Charity & voluntary Career Pathways For School Leavers
Have you always wanted a career that helps people? Do you care deeply about the world around you? Then a job in the charity & voluntary sector could be a fulfilling career option for you.
There is a wide variety of career options within this sector, but what they all have in common, is that they’re dedicated to tackling wider-known and/or niche issues that desperately need solving. Where you work will rely entirely on where your passion and drive is in the charity & voluntary sector.
Areas that are always looking for new talent to help their causes or missions include:
- Youth work
- Environment / Conservation
- Animal welfare
- Child welfare
- Women's welfare
- Third world poverty
- Human rights
- Care services
- Policy development
- Poverty alleviation
A job in the charity sector will generally be paid whereas voluntary work relies on people working for free. More often than not, however, charity professionals tend to find that their role becomes a combination of both.
It’s likely that you will have heard of some big name charities in the UK, including the National Trust, which focuses on conservation. There is also Oxfam, which is dedicated to international development and fighting issues of poverty.
Due to volunteers providing their time and help for free, many people will take up a role part-time or ad-hoc roles unless they can afford to do it full-time.
Individuals that work in the charity sector need to be highly motivated, passionate and carry a lot of pride for the work that they do. You’ll benefit from reading up and understanding politics and how decisions made by the government affect your community.
Even if your ambitions lie mostly with working in the charity sector, the soft skills you’ll gain from volunteering will be hugely invaluable and help increase your chances of securing your first paid job.
Other skills to work towards include:
- Commercial Awareness
- Time Management
For voluntary roles, you should be able to apply at any time if you’ve gained some knowledge of the area. Due to the competition for roles, it’s important to use any skills you have when looking to move up in the industry to a paid charity role. Most apprenticeships within the charity sector will be paid.
A strategic approach is important, and making your unique skills clear is the best way to progress. Being vague will only put employers off!
For specific or management roles within charities, you could also consider going on to university in order to increase your professional standing.
When starting out in the industry (even after your apprenticeship) your wage is likely to be modest – unfortunately, despite the good they do, those working in the charity sector often don’t earn the highest wages. This is largely because charities are non-profit organisations. Those working for them are doing so out of a desire to help rather than a hunger for a large paycheck each month. The average wage across the sector is £25,000.
Volunteers are heavily relied upon in the charity industry in order to keep running costs to a minimum. With that in mind, volunteers aren't paid for the work that they do.
Average salaries for specific charity jobs include:
- Charity fundraising manager: £30,351
- 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, your salary will increase as you progress to a higher level of authority. What you earn will also differ depending on the location and the size of the charity you work for.
Qualification requirements & subjects to study
To get a job in this sector as a school leaver, it’s a good idea to undertake a vocational qualification. A diploma, certificate or short course can give you the practical skills you need to get a job in the area that you’re considering. Professional organisations within the charity sector, as well as colleges, can provide these qualifications or advise you on them.
Alternatively, you could look at apprenticeships within the charity sector. Apprenticeships will see you studying and working for a charity at the same time. You will work alongside experienced staff and will usually have one day off per week to study, usually at a local technical college or equivalent. In charities, there are three types of apprenticeship: fundraising, campaigning and volunteer management.
Association of Volunteer Managers
National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA)
National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NVCO)
The Charity Commission
Institute of Fundraising
Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN)