12 Reasons Why You Should Work For An NGO

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When choosing a career, many people think about the types of business they want to work for. Others consider careers in the public sector – such as working in academia or for the government. However, if you’re thinking about what job is right for you, consider a third option… the not-for-profit sector. There are so many reasons why working for a non-governmental organization (NGO) could be right you for…

You Will Work Helping Others

The first, and perhaps most important, reason why you should take a job with an NGO is that your work will help other people.

NGOs assist people in need. They are independent organizations that provide services to people living in poverty or those affected by crises, conflicts and disasters. By working for an NGO, you are part of an organization that provides vital aid to people. This is a great reason to get a job working for an NGO.

There are a huge range of NGOs working in many different areas. As well as NGOs that provide direct assistance to people, there are also NGOs that run campaigns and advocate for marginalised groups. Even if your job at an NGO is not on the front-line, it will indirectly assist people by helping the NGO to work effectively.

Having a job that helps others is hugely rewarding. It’s one of the biggest reasons to work for an NGO.

You’ll Work With Fantastic People

A second reason why you should work for an NGO is that you will work alongside great people!

NGO’s attract people who are dedicated to their work and want to achieve real change. When you work for an NGO you will meet people who are passionate and take a genuine interest in making the world a better place. Many people say working alongside people like this is a key reason they want to work for an NGO.

Whatever your role within the NGO sector, you will work as part of a team either on the frontline assisting people or supporting the NGO to run effective programmes. In many NGOs teams bond closely over shared objectives and often real friendships are built.

Working with other people who want to dedicate their careers to helping others is a big reason to take a job within the NGO sector.

You Will Likely Work Abroad

A third reason why you should work for an NGO is that you will often get the opportunity to work abroad.

Many NGOs work overseas helping people impacted by crises, poverty or disasters. NGOs deploy staff internationally to support their projects. Working for an NGO can be a fantastic career as you can take jobs all over the world. If you have ever dreamed of an international career, consider joining the NGO sector.

Ask people why they work for an NGO and many will say a big reason is that they get to work abroad. As well as getting a chance to travel, many NGOs work in remote and sometimes difficult places. This may not appeal to everyone, but if you are interested in living and working in different countries – including some you may never see as a tourist, think about building a career within an NGO.

You Can Earn Good Money

Although most people work for NGOs because they want a meaningful career and a job that helps others, don’t forget another reason to work in the non-profit sector is that you can actually earn good money.

Although you’ll never become fabulously wealthy working for an NGO, the non-profit sector does generally pay fairly. This means that you will likely earn a decent wage when working for an NGO. As you rise up your career in the NGO sector you will earn progressively more. Senior roles within NGOs can earn large salaries, especially for the bigger organizations in the sector.

As we’ve said, you shouldn’t work for an NGO if becoming a millionaire is your life goal, but the fact that you can earn a good salary and then get paid quite substantially as you rise in your career is a big reason not to discard working for an NGO.

You Can Build A Career

Another reason to consider a career in the non-profit sector is because you can build a long-term career.

The NGO sector is huge. With organizations working in many different areas and all over the world, there are a huge range of opportunities for those with the skills the sector needs. Many people who work for NGOs spend most of their career in the sector moving between different non-profit organizations and rising up the career ladder.

It is definitely possible to move from the private or public sector into non-profit work. Many people take the skills they’ve learned in other industries and apply them to their work with NGOs.

If you are looking to build a rewarding career over many years, considers working for an NGO.

You Can Work Within A Specialism

A further reason why you should consider working for an NGO is that you can dedicate your career to a specialism.

NGO’s do a wide range of work and need staff trained in different technical areas. From running medical programmes to livelihoods support, from water and sanitation provision to infant and young child feeding programmes – NGO’s need staff that can work on specialist projects and have the skills and knowledge needed to run them effectively.

Having a specialism – an area of work that you are qualified and have experience in, can be the key to a successful career. Working for NGOs gives you a chance to explore different areas of work and build a specialism within a technical area. If you have an area of NGO work that you are interested in, then joining the NGO sector will allow you to develop your career in that direction whilst also gaining new skills and experiences.

