Thriving In Service: How to Get a Job at an NGO

NGO building on a sunny street

When it comes to carving out a purposeful and impactful career, the non-profit sector, specifically working within a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), can be a fulfilling choice. From advocacy and human rights to environmental and educational concerns, NGOs around the world are tirelessly working towards bettering our collective societal experiences.

These jobs, while they may be non-governmental organizations, can provide good pay as well as being highly rewarding. That makes them places that can be incredible to work at. 

Whether you’re fresh out of college or considering a meaningful career switch, this article is your roadmap to making a difference through a career in an NGO.  Stay tuned as we navigate the ins and outs of turning your passion for positive change into a fruitful career.

What is an NGO

Before we start talking about what kinds of jobs you can get at an NGO, let’s take a second to talk about what an NGO actually is. 

By definition, an NGO is an organization that operates independently from any government. The term can essentially refer to any non-profit organization that is independent from government influence. However, it is often used more specifically to refer to organizations which are actively involved in international humanitarian, educational, developmental, and social issues.

Examples range from globally recognized organizations like United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), focusing on the welfare and rights of children worldwide, to smaller, local NGOs like the Community Food Bank in Arizona that provides nutritionally balanced meals to community members in need. 

Regardless of their size or scope, these organizations share a united goal of creating positive change. 

Examples of NGO Jobs

As someone passionate about finding a career in a non-governmental organization (NGO), you might be wondering about the different jobs and roles that exist within these entities. 

Let me illuminate this further for you by exploring a range of opportunities that are commonly available within NGOs.

Program Officer

Being a program officer, you would be responsible for developing, implementing, and monitoring initiatives that align with the organization’s mission. This role often involves logistic management, coordinating with stakeholders, and reporting on the program’s impact.

Fundraising Officer

If you’re good with numbers and persuasive communication, then this role could be a great fit. As a fundraising officer, you’ll be tasked to find and mobilize financial resources for the organization. 

This could involve writing grant proposals, executing fundraising campaigns, and managing relationships with donors.

Advocacy Officer

This role is crucial for NGOs lobbying for policy change. You would need strong research skills to analyze complex situations, draft position papers, and make recommendations. An advocacy officer is the voice of the organization, so strong communication skills are essential.

Communications Manager

If you possess excellent writing skills and are a tech-savvy individual, a role as a communications manager may suit you best. In this role, you handle the NGO’s external and internal communication strategies, which may include handling media relations, creating engaging content for social networking platforms, and managing the organization’s website.

Volunteer Coordinator

In this role, you would be in charge of managing the volunteer resources of the NGO. You would recruit, train, and supervise volunteers, coordinate their schedules, and ensure their work aligns with the NGO’s objectives.

Project Manager

Just like in the corporate world, a project manager in an NGO oversees plans, coordinates resources, and ensures projects are executed effectively and efficiently from start to finish.

Organizations Offering NGO Jobs 

Having discussed what NGOs are and the various kinds of jobs they offer, let’s now look at some wonderful organizations currently offering NGO jobs. Non-governmental organizations exist in nearly every sector, from healthcare and education to human rights and the environment. 

I’ve already mentioned a few examples, such as local food banks, but to give you an even better idea, here are a few more examples of NGOs where you could potentially find a job.

Oxfam International

This global movement seeks to end poverty and injustice. They offer a wide range of job opportunities, from field work and advocacy to fundraising and support roles. I’ve seen open positions for project managers, policy advisors, and even digital campaign strategists.

Amnesty International

This leading human rights organization has branches all around the world. They provide roles both in advocacy and operations. From my observation, they usually look for individuals passionate about human rights and who have a knack for activism and policy-making.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

If you have a heart for environmental preservation, this is an excellent organization to consider. WWF focuses on conservation and offers various jobs relating to science, policy, communications, and fundraising.

Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders)

This organization provides emergency medical aid to those affected by conflict, epidemics, or disasters. Courageous individuals who have a medical or administrative background can find rewarding opportunities here.


If advocating for children’s rights and welfare aligns with your passion, then UNICEF might be a good fit. They offer jobs in health, education, nutrition, equality and protection.

Tips for Choosing the Right NGO Job

One of the most pivotal aspects of finding a fulfilling career in the NGO sector is identifying the job role that aligns with your personal values, passion, and career goals. Since NGOs encompass a vast range of causes and sectors, they provide ample opportunities for individuals with diverse abilities and interests. 

When looking for the right NGO job, you’ll want to think about your career strengths and passions. Here are a few other tips to help you choose the right NGO job.

Evaluate what Drives You

Is it education, poverty alleviation, environmental conservation or human rights? Recognize that your passion should intersect with your NGOs mission. 

