5 Ways to Gain Experience in the Charity Sector as an Entry-level Candidate

4 minute read

As an entry-level candidate, finding a job in the charity sector can feel overwhelming. Many charities have few paid employees, small budgets and little funding for training, meaning they often prefer candidates who already come with experience. But don’t let this put you off finding your dream role in a charity. There are many ways for you to show your enthusiasm for and commitment to charity work.

Here are 5 ways to gain experience in the charity sector as an entry-level candidate. 


1. Do an internship

One of the more traditional ways for entry-level candidates to gain experience is through an internship. In the charity sector, these are mostly offered by larger charities such as Oxfam, Greenpeace, and Cancer Research UK. Smaller charities sometimes offer internships as well, but these are more likely to be unpaid.

Internships are a great way of getting a feel for the charity sector and for a particular role, without the commitment of a permanent job. They are also valued by employers, particularly if you’re a student. They demonstrate that you can work well in a more practical environment.

However, internships in the charity sector are hard to come by, and so applications are usually competitive. They are also often unpaid or only offer a low salary, so they’re not an option that’s available to everyone.  


2. Apply for a graduate scheme

Many students pursue graduate schemes to get a foot into a particular company or sector. A degree shouldn’t be a requirement for the majority of roles in the charity sector. But if you do have one, graduate schemes can provide training and are a great way to gain relevant experience.  

In the charity sector, many graduate schemes train candidates for more practical roles. Examples include Frontline for social work, Teach First for teaching, and Police now for the police force. They accept applicants from any degree background and are the perfect way to gain practical experience whilst also being supported along the way by peers and mentors. 

Placement schemes such as CharityWorks offer the chance to work with smaller charities in a variety of roles. These are useful if you aren’t sure of which area of the sector you’d like a job in. Others are more specific, such as CASE, which offers a graduate trainee programme for those seeking a career in fundraising and philanthropy. 

Although graduate schemes are great for certain roles, they are rare. There won’t be one for every cause or role that you might be interested in. Also, graduate schemes are not as necessary for the charity sector as they are in some other industries, since having a degree is not a requirement for the majority of roles.  

Woman laughing with arms folded, men in the background


3. Pursue remote volunteering opportunities

Remote volunteering allows you to work from wherever you are whenever you have the time. This makes it far easier to fit volunteering around your schedule.

Studenteer matches university students or recent graduates with a charity based on their skills and the roles they’re interested in. The matched charity will send a brief description of the role and the time commitment required per week. The volunteer can then decide whether to go ahead with that charity or to keep looking for opportunities.  


4. Volunteer for a local charity or student society

Universities often have charity societies on campus. The more involved in them you become, the more likely it is that you’ll be elected into an executive position where you can influence events, fundraising, and marketing ventures during the next academic year. This would be fantastic experience to talk about in future interviews.  

If you’re not a student, then why not reach out to charities in your local area and offer up your skills? Most charities are always looking for extra volunteers and would appreciate the help.  

Volunteering is the perfect way to show your passion for a cause whilst getting a taste of what working in the sector is like. All of this will help when applying for entry-level roles.  


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5. Gain transferrable skills

Many charity roles are similar to those found in other sectors. This means that the skills needed for those roles don’t need to be gained from inside the charity sector itself.

Skills gained from whatever you’ve been doing up to this point, whether it be school, university, an apprenticeship, or a job, will be transferrable to a charity. Just make sure to explain in your applications what you learnt and which skills you strengthened from each experience. 

If you want to go into a non-specific charity role, such as marketing, IT, sales, or finance, you could gain experience by working outside of the sector first. Then you could transfer into the charity sector once that experience ends.  


Overall, landing an entry-level job in the charity sector can seem challenging due to the lack of conventional opportunities to gain experience. However, don’t forget that everyone entering the sector is in the same boat. The usual methods used in other industries aren’t the only way. If you show a strong commitment to and enthusiasm for charity work, then no matter how you gained your skills, you’ll stand out as a desirable candidate.  

And right now there are more charity roles being advertised than ever before. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by applying for an entry-level role at a charity.  


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