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Many people graduate from university and want to start a career working for NGOs. Some even go to university knowing they want to work in the NGO sector when they graduate, and this influences their choice of degree. But what jobs in the NGO sector are open to recent graduates? Do NGOs have specific roles that graduates should apply for? We’ve put together this breakdown to show the types of graduate positions NGOs often recruit…
A first type of NGO job that is ideal for recent graduates is internships. The NGO sector has a wide range of internships open to final year students and those a few years out from university. NGO interns can work on a huge range of projects and get the opportunity to develop the fundamental skills needed to build a career in within the NGO sector.
In many NGOs, interns take on a specific position completing designated tasks in support of a team. In other, often smaller NGOs, interns may take on a more general role, picking up tasks across the organisation as needed. Although some internships in the NGO sector are unpaid, more recently NGOs are realising to attract top talent they must pay their interns. NGO internships are often highlighted as one of the best NGO graduate roles.
How to Apply
In order to apply to an NGO internship, you will need to have graduated from a degree, often in the last year or so. There are some NGOs that do take students on internships as well. Studying a degree relevant to the NGO sector will help you secure an internship with an NGO.
A second NGO job that is commonly taken by recent graduates is that of researcher. Many NGOs, especially large ones, will undertake research in order to better understand the contexts in which they work, as well as the long-term implications of the work they do. Often, NGOs will hire recent graduates to assist with this research.
Working as a researcher for an NGO can be a fantastic opportunity for graduates that have an interest in academia, and that want to combine this with working in the NGO sector. Recent graduates are mostly likely to work as research assistants on NGO projects, however some masters or PhD graduates may be hired outright to undertake specific research for an NGO.
How to Apply
To get a researcher job with an NGO you will need to be a graduate with a high level of academic achievement. You will also need to demonstrate an understanding of different research methods, as well as how these relate to conducting research in the kinds of contexts NGOs work in.
Another type of graduate job you can take in the NGO sector is as a Field Assistant. The locations where NGOs deliver their projects are known as field bases. The role of the Field Assistant is to provide day-to-day support to the field team, and especially to the Head of Base. The role can include everything from completing administrative tasks, to arranging meetings and assisting with finance, HR, or logistics.
In many NGOs the role of the Field Assistant is a diverse position that supports the general functioning of the field base. It is an ideal graduate job as it provides a fantastic overview of how NGOs run their aid projects. If you are looking to start a career in the aid sector, and especially want to focus on frontline field work, seek out a job as a Field Assistant after graduation.
How to Apply
Field Assistant roles in the NGO sector are high sought after. You will need to be a university graduate, and likely have studied up to master’s level. A degree in humanitarian or development aid, or NGO management, would benefit your application.
Monitoring and Evaluation Assistant
A great job for recent graduates in the NGO sector for those with an interest in data or maths is a Monitoring and Evaluation Assistant. NGOs must collect project data in order to record how their projects are assisting people. They also need to evaluate the data they collect to ensure their projects are having the desired impact.
The role of Monitoring and Evaluation Assistant in an NGO involves collecting data from field sites, compiling it into data collection tools, and assisting with feeding this data into reports and analyses. Monitoring and Evaluation Assistant is an idea job for any graduate that wants to combine data science with NGO work.
How to Apply
You will need to be a university graduate in order to apply for Monitoring and Evaluation Assistant positions within the NGO sector. You could apply from a humanitarian, development, or other NGO related degree, if you can prove you have the necessary skills in data management. You could also apply from mathematics or data science degrees, if you can show you understand how this relates to the work NGOs do.
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.
Advocacy is an important part of what NGOs do. Almost all NGOs undertake advocacy related to their cause. Advocacy means engaging with decision makers and key stakeholders – including in politics, the media, the armed forces, and international bodies such as the UN, to create long-term and sustainable change.
A common job taken by recent graduates in the NGO sector is as an Advocacy Officer. This position supports the NGOs advocacy team in developing campaigns, conducting stakeholder research, assisting with directly engaging stakeholders and performing a range of administrative tasks. If you are a recent graduate and interested in advocacy work, look for NGOs recruiting Advocacy Officer positions.
How to Apply
Graduates looking to join the advocacy team of an NGO should be able to demonstrate some experience in campaigning or activism during their time as a student. There are many campaigns students can get involved in and joining these can be a great step towards getting a role in NGO advocacy.
All NGOs need to raise funds to support their activities. The graduate position within many NGOs fundraising teams is the Fundraising Assistant. This role provides day-to-day and administrative support to the fundraising team. It can include helping with organising fundraising events, liaising directly with supporters, or assisting with the development of fundraising campaigns.
Graduates who are looking to work in NGO fundraising should apply for Fundraising Assistant positions. NGOs often recruit for Fundraising Assistant roles straight from university, and so it can be a fantastic way to get your first position within the fundraising department of an NGO if you are a recent graduate.
