Do You Need a Degree in Non-profit to Get a Charity Job?
The charity sector is a growing, vibrant and diverse sector which offers plenty of career options for people at all stages of their career. No matter what drives you, there’s sure to be a cause (and a role) that lines up with something you’re passionate about.
For some it’s their first job, for others, the sector is something they gravitate towards later in life when they realise meaning and purpose outweigh everything else. Everyone’s journey is different. But that begs the question, do you need to follow a particular career path to land that dream job? To cut a long story short, not necessarily.
We take a look at a few different routes, from getting a charity-specific degree to forging your own path via a range of charitable experiences.
Ultimately, whether or not you get a degree depends on the role you want in the sector and what sort environment you want to work in. Of course, there are some degrees that cover roles across sectors (i.e. marketing, PR, human resources) and certain fields such as medicine and science play a huge role in the charity space.
Although a degree in non-profit would aid your choice to enter the charity sectors, it is not completely necessary.
The most significant non-profit degree is a three/four-year bachelor’s degree in Voluntary Sector Management. This degree will help you grasp key values in management and affairs, providing a solid basis for working in the third sector.
Other non-profit focused bachelor’s degrees include:
- International Development
- Community Development
- Social Policy and Administration
A master’s degree or MBA in Voluntary Sector Management combines business areas with charity-specific management skills. Over the one- or two-year course, you will develop an understanding of advanced management and leadership alongside quality performance.
Once completing a Voluntary Sector Management degree, you will have the skill set to pursue several positions within an organisation.
Other non-profit focused master’s degrees include:
- NGO and Development Management
- Philanthropic Studies
The truth of the matter is you don’t need a charity-specific degree to get a job in the third sector. Any degree course that you embark on will give you the necessary skills you need to get a charity job. If you have enough passion for the job and cause, then you are already on your way towards landing that role.
Here are some degree subjects that charities look for:
- Computer Science
- International Business
- Law and Social Sciences
- Finance and Accountancy
- Marketing and PR
- Teaching and Education
If you can take a module doing something different such as teaching in a school once a week or volunteering, then go for it! It is things like this that will make you stand out to recruiters.
Let’s face it, not everyone needs to get a degree. In fact, in recent years there’s been more of a push towards making the charity sector more open to non-grads, and groups like Non-Graduates Welcome are pushing charities to do more to open eliminate degree-level qualifications in their recruitment. There are other valued routes into the non-profit sector that are just as rewarding and just as relevant. Employers are not just looking for degree choice but also relevant work experience.
Whether you’ve worked in a charity or volunteered in the past, this is a good way for employers to judge whether you are suited to the role. Getting involved in fundraising and volunteering highlights your dedication and willingness to be involved. Showing your initiative to help others and that you have good use of your time off.
You also gain soft skills such as problem-solving, communication and teamwork, making it a win-win situation of helping others and gaining experience.
Did you have a part-time job while at school or before jumping fully into your career—then include it on your CV. It will help you in your job search, especially if you don’t have years and years of experience to boast about. And working part-time while juggling other responsibilities highlights your time management skills which can support your application.
If you want to test out whether the third sector is right for you, then check out charity internships. You’ll be learning valuable skills while getting a true-to-life taste of whether or not a non-profit job is the right environment for you. But be warned, charity internships are few and far between, so when you find one, apply quickly.
Think you shouldn’t include hobbies and interests on your CV? Then maybe it’s time to reconsider. Extracurriculars are usually something you’re passionate about, and they could be a lot more relevant to your job application than you think. Not only do they help you develop transferable skills, but they also give a hiring manager a better idea of how you’d fit in with the company culture.
Joining a club or society, whether this is a sport, language club or something in the arts, will be showing that you are a reliable team player. This is a highly respectful quality in the charity sector. You could even set up a club if there isn’t one that takes your fancy?
Charity Schemes & Foundation Courses
For many people looking to break into the sector, a graduate scheme or foundational training course could provide the experience and knowledge needed to land that first charity role.
For graduates, a charity graduate scheme could get you through the door into the highly demanded charity market, and there are plenty to choose from. And the best part? It’s paid experience. If this sounds like the best route for you, it’s worth considering is CharityWorks’ 12-month paid scheme for graduates. Beginning every September, candidates will develop their experience and knowledge of the charity sector as they are paired with a charity that supports their interests.
For non-graduates, programmes like Charity Fast-Track’s 12-week Foundation course help you better understand how charities operate, how they make money, how they communicate, how they drive change and how they deliver impact. And as it’s run by charity professionals, it could provide you with useful contacts for the future.
Find the right path for you and go for it
So, if you are ready to make a difference and jump into a non-profit job, then there are plenty of routes for you to get there. Organisations will be looking for individuals who have a passion for the industry as well as good grades.
Before you know it, you will be making a real impact in the world (and getting paid to do it).