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As a nation, Canada is one of the top humanitarian donors in the world. Canada spends over five billion USD a year in overseas aid. As well as international aid efforts, Canada also has a thriving domestic NGO sector that provides charitable support to Canadians facing hardship.
Canada has many NGOs and there are a huge range of jobs within the country’s NGO sector. We’ve put together this guide for anyone wanting to work for an NGO in Canada. It’s ideal for recent graduates and people starting their careers who are interested in joining a Canadian NGO, as well as those looking to transition to working for an NGO from a career in the public or private sector.
Types of NGO Recruiting In Canada
The first step to getting an NGO job in Canada is to understand the different types of NGOs that are recruiting. Essentially, NGOs in Canada can be split into three main groups.
One type of Canadian NGOs is what is known as domestic NGOs. These organisations work within Canada helping people in need at home. This can include providing assistance to people on low incomes or living in poverty, or providing relief after natural disasters. Domestic Canadian NGOs focus on issues within the country, and do not run significant programmes overseas.
A second kind of NGOs in Canada is international NGOs. These organizations operate humanitarian and development programmes around the world. International NGOs in Canada can work in many different countries, and on projects including healthcare, water and sanitation, disaster relief, refugee aid, women’s and girls rights, education, conflict response and humanitarian aid. Many Canadian international NGOs also run smaller domestic programmes helping people in Canada as well.
Both international and domestic NGOs can be large or small. There are huge multi-million-dollar NGOs in Canada, sometimes connected to large networks of organizations around the world. There are also many small and grassroots organizations, working both within Canada and overseas.
Top Canadian NGOs To Apply To
Now we know about the different types of NGOs in Canada, let’s look at some examples of the top Canadian NGOs to apply to and the kind of work they do. Some of the best regarded NGOs in Canada include:
- Save the Children
- Médecins du Monde
- Oxfam Canada
- CARE Canada
- Islamic Relief Canada
- Plan Canada
We’ll take a quick look at each of these in-turn…
Save the Children
Save the Children is one of the largest and most respected NGOs in Canada. Part of the wider Save the Children network, the Canadian organization works on areas including child rights, education, nutrition, water and sanitation and disaster response around the world. Supporting operations in 118 countries, Save the Children Canada is one of the top NGOs in the country to apply to.
Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World)
Doctors of the World Canada is part of the wider MdM – Médecins du Monde, network. With branches in 15 countries and projects in dozens more, Doctors of the World Canada supports medical facilities in disaster and conflict zones. They also do vital work in Canada and around the world working with communities often excluded from healthcare, including refugees, migrants, sex workers and drug users.
Oxfam was originally founded in the UK in 1942. The Canadian branch was started in 1963. As part of the global Oxfam organization, Oxfam Canada supports famine relief and water and sanitation work across 80 countries. They also work on women’s rights and gender empowerment.
CARE Canada is one of the best NGOs in the country. They work in areas such as education, women’s rights, water and sanitation, livelihoods and climate justice. CARE Canada is part of the wider CARE network, with projects in over 100 countries.
Islamic Relief Canada
Islamic Relief Canada was founded in 2006. It is part of the Islamic Relief worldwide brand. Islamic relief Canada supports work in 30 countries and has projects in areas including food provision, health, and livelihoods.
Plan Canada is an offshoot of Plan International. As part of one of the world’s leading children’s charities, Plan Canada is a great place to work if you’re interested in children’s rights, education, healthcare and nutrition, as well as helping children and young people affected by crises and conflicts or living in poverty.
NGO Roles In Canada
Canada has literally hundreds of NGOs doing amazing work both domestically and around the world. As there are so many NGOs in Canada, there are huge range of different jobs within the country’s NGO sector. However, generally, jobs in NGOs in Canada can be broken down into a few categories. These are:
- Management Roles
- Programme Roles
- Support Positions
Now we’ll look at each of these in-turn…
Like in all NGOs, Canadian organizations have a range of senior positions that are responsible for overseeing specific areas of work. Managerial positions within the NGO sector ultimately ensure that targets and achieved and objectives met within the areas they oversee. In Canadian NGOs, management roles can either be responsible for a specific department, such as logistics, finance or medical programming, or can be responsible for coordinating across different departments.
For those wanting to take a management position within a Canadian NGO, you will need extensive relevant experience, with at least some years working within the NGO sector, either in Canada or abroad. To get a managerial role for an NGO in Canada you will need to demonstrate a strong practical understanding of not only the areas in which the position overseas, but also how NGOs function and the type of work the specific NGO you are applying to does.
In Canadian NGOs, programmatic jobs are responsible for ensuring the delivery of the NGO projects. Programme roles within the wider NGO sector, including in Canada, usually have a technical background. This means you will need formal qualifications, and previous expertise, to ensure the quality implementation of the NGO work. For example, medical programme managers would have a medical background, nutrition programme roles would have nutritionist backgrounds and so on…
If you want to work for a Canadian NGO in a programmes role you should first gain the formal qualifications needed for the technical area you wish to apply to. Some professional experience, either in Canada or overseas, would boost your application.
Support positions in the NGO sector, including in Canada, provide the operational support needed for NGOs to implement their programmes. This can include in areas such as logistics, finance, HR, security, grant management and administration.
In Canada, in order to work in a support role for an NGO, you will likely need a degree that is relevant. However, previous professional experience within a related area, including in the private or public sector, is often more sought than qualifications alone. The aim should be to prove you have the required skills to perform the tasks of the job.
