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Career Options in Charity, Not-for-profit & NGO: Graduate

University have finished and the good ol’ days are now over? Not necessarily. Careers in the charity, not-for-profit and NGO industry can involve all kinds of exciting work and can potentially involve global travel, depending on the organisation you work for. The work is even more fulfilling than successfully cooking fish finger sandwiches for your entire flat after a night out. With graduates making up more than a third of the UK charity, not-for-profit and NGO workforce, there is plenty of opportunities available to you. The work is rewarding but employees often have heavier workloads due to a lack of funding. But you don’t care about that! You’re a graduate ready to take the world by storm and make a difference to the lives of those less fortunate than yourself. Yeah!

Graduate opportunities

- Volunteering

- Internships

- Graduate schemes

- Entry level jobs.

If you want to work in the charity, not-for-profit and NGO sector but have no volunteering experience, you’d better get scuttling down to the charity shops on your local high street. Alternatively, you could look into volunteering at summer music festivals (you get to go to the festival when you’re off shift too, win-win).

With graduates looking to start a career higher up in the organisation, and within a specific department such as marketing, campaigning or fundraising, you could look into getting experience in these departments with a private company first before applying for jobs in the charity, not-for-profit and NGO sector. Private companies are more likely going to be able to pay you for your work as an intern, and it can also show future employers that you’re skilled in this area of work. Internships are usually for penultimate year students but due to the competiveness of the graduate job market, more are opening up to graduates too.

Graduate schemes are also available at larger organisations. These usually have strict deadlines and if you missed the boat in your final year (too many deadlines and whatnot), you can use the time between graduation and the deadline of the following year’s scheme to get yourself some volunteering and department specific experience. They’re also really competitive, so make sure your application is strong by letting the organisation know about all your relevant skills, even if you didn’t acquire them through volunteering or fundraising.

Entry level jobs are also available and worth applying for (obviously). If you’ve done your groundwork over the years with volunteering experience, was part of the raising and giving society at university and have got a few internships listed on the trusty CV, you’ll have a good chance of landing the job.

Will my degree do?

Whilst employers in the charity, not-for-profit and NGO sector look for enthusiasm, experience and transferable skills in their hunt for employees, there are certain degrees that will perhaps be more advantageous than others. International development, economics, politics and philosophy will give you a good grounding. For example, if you want to work on improving the schooling conditions for children in developing African countries, a development in international development will work in your favour. Also, we know it’s obvious but we have to say it: there’s no point wanting to be a doctor in the Red Cross if you haven’t trained to be a doctor!

However, there are other departments where studying specific degree courses will not be as important. You gain transferable skills in any discipline and therefore you can specialise in an area of your chosen expertise.

Graduate schemes can be very competitive and higher grades, as always, will make you stand out from the crowd. Having said that, experience counts for a lot, and if you got a 2:1 with plenty of relevant experience, you’ll be in a stronger position than those who got a first with little or no experience.

Is postgraduate study necessary?

Postgraduate study isn’t necessary, but it can be useful. For example, a postgraduate degree in international development could allow you be considered for the top jobs abroad. Additionally, if you wanted to work on the policy side of things, a postgraduate course specialising in human rights could be for you. If you’re into conservation, a postgraduate course in environmental science is worth considering.

Additionally, though you would be more than qualified for marketing, advertising or fundraising job with your degree and work experience, there are further qualifications available from the Chartered Institute of Marketing and there are masters degree courses focussing on advertising and marketing. 

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