Graduate Careers Advice

Graduate Charity Careers

James Thornhill

If a career dedicated to helping people and improving the lives of others appeals to you, then a job in the charity sector (also known as the voluntary sector) could be very fulfilling.

As charities are non-profit organisations, independent of government or business, they have more autonomy than other organisations and largely rely on the commitment and direction of their core workforce, giving employees a chance to really get involved and make a positive difference.

With roughly 169,000 charities in the UK, there is no shortage of employment opportunities - the sector employs more than 600,000 workers and countless volunteers. Graduates make up more than a third of the charity workforce.

Charity workers tend to be highly motivated by their cause and take pride in their work, but remuneration in this sector is about 10% less than in other areas. Employees often have heavy workloads due to lack of funding and job security can be an issue, with many people employed on a temporary or short-term basis. Part-time work and job sharing is common in the sector and volunteering is commonplace. Be prepared for stiff competition when applying for jobs in the better-known charities.

As charities cover a wide range of purposes, you can choose to work in one that appeals to your passions and interests. If you are particularly interested in conservation and nature, for example, then perhaps you would like to work for the biggest charity in the UK, the National Trust. On the other hand, if issues of poverty and international development are close to your heart, then it could be worth looking into opportunities at charities such as Oxfam.

What charity roles can I do?

There are many graduate jobs available in the charity sector, across all areas – from international development to environment to working with children. Depending on your area of expertise you may find yourself working in:

  • Marketing
  • Advertising
  • Sales
  • Design
  • Fundraising
  • Management
  • Advisory
  • Administration
  • Campaigning
  • Research

Aside from the business side of the charity sector, there are of course also many opportunities to work on the ground - whether this is in providing aid packages during a humanitarian crisis to planning play activities for disadvantaged children at an after school club.

There are thousands of charities in the UK, and in one of the above roles you could work in any area that interests you. Some of the major charity areas include:

  • Youth work
  • Environment/ conservation
  • Animal welfare
  • Child welfare
  • Women’s welfare
  • Third world poverty
  • Human rights
  • Care services
  • Policy development
  • Poverty alleviation

How much can I earn as a Charity Worker? 

In general wages in this sector are lower than in other areas, largely because those working for charities are doing so out of compassion rather than a desire for large salaries. By their nature, charities are not-for-profit organisations. The average wage across the sector is £25,000.

Average salaries for specific charity jobs, according to Pay Scale, include:

  • Charity fundraising manager:£30351
  • Communications officer:£23,508
  • Youth worker:£20,345
  • Finance officer:£22,098
  • Care worker: £13,941
  • International aid worker: £19,000 - £25,000
  • Marketing officer:£22,266
  • PR officer: £19,000 - £28,000

Typically, salaries will rise the more progress you make within your particular charity or sector. Salaries also vary greatly depending on your location and the size of your charity.

What qualifications do I need to be a Charity Worker?

After a Bachelors Degree

Graduates from all disciplines can be well suited to a career in the charity sector, as skills such as communication and organisation should be provided by every degree subject.

However, degrees that may provide you with a good grounding for this kind of work include:

  • Economics
  • International development
  • Philosophy
  • Politics
  • Politics, philosophy and economics
  • Journalism

If you want to work in a specific area, for example in an environmental charity, a degree such as geography or environmental science is likely to be of use. Similarly if you want to work in a medical charity or in international development it would be useful to have taken courses in these areas.

What Skills Do I Need To Be a Charity Worker?

There are a number of generic skills that you will need to work in the charity sector. They include:

  • Communication
  • Tact
  • Diplomacy
  • Teamwork
  • Organisation
  • Commercial awareness
  • Time management

Having a knowledge of politics and the wider impact of charity work on communities are also extremely important for careers in the charity sector, whichever job you work in. Depending on your role, a basic knowledge of economics is also likely to be beneficial.

Having a large amount of voluntary experience in your chosen sector will be very beneficial when apply for jobs in the charity sector.

What Experience Do I Need To Get A Job In Charity?

Work experience is essential in this sector, so you should spend as much time as possible volunteering in the areas that you’re interested in. Contact voluntary organisation to see the opportunities that they have, or speak to charities directly. 

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