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Most people work in humanitarian aid because of a genuine wish to help those affected by conflicts, and disasters. However, as professional humanitarians build careers within the aid sector, it is fair to ask which jobs within humanitarian aid pay the best? Generally, the higher paying jobs in humanitarian aid are senior management roles and jobs that require technical qualifications and expertise. Many humanitarian jobs pay fairly – especially considering the difficulties working on the front-line of crises can bring. However, some aid jobs can be especially well paid…
The job of Country Director is the most senior position within an NGO’s humanitarian mission. Due to the seniority of the Country Director role, it is one of the best paid humanitarian jobs. Country Directors have overall responsibility for a humanitarian NGOs programmes, finances, grants, people and operations. As a result, the significant responsibility of the Country Director means it is one of the highest paid jobs in the humanitarian industry.
To become a Country Director within a humanitarian NGO requires many years of experience working in humanitarian aid. This is another reason why the job of Country Director is one of the top paying humanitarian jobs. Country Directors also have ultimate responsibility for all aspects of a humanitarian NGOs work in a specific country, usually meaning they oversee teams of hundreds of staff and budgets of several million dollars. The level of responsibility and the significant experience needed for the job combine to make it very well-paid humanitarian job.
Lawyers specialising in humanitarian law work to defend individuals and groups against human rights violations and crimes against humanity. Whilst working for good causes, Humanitarian Lawyers can also receive high salaries. Often Humanitarian Lawyers will work for law firms who specialise in human rights and international criminal cases. They can also work for governments advising on international humanitarian law. Humanitarian Lawyers are often paid well, in-line with many other jobs in the law profession.
International humanitarian law is a specialised area of legal expertise. As a result, lawyers specialising in humanitarian law need to be highly trained and well versed in the legal frameworks of international humanitarian law and this means they can command large salaries. Humanitarian lawyers take on complex and often difficult cases, or provide expert advise to governments, international organisations, or NGOs. The level of expertise needed in the job of humanitarian lawyers is the main reason it is paid well.
Humanitarian Engineers work on projects applying engineering sciences to humanitarian problems. This can include anything from repairing bridges damaged by natural disasters to designing better shelters for refugees. As Humanitarian Engineers need to have technical knowledge of engineering as well as the skills to apply this is in often difficult humanitarian settings, Humanitarian Engineers can receive high salaries. Depending on the scale of the project, the type of engineering and specific aspects of the crisis response, Humanitarian Engineers can be very well paid.
Humanitarian engineering can cover a range of specialisms, including water and sanitation, shelter design, camp set-up and construction and engineering innovations to assist humanitarian responses. Humanitarian Engineers need to be highly trained in their area of specialism as well as have significant experience in humanitarian action. As a result, humanitarian engineering jobs can pay well. Humanitarian Engineers can command large salaries as their specific skills are highly in need in disasters and conflict zones and not many people are trained in both engineering and its application in humanitarian settings.
Humanitarian Aid Online Courses
If you are looking to work 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 jobs in humanitarian aid. Follow the link to the course’s page for more information.
The International Humanitarian Law Theory and Practice online course offered by Leiden University in the Netherlands provides a fantastic theoretical overview of humanitarianism. We think it’s one of the top online courses for those who want to understand the basics of international humanitarian law. Click the link to visit 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 role of Technical Advisor on a humanitarian mission is to provide specific advice on programmatic areas, as well as developing tools, reviewing procedures and monitoring the quality of the response. Technical Advisors can cover areas such as nutrition, health, water and sanitation, child protection and gender-based violence. Technical ADVISOR jobs on humanitarian responses can be highly paid as the post-holder needs to be an expert in their field, as well as having extensive educational qualifications and practical work experience.
Often one of the best-paid positions within humanitarian NGOs can be the Technical Advisors. Usually based either at HQ level providing inputs to multiple country responses, or based at field level advising larger humanitarian missions, Technical Advisors can be paid large salaries due to their specialist knowledge and valuable insights. Humanitarian Technical Advisors can also be well paid because they need extensive knowledge of how to apply their technical field to different humanitarian responses.
Consultants in the humanitarian sector are hired by NGOs to complete specific work projects, often when the NGO doesn’t have the internal capacity needed. Like in many industries, humanitarian consultants can charge high fees for their work, often commanding daily rates of several hundred dollars. Some consultants in the humanitarian sector also charge a flat fee depending on the exact requirements of the work. Consultants are well known to be highly paid in the humanitarian sector and often experienced aid workers go into consultancy later in their careers.