How to Apply
To apply for Fundraising Assistant jobs with an NGO you will not only need to be a university graduate, but also need to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of how NGOs raise funds. Being involved in fundraising events for NGOs, even as a volunteer, whilst you are a student, can be a great way to show that you are enthusiastic about a career in fundraising.
Another common graduate job in many NGOs is the role of Office Administrator. This job is responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the NGOs office. It often includes completing administrative tasks, looking after the facilities, inducting new staff and assisting with how the office is run. NGOs often recruit recent graduates for their Office Administrator roles.
Although perhaps not directly related to the NGOs aid work, taking a job as an Office Administrator with an NGO can be a great way for a recent graduate to begin a career in the NGO sector. You get the opportunity work within a fast-paced and dynamic NGO office, whilst also interacting with key staff and gaining an understanding of how NGOs work. If you are looking for a graduate job in the NGO sector, consider taking the role of Office Administrator.
How to Apply
Graduates wanting to take the position of Office Administrator with an NGO will need to demonstrate an understanding of basic administrative processes, whilst also showing they are highly organised and have good attention to detail.
One job in the NGO sector that is commonly filled by graduates is Project Officer. The job of the Project Officer is to provide support to a specific NGO programme. They are often responsible for assisting with the project’s implementation, whilst also inputting to grant management, financial processes, and administration.
NGO Project Officers can either be attached to projects focusing on a technical area, such as health, shelter, livelihoods or water and sanitation, or support more general project management across the organisation.
How to Apply
If you are interested in working as a Project Officer with an NGO, you will need to be a university graduate. A degree related to the NGO sector would be beneficial. Also consider taking a project management qualification, such as PRINCE2 or PMD Pro. If you are applying for Project Officer roles as part of a technical project, you will likely need to have a graduate degree related to that technical area.
Logistics is a major part of how NGOs operate. It is the processes by which NGOs procure, store, and move the aid they need to where it is to be distributed. All NGOs will have a logistics or supply chain teams, and large ones may have major logistics departments. The graduate role within NGO logistics is usually that of Logistics Assistant.
The job of the Logistics Assistant within an NGO is to support the wider logistics team in its functioning. This can include liaising with suppliers, working in the warehouse, producing, or checking logistics documents and conducting reviews of the local market. If you are a graduate with an interest in NGO and logistics, definitely apply for Logistics Assistants’ roles.
How to Apply
In order to apply for Logistics Assistants jobs within the NGO sector you will likely need a degree in logistics or supply chain management. Additional qualifications in humanitarian logistics would also be beneficial. You need to demonstrate not only a technical knowledge of logistics, but also how this supports the work that NGOs do.
It is common for finance graduates to join the NGO sector in the role of Accountant. Like all organisations, NGOs hire Accountants to manage their financial processes, including tracking expenditure, creating financial reports, keeping cash, and making payments. Some NGOs may hire Finance Assistant or Officer roles instead of Accountants, but both are typical roles for recent finance graduates.
There are accountancy and finance roles throughout NGOs. All NGOs will have Accountants at HQ and country level. Larger NGOs will likely have a Finance Assistant role at field level as well. If you are qualified as an Accountant and want to work for an NGO, consider applying positions open to finance graduates.
How to Apply
To apply for accountancy roles with many NGOs you need to be a fully qualified Accountant, including having completed your degree and any professional qualifications. Some NGOs may require graduates to have a few years professional experience working in accountancy as well.
NGOs accept grants from organisations including governments, international bodies such as the EU and UN, as well as from private companies. These grants are key to funding many NGO projects. The job of the Grants Officer in the NGO sector is to support the effective management of the grants an NGO receives.
As well as receiving grants, larger international NGOs will provide sub-grants to local organisations to assist with implementing projects. NGOs hire Grants Officers in order to monitor these grants and ensure national NGOs are remaining compliant with donor requirements.
How to Apply
Many recent graduates begin their career in the NGO sector by taking grants positions. You will need a degree in order to apply to be a Grants Officer with an NGO, as well as an understanding of project or grant cycle management.
A final role in the NGO sector that is commonly taken by recent graduates is Team Administrator. Many NGOs hire Team Administrators to support key departments and ensure the smooth operations of administrative processes. Team Administrators in the NGO sector are often recruited at HQ level, or at field level by large NGOs.
If you are a university graduate and wanting to work in the NGO sector, one of the best jobs you can take is as a Team Administrator. You will get a wide range of experience working across multiple functions. You will also gain a broad understanding of how NGOs work and the needs of large non-profit organisations.
How to Apply
You will need to be a university graduate to apply for Team Administrator roles in most NGOs. Although a degree related to the NGO sector, such as humanitarian or development aid or NGO management would be beneficial, degrees in international relations, conflict, or refugee studies would also show your interest in NGO work. A degree in business administration may also be a good route to securing a job as a Team Administrator in an NGO.
If you want more information on how to work for an NGO, explore our list of the top NGO online courses here.