You Can Work For Prestigious Organizations

Many NGOs are famous organisations with rich histories. Being able to work for a renowned organisation is another reason to join the NGO sector.

Some NGOs have been around for decades. They are well-known for the good work they do and are highly supported by the public. Working for an NGO can be considered a prestigious career, especially if you work for organizations famous in your country.

NGOs are usually very proud of their history. They have long-standing support and are often seen as important institutions in their country. It can be great working for an NGO as people often respect the organisation and the work it does.

If you would like to work for a famous brand that people recognize, consider working for a large non-profit.

You’ll Develop New Skills

Another reason to work for NGOs is because you will have the opportunity to develop new skills.

NGOs have many different types of jobs. As well as roles running programmes that directly help people, NGOs also have a range of jobs in support areas. These include positions in finance, logistics, HR, security and grant management. Working in the non-profit sector can be a fantastic career because you can develop skills in many different areas.

Often people who work for NGOs move between different parts of the organisation. It is often possible to begin working in a support area and then, as your career progresses, move to frontline programmes.

Many NGO’s provide extensive training opportunities allowing you to learn new skills and develop in your career.

A big reason why you should work for an NGO is that you can continuously gain new knowledge and experiences throughout your career.

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.

You’ll Work In Diverse Teams

NGO’s often recruit people from all over the world. A great reason to take a job with an NGO is that you will work with a diverse team of people.

Many NGO’s have operations in different countries. They deploy people from their HQ as well as between missions. This means NGO’s often have a mixture of people working on their projects and by joining an NGO you will work with people from many different backgrounds. It’s fantastic to be in a team with people of diverse cultures and varied heritage – it’s a really good reason to begin a career in the non-profit sector.

Even if you work for a smaller NGO that doesn’t have international programmes you are likely to work in a diverse team. All NGOs attract a range of different people for different reasons and this means people from all walks of life end up working for NGOs. The diversity of the NGO sector is a great reason to join.

You Will Have Unique Experiences

Working for an NGO is great because it gives you a range of unique experiences.

Having a job in an NGO is very different to working for a business or even in the public sector. The kind of experiences you can have – from traveling to remote or dangerous parts of the world, to meeting politicians and celebrities, are often truly unique. If you’re the kind of person who likes to experience new things, and take on an adventure, then joining the NGO sector might be great for you.

NGO’s often work in complex and changeable environments. Being able to adapt your work is key to success in your NGO career. With that said, the dynamism with which many NGOs operate exposes their workers to a range of different experiences. This is definitely a reason to get a job with an NGO.

You’ll Find The Work Challenging And Rewarding

Another reason why you should consider working for an NGO is because the job will be challenging but rewarding.

NGO work is inherently challenging. Many NGOs work in difficult places – such as areas hit by disasters or in active conflict zones. Other NGOs work in places with extreme poverty. As a result, almost any job you take with an NGO will have its difficulties. If you are looking for an easy job, perhaps working for an NGO isn’t for you.

With that said, working for a non-profit can be extremely rewarding. You will get to see the direct impact of your work and how it improves people’s lives. You will also overcome challenges and achieve great things. Many people in the NGO sector say their work is highly rewarding, and this is one reason why they do it.

Your Work Will Make A Difference

A final reason why you should work for an NGO is because your work will make a difference.

Many people who work for NGOs do so because they want to have a positive impact. There are lots of people who have joined the NGO sector from business or politics because they feel their previous work lacked meaning or did little to improve people’s lives.

If you are looking for work that is challenging but exciting, that gives you opportunities to work with amazing people and often travel the world, then consider working for an NGO. If, on top of that, having a job that allows you to help some of the most vulnerable and poorest people in the world sounds good to you, then definitely consider joining an NGO.

Getting a job with an NGO gives you the opportunity to dedicate your career to making the world a better place and this is perhaps the most important reason to join the sector.

If you want more information on how to work for an NGO, explore our list of the top NGO 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.