Humanitarian consultants work either independently or for a consultancy firm specializing in supporting NGOs and aid agencies. Consultants can charge high fees for their work, especially if they are completing large scale work for a humanitarian NGO. Many humanitarian grants given by donors include budget lines for consultants to complete work that it is not viable to employ a full-time staff member for, or that needs special expertise. As consultants in the humanitarian sector need to be very specialized and able to carry out a wide range of tasks depending on their terms of reference, they can receive high salaries and can be some of the best paid people in the aid sector.
Head of Programmes
The Head of Programmes is often one of the best paid positions within a humanitarian response. As a senior management job, the Head of Programme has oversight of all programmatic functions within a humanitarian NGOs mission. They can be highly paid as they manage large teams often implementing multi-million-dollar aid programmes. The Head of Programmes is also responsible for the success of the humanitarian NGOs programme implementation, which, being a lot of responsibility, can often mean it is well paid job.
The role of Head of Programmes is usually employed in large humanitarian missions implementing several projects across different grants. The job of the Head of Programmes is to oversee the Project Managers and have final oversight of the humanitarian work. The level of oversight and responsibility, combined with the experience needed to manage multiple large humanitarian projects is another reason why the Head of Programmes is a well-paid job in the humanitarian sector.
Director of Operations
The role of the Director of Operations in a humanitarian response is to oversee the support functions of the mission. The humanitarian support functions are the Finance, HR, Logistics and Admin departments. As the Director of Operations usually oversees multiple departments and is a senior management job, it is often highly paid. The job of Director of Operations is usually employed on large humanitarian missions, and as the post-holder oversees significant resources, the position can be well paid.
To become a humanitarian Director of Operations requires significant experience within the humanitarian sector, as well as extensive knowledge of the humanitarian support functions – Finance, Logistics, HR And Admin. As result, humanitarian Operations Directors can be paid well. The level of responsibility, combined with the experience and knowledge needed for to be success as a humanitarian Operations Director means the job commands a good salary.
Chief of Party
The job of Chief of Party in a humanitarian NGO is to manage all aspects of a specific donor grant. Some donors require a point-position, known as the Chief of Party, to have full oversight of the grant’s implementation within the NGO, as well as be accountable to the donor organization. The position of Chief of Party within a humanitarian mission is a senior role with significant responsibility for the grant. As a result, Chief of Party jobs are well paid. Chief of Party jobs are often in-place on large grants worth many millions of dollars, and as a result they can receive high salaries.
The Chief of Party on a humanitarian mission has full oversight of all aspects of a grant’s management. This includes budget and financial management, ensuring resources are in-place, staff are managed correctly, aid is delivered as needed and reports and information required by the donor is supplied. With significant responsibility, and requiring many years of experience working in humanitarian aid, the job of Chief of Party is considered to be a well-paid job within the aid sector.
The Finance Director within a humanitarian NGO is responsible for financial oversight of the organization. It is a well-paid job within the humanitarian sector due to the level of responsibility and management required in the role. Finance Directors within the aid sector can oversee the financial management of multi-million-dollar organizations. This requires significant experience in finance work, as well as compliance, risk management and governance experience. As a result, humanitarian Finance Director roles are highly paid.
The job of Finance Director is usually within the HQ of a humanitarian NGO, although large humanitarian missions may have a Finance Director at country-level. Finance Directors often oversee the large finance team’s humanitarian NGOs can have. This responsibility is another reason humanitarian Finance Directors can be well paid. The responsibilities of a humanitarian Finance Director can also include overseeing grants given by donors for humanitarian projects. Having the additional reasonability for these donor grants can be another reason for the high salaries of humanitarian Finance Directors.
Business Development Manager
The role of the Business Development Manager within a humanitarian NGO is to focus on increasing the funding base for the organization and its humanitarian missions. Through securing grants, corporate partnerships and public donations, the Business Development Manager is responsible for all aspects of a humanitarian NGO’s fundraising. As a result, the job of Business Development Manager can be highly paid, especially in large NGOs that need to continuously bring in significant funds.
Alongside overseeing fundraising and grant management, the Business Development Manager in a humanitarian NGO can also assist with setting the strategic direction of the organization. This added responsibility can mean the job of Business Development Manager in a humanitarian NGO is well paid. Business Development Managers often have targets set for fundraising and meeting these targets can make the role highly pressured. This can be another reason why the job of Business Development Manager in humanitarian NGOs is well paid.
