How Much Do Humanitarians Get Paid?

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Working in humanitarian aid is an exciting, demanding and very rewarding career. Most people enter the humanitarian sector because they want to help people across the world affected by conflict and disasters. Usually, how much they are paid is not the main reason they do humanitarian work. However, everyone has bills to pay and mouths to feed, and so if you do humanitarian work, how much can you expect to earn?

Entry level humanitarian workers earn between $27,000 and $32,000 annually. As you move into the mid-career and gain more field experience, salaries range between $35,000 and $45,000. Senior humanitarian workers can earn around $60,000 or up-to $100,000 a year.

However, the salary of a humanitarian worker depends greatly on their experience, especially international field work and time spent in difficult locations, as well as the technical expertise they have.

What Humanitarian Jobs Pay Well?

The most highly paid jobs in humanitarian aid are often senior managers and technical advisors with a lot of experience. High level directors managing large humanitarian projects, often with budgets into the millions of dollars and overseeing big teams, can collect salaries up to $80,000 to $100,000 a year. These jobs pay well because they require a lot of experience and have a lot of responsibility.

The exact salary of humanitarian workers in senior management roles depends on which location the position is in and with which NGO.

Another job in humanitarian aid that is well paid is technical advisors. Highly trained advisors, often with medical, engineering or architecture backgrounds can provide qualified advice that humanitarian projects need. People in technical advisor roles can earn between $60,000 and $80,000 a year.

Technical advisor jobs in humanitarian aid are highly paid because you need extensive skills, such as in medical, engineering, nutrition or economics, to secure such as job. The most highly paid technical jobs in humanitarian aid are often with large NGOs and the United Nations.

Humanitarian jobs also usually highly paid when they involve working in difficult, remote or dangerous locations. Many humanitarian jobs are located in disaster areas or active conflict zones, and because of this the salary is higher.

Humanitarian organisations and the United Nations often add additional ‘hardship pay’ to the salary of humanitarian workers deployed to tough locations. This is paid in addition to their monthly salary. Working in some ‘hardship’ positions can be well paid and humanitarian workers very can earn good salaries, especially if they can stay in difficult locations for a long time.

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.

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.

What is the Salary of a Humanitarian Nurse?

Generally, a nurse working in a humanitarian operation earns around $3000 a month. The exact salary of a humanitarian nurse depends on their level of experience, both in humanitarian work and in the medical field in their home country.

How much a nurse doing humanitarian work earns also depends on the location they are working and what kind of medical work they do. The highest paid jobs for nurses doing humanitarian work are in conflict zones assisting with victims of war.

As a nurse gains more experience in humanitarian work, they often move away from direct medical roles and into project coordination. Nurses doing humanitarian work can hold the position of Medical Coordinator and this usually has a salary of up to $4500 a month.

Nurses working as medical coordinators in humanitarian project needs to have several years’ experience in nursing as well as significant experience working in humanitarian aid and this is reflected in the salary.

How Much Does a Doctor Working in Humanitarian Aid Earn?

Doctors doing humanitarian work earn between $3000 and $4500 a month. Generally, doctors on humanitarian missions work in management roles overseeing medical projects. They often have teams under them doing the direct medical work whilst they oversee the project management, pharmacy management, budget and provide technical medical advice. This role, Medical Coordinator or sometimes Health Programme Manager, can pay a higher salary because of the level of experience needed and the amount of responsibility the position has.

Humanitarian doctors providing medical services, such as surgeons, anaesthetists or emergency room doctors, usually earn around $3500. Doctors doing this work can sometimes be part-time on humanitarian missions, whilst still getting their full salary from their medical work at home.

Doctors doing medical work on humanitarian missions are often paid less than they would in their home countries, especially working in private hospital, but many do humanitarian work so they can provide much needed medical assistance to people in great need.

What Does a Humanitarian Engineer Earn?

Qualified engineers working on humanitarian projects usually receive a salary between and $40,000 to $50,000 a year. However, there are several roles that engineers can take as part of a humanitarian operations and the exact salary depends on the work they do and their level of qualifications.

Usually, humanitarian engineers provide technical advice to humanitarian projects and because they need to be very qualified to do this the salary can be quite high.

There are several factors that determine the salary of a humanitarian engineer. The first is how much experience they have. You need experience working as an engineer before joining the humanitarian sector to earn a high salary.  

A humanitarian engineers’ salaries is also determined by the location of the work – with field work in remote or conflict zones paying more, and the NGO they are working for. In general, larger NGOs will pay better salaries.

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How Much Do You Get Paid Doing Humanitarian Bomb Disposal?

Humanitarian bomb disposal experts generally earn a salary of around $45,000 a year. Working in humanitarian bomb disposal, mine clearance or with unexploded ordinance is a very dangerous and highly skilled job, and the salary reflects this. Usually, humanitarian bomb disposal personal either work practically removing explosives as part of a humanitarian operation, or are in management roles overseeing teams of bomb disposers.

Starting salaries for people working in humanitarian bomb disposal can be around $2800 a month.

Working in humanitarian bomb disposal in a management role you can expect to earn up to $55,000 a year. The salary for technical coordinator positions in humanitarian bomb disposal are higher because you need much more experience before joining. Often the salary of those working in humanitarian bomb disposal depends on the exact qualifications they have as well as the previous work experience they have in bomb disposal, either through humanitarian work or in the military.

What is the Salary of a Humanitarian Lawyer?

Lawyers doing humanitarian work get paid between $45,000 and $120,000 a year. The salary of a humanitarian lawyer depends a lot on if they are working in a law firm that provides humanitarian law services, or if they are working as private practitioner or external consultant. Humanitarian lawyers working as part of a law firm that specialises in humanitarian work tend to earn more.

If you are working as a humanitarian lawyer as an external consultant, either for an NGO or the United Nations, you usually earn about $60,000 However, this can change depending on where you are working and with which organisation.

A humanitarian lawyer providing private services, either directly to those affected by humanitarian crises, or through an NGO providing legal aid, often work ‘pro bono’ and so are not paid for their work. Humanitarian lawyers working like this usually do so alongside their regular paid employment in a law firm.

If you want to learn more about how to become a humanitarian aid worker, explore out list of the top humanitarian aid online courses here.


Duncan is the founder of Humanitarian Careers. With over ten years experience in the aid industry across fifteen countries, Duncan set-up Humanitarian Careers to help people launch their own career in international aid.