Despite vast improvements in recent times, racial abuse and discrimination are still evident in the UK. Even Premier League footballers Luis Suarez and John Terry became embroiled in racist incidents recently. Clearly, there is a long way to go before racism is completely stamped out of British society. This is why race relations officers are so essential.
Employed by government organisations, charities, local authorities, prison services, housing associations, the police force, and the NHS, race relations officers are given the responsibility of campaigning for racial equality and implementing schemes which are designed to make sure racial discrimination is combated in different areas of society.
Essentially, race relations officers use their up-to-date knowledge of equality and diversity policy to bring about change, through conducting research, raising awareness of equality and diversity issues, and developing strategies to reduce racial incidents in communities, institutions and workplaces.
With such a diverse range of responsibilities, race relations officers are community workers, consultants, policy-makers and project managers all rolled into one.
They provide direct support to people affected by racial discrimination, build relationships with professional bodies and other relevant organisations, and help companies to make sure their recruitment policies comply with anti-discriminatory legislation.
Salary & benefits
Entry-level race relations officers tend to earn between £18,000 and £29,000 per annum.
Senior race relations officers, however, can earn anywhere between £30,000 and £50,000 a year.
Race relations officers typically work five days a week from nine-to-five, though extra evening and weekend work may be required from time to time.
To enter this line of work, you will need an undergraduate degree or HND (higher national diploma) in any discipline. However, studying a subject such as social work, youth work, sociology or law may boost your chances of securing an entry-level position.
If you don’t have an applicable undergraduate degree, it may be advisable to complete a postgraduate qualification in a relevant subject.
The most important thing to do is gain work experience in a related field. For instance, you might want to volunteer for a community development organisation, secure a temp job with a local authority over the summer, or get involved with student pro bono projects.
You will also need to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS, formerly known as CRB. Or Criminal Records Bureau) check before you can start working.
Training & progression
The majority of your training will be done ‘on-the-job’ under the supervision of senior colleagues. You will also have the opportunity to attend in-house training sessions from time to time, where you will learn about new legislation and employment law.
Certain courses may also give you the opportunity to develop new project management, admin and negotiation skills.
Once you have gained a wealth of experience, you may progress into a project manager position with team leading and policy-making responsibilities.
Alternatively, you may make the leap from the public sector to the private sector in search of a higher salary.