The Regional Director within a humanitarian NGO is usually the most senior position covering many countries of operations. Most humanitarian NGOs group their countries by regions – East Africa, Middle East, Central and South America etc. and the Regional Director has overall responsibility for country programmes of their region. Regional Director roles in humanitarian NGOs can be very highly paid, as the job requires senior-level oversight of multiple countries, each with significant amounts of activities, staff and finances.
Regional Director’s in humanitarian NGOs are usually based in regional offices, in hubs such as Amman in Jordan or Nairobi, Kenya. They can also be based at HQ level. Regional Directors are often one of the highest paid jobs within a humanitarian NGO, as the role requires significant humanitarian and management experience. The job of Regional Director within a humanitarian organization can also command a high salary due to the level of complexity and oversight the role requires – managing humanitarian country programs across a wide geographical region.
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Humanitarian Director is a senior management role within an NGO, responsible for of all aspects of their humanitarian work. The job of Humanitarian Director is highly paid as it is the main leadership role and has oversight over programme implementation, resources, and funding. Humanitarian Directors can receive high salaries as the job has significant responsibility and requires extensive experience working in humanitarian aid to be successful. The job of Humanitarian Director often gets one of the top salaries within an NGO.
The job of Humanitarian Director is usually based in an NGOs HQ, but may also be based in the field for NGOs that have large country programmes. Humanitarian Director’s often need many decades of experience in humanitarian aid, and therefore the job pays well. It is also a high-pressure role with responsibilities for the NGOs strategic direction, as well as ensuring the responsiveness, quality and continued funding of their aid work. The job of Humanitarian Director is often one of the highest paid in an NGO.
The job of the Medical Coordinator on a humanitarian mission is to manage the implementation of health programmes. The Medical Coordinator is usually the most senior technical medical role on a humanitarian mission, and therefore the job can be quite highly paid. Medical Coordinator’s need extensive experience in humanitarian field work, as well as to be a medically trained doctor, nurse or paramedic. This combination of qualification and experience is a key reason that humanitarian Medical Coordinators are paid well.
Humanitarian Medical Coordinators oversee an NGO’s medical programme, including direct management as well as technical support. They also manage the medical team, health project budget and have oversight of the pharmacy. As a senior role on a humanitarian mission, combined with extensive management responsibilities, means the job of humanitarian Medical Coordinator can receive a high salary. Medical Coordinators can also be hard to recruit for as applicants need medical and humanitarian experience, so NGOs can offer high salaries to attract strong candidates.
Humanitarian projects need extensive monitoring and evaluation to ensure aid is reaching the beneficiaries as needed and NGOs are accountable to their donors. The job of Evaluation Lead is to manage the monitoring and evaluation of humanitarian projects of an NGO. Evaluation Leads can receive high salaries as the jobs involves significant technical expertise as well as requiring strong knowledge of how aid projects are evaluated. Evaluation Leads at humanitarian NGOs also manage the monitoring and evaluation team, and this added responsibility increases the salary as well.
The job of humanitarian Evaluation Lead is a key role within an NGOs aid programme. They need to work with a high degree of accuracy, whilst also being able to get verifiable data in contexts where it can often be difficult to get good information. The seniority of the role combined with the skills and experience needed are the reasons that humanitarian Evaluations Leads are paid well. Evaluation Leads are also responsible for making sure the NGO is accountable, financially and ethically, to both funders and the receivers of aid. This level of oversights is another reason humanitarian Evaluation Leads can receive high salaries.
Supply Chain Manager
The Supply Chain Manager oversees all aspects of the logistics, procurement, warehousing and transportation on a humanitarian mission. Effective supply chain management is key to the successful implementation of aid programmes, as aid needs to be delivered to those in need correctly. As a result, highly qualified humanitarian Supply Chain Managers can receive good salaries. Supply Chain Managers on humanitarian missions needs to be highly skilled and experienced in adapting logistics systems and processes to the difficult contexts of disaster and conflict zones, and as a result the position can be well paid.
The job of humanitarian Supply Chain Manager is usually the most senior logistics role on a humanitarian mission. This is a key reason why the job can have a high salary. The role of humanitarian Supply Chain Manager directly leads the logistics team, as well as coordinating the fleet of cars and drivers, ensuring effective procurement and managing donor compliance for logistics. The level of oversight required in the role of humanitarian Supply Chain Manager, and the experience needed to do the job, are some of the reasons it is a well-paid position.
If you want to learn more about how to become a humanitarian worker, explore our list of the top humanitarian aid online courses here.