Across Canada, NGOs hire consultants in order to deliver specific tasks and pieces of work that the NGO does not have the internal capacity to do. Consultants in the NGO sector often provide technical guidance that the NGO requires for only a specific project or a short period of time.
If you plan to work for a Canadian NGO as a consultant, you will need extensive relevant experience. Previous time spent in the NGO sector is definitely beneficial.
Many NGOs in Canada recruit interns. Taking an internship can be a great way to begin your career in the Canadian NGO sector. Interns either work within a specific department providing support, or work across departments providing ad hoc and general support as needed.
Sadly, many NGOs in Canada do not pay their interns. However most do provide a stipend to cover food and transportation costs. Some Canadian NGOs are now starting to pay their interns though, which allows for more people to get their start in the NGO sector.
Qualification Needed To Work For An Canadian NGO
An important factor you need to consider if you’re applying for jobs with Canadian NGOs is what qualifications you need. Everywhere in the world NGO jobs are competitive, but this is especially true in Canada. Therefore, you need to make sure you have the qualifications needed before applying to NGO jobs in Canada.
In order to become qualified to work for an NGO in Canada you will almost certainly need a college degree. One reason for this is because university level education provides many of the skills and knowledge needed to do NGO work. The second reason, sadly, is as a way for NGOs to weed out applicants. NGO receive so many applications for jobs that they simply don’t need to interview many people who haven’t done a degree.
Canadian NGOs will likely prioritise candidates that have a degree up to master’s level. If you are serious about working in the NGO sector in Canada, or overseas, consider going to graduate school.
Those looking to work within a technical function for a Canadian NGO, such as in medical, shelter, nutrition, water and sanitation, education or protection programming, you will need a relevant degree and professional qualifications required to practice in this area.
If you want to work in a support role within an NGO in Canada, you will also almost certainly need a relevant degree. For example, if you want to work in logistics or supply chain roles then a logistic and/or supply chain management qualification is what you should aim for. Its also possible to enter many support, and managerial roles, in Canadian NGOs with a masters in areas such as humanitarian action, disaster relief, or refugee and migration studies.
As well as taking university level and other professional qualifications, we highly recommend taking some online courses for those wanting to get a job with a Canadian NGO.
Online short courses are a great way to get extra knowledge relevant to the NGO sector, as well as to boost your CV. There are a huge range of relevant short courses about NGO work, including in many areas such as sustainable development, project management, and women’s empowerment. These are not areas most degrees will cover, so taking a short course can be a great way to gain an additional understanding of how NGOs operate.
Taking online short courses can also be ideal for those wanting to transition into the NGO sector in Canada from the private or public sector and who do not want to go back to college. Within a few months its possible to transform your CV into an application many Canadian NGOs would consider.
NGO Online Courses
If you want to know more how to get a job with an NGO, we highly recommend the online course Introduction to NGO Management. It goes over how NGOs operate and introduces students to the unique aspects of the NGO sector. Follow the link for more information.
Another online course we highly recommend for those wanting to know more about NGOs 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. Click the link to get more information on the course.
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.
Applying To NGO Jobs In Canada
There are some tips worth following if you’re going to apply for NGO jobs in Canada.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that NGO positions in Canada are really competitive. NGOs not only offer interesting jobs that often let you travel world, not to mention that you can dedicate your career to helping people in need, but often the wages in Canadian NGOs are fair. As a result, many people want to get a job in Canada with an NGO.
…because jobs with NGOs in Canada are hard to get, expect to have to send a lot of applications. And we mean… a lot! This is especially true early in your career when you have limited relevant experience. Offset the competition by applying to many different organisations in Canada and for lots of different type of jobs.
Don’t worry too much about the exact roles you are targeting when you are starting out in your NGO career. Your first aim should be to get your foot in the door of a Canadian NGO. Once you’ve entered the sector, it is a lot easier to move between roles and begin stepping across into jobs that interest you more.
Another tip you should take when applying to NGOs in Canada is that you should tailor your CV and cover letter for each job application. Recruiters in all NGOs will look for candidates that have been able to not only demonstrate an understanding of the position, but also that link their skills and experience to it. This is true for Canadian NGOs as well.
In order to be able to send lots of applications that are tailored to each job you apply for, devise a system for quickly and easily updating your cover letter and CV. Large parts of both can remain the same for each application, however highlight key sections that you can update for each job you apply for.
Canadian NGOs will get dozens, if not hundreds, of applications for each position advertised. This means recruiters will only take a few seconds to look over each candidate. Therefore, it’s vital that you ensure the key information you want to convey with your application is clear and highlighted well. For example, put at the top of your CV three of four bullet-points that show why you are a strong candidate for the position. This will catch the recruiter’s attention and help you get short-listed.
A good tip for your cover letter is make sure you include a few lines, usually at the end, which explain why you want to work for this specific Canadian NGO. Try and relate it to the NGOs work, mission and values. Check the NGOs website for the organizations core principles and link your final statement in your cover letter to these.
Where To Find NGO Vacancies In Canada
When looking for NGO jobs in Canada to apply to, there are a number of sites you can check. Some of the best places to see open positions in Canadian NGOs are:
As well as regularly checking these sites, you should also draw-up a list of NGOs that you are interested in working for. Check their websites each week to see which jobs they are recruiting in Canada. There are also other national and local websites that include job advertisements, make sure to check these also to see which Canadian NGOs are recruiting.
If you want to know more about how to get a job with an NGO, explore our page on the top NGO online courses here.