Factors to consider when thinking about a career within a charity:

  • this sector includes local, regional, national and international charities.
  • these range from small-scale groups of a few paid staff and volunteers to large prestigious international charities with thousands of employees and volunteers.
  • most charities expect prospective employees to have gained some volunteering experience, to prove their interest and commitment to the sector, before being considered for a paid position.

Each section below gives you links to information on specific career areas – work activities, related professional bodies, employers/job search and other relevant information.

For many graduates, the ethos and culture of the charity sector, ‘third sector’ or the ‘not-for-profit sector’ are very attractive. Indeed, the scope for graduates working within the non-profit environment is enormous, encompassing a wide variety of roles within a diverse range of organisations. However, this should not be viewed as traditional graduate recruitment and a considerable amount of independent research is usually required, prior to finding a suitable opportunity, often through speculative enquiries.

Firstly, think about what you have to offer.  Passion for the cause of the charity will always be a crucial factor but consider also the skills you can bring – most charities are interested in candidates who are strong communicators, creative, innovative, flexible, adaptable and able to work well with others.  Although employees receive training, this is rarely part of a ‘graduate training scheme’ and most are expected to demonstrate skills and expertise, which make them ready to function quickly upon appointment to a role.

Consider the type of role you are interested in within the charity sector: job titles include Charity officer, Community education officer, Marketing executive, Public relations officer, Fundraising Officer, Social researcher, Volunteer coordinator and many more. Generally speaking, the majority of graduates will work initially within fundraising or administrative roles.

VIDEO: Charity & third sector overview

Graduate opportunities in the third sector

Candidates seeking work in the charity sector should not restrict their job search to formal ‘graduate schemes’ – these are few and far between.  Nevertheless, the following organisations have offered graduate programmes recently:

  • British Council’s Future Leaders Scheme - aims to find the British Council’s next generation of ‘cultural relations leaders’, a three year development programme consisting of international work experience through a series of rotational placements following the first six months in the UK
  • Cancer Research UK - offers a paid graduate training scheme, any discipline opportunities offered
  • Charities Advisory Trust - recruits paid interns yearly to run Card Aid shops, work on Good Gifts and other initiatives; initial 3 month internships with a chance for longer-term placements and even permanent jobs
  • Charityworks - offers a 12 month paid graduate scheme in a partner charity or housing association designed to find and develop the future leaders of non profit organisations
  • The Wellcome Trust - offers a two-year graduate development programme which includes the opportunity to work alongside experienced professionals in funding, policy, finance, investments, public engagement, communications and operations

Organisations such as Barnardos, Scope, Save the Children, Amnesty and the United Nations Association UK have offered schemes in previous years and are worth investigating.

Relevant experience

Large charities, such as the National Trust, Oxfam GB, Macmillan Cancer Support, British Red Cross and Age UK, provide work placements and internships for students and graduates.

Volunteering with a local organisation or charity is equally valid experience and will give students an insight into the challenges and rewards of working in this sector.

Top tips whilst at university

Those with a proven work history within another sector and career changers with a strong portfolio of key skills are often attractive candidates for jobs in the third sector. However, if you are a final student or recent graduate, the following ideas may well boost your employability.

  • Demonstrate a commitment to volunteering. This will confirm general interest in the sector and motivation for applying for paid work.
  • Think about volunteering whilst you embark upon your research/job search. The local programmes listed below are excellent starting points and many endeavour to link your volunteering experience to the area of work that you have an interest in:
    •  VCS Cymru
    •  Volunteering Matters (formerly Community Service Volunteers)
    • Student Volunteering Cardiff  an independent, student-led charity based in Cardiff
    • Talk to those already working in the voluntary sector - many organisations attend our careers fairs, particularly the Work Experience, Internships and Volunteering Fair in the Spring.  Also look out for our ‘Working for a Charity’ talk – check our Fairs and Events

Related links

Getting started

Professional bodies

Employers and vacancy sources