year.
Interns with Doctors Without Borders take on a specific roles within the organisation. There are internship opportunities across the NGO, including in programmes, finance, HR and data science. Internships take place in the New York office of Doctors Without Borders and interns are paid 15 USD an hour.
How to Apply
Doctors Without Borders include the following notes regarding their internships scheme:
- Candidates must be eligible for work in the US
- Interns must be able to live and work in New York City
- Interns must cover their own accommodation and relocation costs (if any)
The Doctors Without Borders internship page can be found here.
Founded in 1945, CARE International is a major humanitarian NGO. They work around world in areas including crises response, gender equality, climate change, health, food security, water and sanitation and advocacy. CARE International recruits’ interns across their headquarters.
An internship at CARE International is ideal for those wanting to work in humanitarian aid. CARE International internships provide significant first-hand experience within a large and dynamic humanitarian organisation. CARE International interns focus on specific areas and work as a valued member of a dedicated team.
How to Apply
Each internship at CARE International has its own requirements. Check the job listing for details.
You can apply for internships at CARE International through their recruitment page here.
If you want to learn more about beginning a career in humanitarian aid, explore our list of the top humanitarian aid online courses here.