Development worker, humanitarian aid worker, relief worker
Aid workers help people in overseas countries affected by man-made and natural disasters like wars, outbreaks of disease and earthquakes.
Salary range: £18,000 ti £29,000
How to become an aid worker
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- working towards this role
You can do a degree that will give you specialist skills, which will be useful in humanitarian work, for example:
- medicine or healthcare
You can also take a subject that will give you a wider understanding of global issues, like:
- international development
- social policy
After completing a degree, you can study for a postgraduate course in:
- international development
- humanitarian aid
- disaster management
You’ll usually need:
- 3 A levels or equivalent
- a degree in any subject for a postgraduate course
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
Volunteering and experience
To get a paid job as an aid worker you’ll need experience, so most people start out as an unpaid volunteer.
You can begin by volunteering for a charity in the UK. You can also get involved with charities while at school, college and university, through student groups and societies. Most jobs involve office-based work at first but can lead to a wide range of opportunities.
You can find UK volunteering vacancies on Do-it, or by going directly to the websites of charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Some experience of living and working overseas may be helpful.
You can also apply for internships with charities and NGOs while you’re at university. Entrance to these is very competitive.
You can apply directly for jobs if you’re an experienced professional. As well as professions like nursing, healthcare, teaching and engineering, you’ll find organisations often look for experience in administration, project management and logistics.
Aid organisations like RedR run courses for experienced professionals, who want to put their skills to use in humanitarian aid work.
Follow aid organisations that interest you on social media to find out about opportunities. Think about small organisations, as well as the bigger, more well known ones.
You could also develop useful skills, like languages, first aid or driving. There is a move to recruit local people to do the frontline jobs during emergencies, so being able to offer specialist skills or knowledge will give you an advantage.
You’ll need to be willing to work long hours in challenging and often dangerous situations. You’ll also need to show flexibility as well as being sensitive and culturally aware.
Professional and industry bodies
You may find it helpful to join an organisation like the International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection for training and development opportunities.
You can find out more about working in international aid and the organisations involved from:
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- sensitivity and understanding
- the ability to work well with others
- the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
- the ability to understand people’s reactions
- excellent verbal communication skills
- excellent written communication skills
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- thinking and reasoning skills
- to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
Restrictions and requirements
You’ll need to:
- pass a medical check
- pass enhanced background checks
What you’ll do
In this role you could be:
- providing emergency aid like food, shelter and medical supplies
- organising transport, sorting and handling deliveries
- overseeing the distribution of goods
- recruiting, training and organising local people to work as staff and volunteers
- writing reports, monitoring budgets and doing general administration
- networking with other organisations and government officials in affected areas
- working with communities longer term, such as rolling out healthcare or education programmes, or working on building or engineering projects
You could work be based overseas or in remote rural areas.
Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding and you’ll travel often.
Career path and progression
You can develop your own unique career path by working with different organisations and in different parts of the world. With experience, you can move into senior management or advisory positions, making decisions on how relief efforts are co-ordinated.