General Question

Scarlett's avatar

What is the best way to get into HUMANITARIAN work ?

Asked by Scarlett (915points) June 15th, 2010

Hey everyone,

So what is the best way to get into Humanitarian Work ?

I’m thinking of joining the Army, and I know they have Civil Affairs, but other than that

What are some different ways to get into Humanitarian Work ?

PeaceCorp is cool, but you need a Bachelor’s Degree now to get in.

Anyone think of anything else?

And does anyone know how much the pay would be for different jobs ?


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20 Answers

lilikoi's avatar

Joining the army to do humanitarian work would be ironic to say the least.

The best way to get into this type of work is to open your eyes. You don’t have to travel to the other side of the planet to do good. “Humanitarian work” is pretty broad. What specific kind of work do you want to do? Figure that out first then look around your neighborhood for organizations that are doing this kind of work and volunteer. Pay is generally not great, unless you’re in the higher ranks managing NPOs and schmoozing with politicians, and then you’re not doing much of the work you started out to do.

Online, you can check websites like or (if your interest is conservation/environmental work).

dpworkin's avatar

Maybe you could start by volunteering in the Gulf, and getting that on your resume.

WestRiverrat's avatar

The Red Cross and Salvation Army are good places to start. Both have some paid positions, especially if you are willing to go overseas.

Is Americorps still operational? If so you can check with them.

stardust's avatar

A lot of agenices, NGO’s, etc require you to have a BA now when it comes to humanitarian work. There’s a need for skilled people on the ground. Have you done any voluntary work before? If not, that’d be a good place to start. It’s important to get a feel for what it is exactly you want to do. Humanitarian work, as such is quite broad. Ultimately, you need experience working with people. Start local before thinking global. If this is work you are passionate about, then you’ll flourish and there’ll be no stopping you. If it’s not, then at least you’ll know :) Good luck.

lilikoi's avatar

I believe Americorps is still going on, but also think you typically need a bachelors degree.

YARNLADY's avatar

Go to Humanitarian volunteers and you will find a lot of opportunities there.

Coloma's avatar

Whatever you do, don’t buy into the war machine!

Ya know…you ARE a human, and you can do ‘humanitarian’ work every minute of every day by just BEING a loving and decent example of humanity.

Today I offered to return an elderly persons shopping cart to the cart stable, I laughed and made merry with several ‘strangers’, I offered a fellow to go in front of me at the checkout line in a store…’s not about DOING humanitarian ‘work’, it is about BEING a humanitarian every second of every day and always on the lookout to make anothers day, share a bit of humor, extend a helping hand.

Simple…don’t have to make a career out of being a good soul. :-)

WestRiverrat's avatar

Many of the NGO’s will waive the completed degree if you have a plan that includes getting the required degrees. You may want to look into being a camp counsellor, or other temporary positions that will help you earn a bit of money. Then you work on the degree when you are not working.

Most Non Profits have jobs that don’t require having a degree. You may have to start as a janitor or a cook’s helper, but it will get your foot in the door.

stardust's avatar

@Scarlett I forgot to mention that the UN have an online volunteering programme where you can devote a certain no of hours p/w to a specific project. It’ll give you an idea of different projects and also look good on your cv if you plan to make a career out of this.

Scarlett's avatar

I do Photojournalism here in Hollywood.

I’m not sure what to do, I just know I’m good at helping people, I’m loving and caring, and have compassion for all types of people.

I just don’t know how to get my foot into the door, since yes, Humanitarian Work is very broad.

If anyone saw the movie on HBO – “Saving Africa’s Witch Children”, I would want to do something like that.

and yes I do know being a good person and helping locally is essential—- I do that now anyway, but I want to do a job or career that is Humanitarian based.

So I thought join the military because I don’t have anything right now.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Scarlett check out the Coast Guard. They are the branch of service most likely to have a niche for you.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Peace Corps and Doctors Without Borders are great. In some ways.

HoneyBee's avatar

@Coloma – Why can’t there be more of people like you around me?

Coloma's avatar


Come on out to the woods…you’re just in time for veggie pizza and the nightly farm chores. lol

HoneyBee's avatar

Thanks @Coloma! That’s awfully nice of you.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

There is a dire need for people with logistics skills, getting the right materials to the right place at the right time. Any job experience or formal training in that area will put you at the head of the line. Shipping, forwarding, expediting, warehousing, etc.

lilikoi's avatar


Photojournalism is a great platform for ‘humanitarian work’. Google Zoriah. He is a photojournalist and his focus is war and conflict. Not everyone has the resources to do what he does. Those aren’t the only stories worth telling anyway.

You can make just as big of a difference locally by working for a newspaper. There are stories around all of us that could, and perhaps should, be told. You could cover anything from a controversial environmental issue to a Vietnam vet’s experience that still haunts to how homelessness affects a child’s education right in your own neighborhood.

Even in an online community like Fluther there are fascinating stories waiting to be found and told – people struggling with diseases, relationships, careers, morality, philosophy…people getting screwed by politics…

Also Google Ira Glass. He tells the stories of everyday people. His platform is radio, but you could do the same with photography and words in print. He finds story gems in everyday folk, he entertains and moves. You don’t have to tell a high-profile story of major conflict to make a positive difference in the world.

You could argue that it is the stories you find locally amongst your neighbors that need to be told most and are the hardest to find. Lots of people will want to cover major news events, but no one even knows your neighbor was at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed and could provide a harrowing first-hand account. If no one tells these stories, they’ll be lost forever. It may not be as glamorous as jet-setting across the globe, but it is just, if not more, important.

My neighbors died a few years ago and their kids dumped all of their stuff on the curb. I salvaged hundreds of photos from the 50s and 60s. There was even one of him with the mayor at the time breaking ground on an iconic building, accompanied by a personal thank you note from the mayor. Who was this guy? No one told his story, and now I’ll never know.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

A great deal of military peacekeeping work, in many areas, is in the humanitarian sector. In the late 80s, I did this in northern Kenya. The reason for the military presence was to keep the fighting in Ethiopia and Somalia from spilling over the border; most of our actual work was in liason with NGOs helping the refugees. Food supply, clean water, medical services and temporary housing had to be coordinated. The US and British peacekeeping troops and the UNHCR had to coordinate the efforts of six different NGOs with overlapping and competing agendas.

stardust's avatar

@Scarlett There’s a lot to be said for smaller, less advertised agencies. The reason being, they plug funds into the actual project, as opposed to advertisements. There’s many projects like this in Africa – if that’s where you’d like to work. Just a small bit of research and you’ll start to come across them. You could email them, get involved in a short-term project working alongside locals. Then you could go home, raise awareness, raise funds and such.

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