For example, if you’re passionate about education policy for underprivileged children, you might want to consider a role in an NGO that focuses on inclusive education initiatives. 

Analyze Your Strengths and Skill Sets

To be impactful in your role, choose a job that aligns with your skills and enhances them. If you have strong communication skills, a role in advocacy or public relations could suit you. On the other hand, if you have a knack for numbers and budgeting, a financial role within an NGO might be a better fit. 

Consider Your Long-Term Career Goals

If you aspire to work in international diplomacy or policy making, getting direct field experience with a grassroots organization can give you important insights and experiences. Conversely, if you’re interested in organizational dynamics and management, starting in an administration or operations role could set you on the right path. 

Think About the Work Environment and Culture

NGOs range from small startups to large international organizations and everything in between. Would you thrive in a dynamic, challenge-based startup environment or do you prefer the stability and structure of a larger, established organization? 

Requirements for NGO Jobs

Just like any standard career path, NGO jobs come with several requirements you’ll have to meet in order to get hired.

If you’re considering a career within an NGO, you might be wondering what sort of requirements you need to meet. While these will naturally vary depending on the role and the specific organization, there are a few common threads that many NGOs look for in their employees.  

Alignment with the Organization’s Mission and Values

An NGO typically values candidates who demonstrate a strong commitment to the organization’s mission and values. So, if you’re passionate about the causes the NGO is working for, make sure to highlight this in your applications and interviews. 

For example, if you’re looking to work with an NGO focused on education, any experience you have tutoring, mentoring, or volunteering in schools can help you stand out.

Relevant Work Experience

More often than not, NGOs value practical, on-the-job experience, perhaps even over educational qualifications. This means that any form of volunteer work, internships, or prior job experiences in the relevant field could significantly boost your chances of landing the job. 

Language Skills

Language skills can also be incredibly beneficial, especially for NGOs operating on an international scale. If you speak more than one language, especially if one of them is widely spoken such as Spanish, French, or Mandarin, be sure to mention this in your application.

Cooperation and Teamwork

You’re likely to be working closely with a diverse team of people, so having strong interpersonal skills can make a huge difference. You might find yourself in a situation where you’re coordinating with volunteers, working with community leaders, or collaborating with other organizations to implement your programs.

Flexibility and Adaptability

You might need to work unconventional hours, travel frequently, or deal with unexpected challenges. Clear examples showcasing your ability to adapt to changes and handle challenging situations would surely give you an edge.

Degrees for NGO Jobs

If you’re considering a career in the non-governmental organization (NGO) sector, having the right educational background could be a ticket to securing your desired job. 

While there may be some NGOs that don’t require any kind of degree, others will expect you to have a formal education. Knowing the exact educational requirements you’ll need will depend on what NGO you’re interested in working for and what sector you plan to pursue a career in.

A few types of degrees that are commonly required for NGO jobs, however, are listed below to give you a better idea.

Social Work

A degree in Social Work can provide you with a comprehensive understanding of social issues and how to approach them. This degree can prepare you to work effectively in various roles within an NGO, from managing community projects to counseling and advocacy.

International Relations

If your aim is to work in a global platform, a degree in International Relations is invaluable. It equips you with knowledge of world affairs, politics, and diplomacy, all necessary when working with international NGOs.

Nonprofit Management

If you aspire to a leadership or managerial role in an NGO, considering a degree in Nonprofit Management might be the right choice. You’ll learn essential skills such as fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and strategic planning.

Environmental Sciences

For those interested in environmental NGOs, a degree in Environmental Sciences could provide the right foundation. It provides the knowledge to understand and address environmental issues, a must-have skill for a career in this field of NGOs.

Public Health

If public health is your passion, then a degree in this field will not only give you subject knowledge but can also open up numerous opportunities in health-related NGOs. 

What to Know About Applying for NGO Jobs

Applying for a job in a non-governmental organization (NGO), like any other job process, requires careful planning, a clear understanding of your career objectives, and a thorough profiling of your skills. 

To help you understand how to apply for an NGO job, I’ve laid out the basic steps you should take as you pursue a new career.

Step 1: Identify the Right NGO Job

The first step in the job application process is identifying the role that suits your skills and career aspirations. Given the diversity in the type of work NGOs do, there are various roles ranging from project management, policy analysis, research, outreach, and much more. 

Step 2: Tailor Your Resume and Cover Letter

One size does not fit all when it comes to job applications. Tailor your resume and cover letter to match the specific job role and NGO you are applying to. Highlight your achievements, experiences, and skills that are most relevant. 

For example, if applying for a development officer role, emphasize any previous successful fundraising campaigns you’ve been part of. 

Step 3: Use the Right Platforms 

NGOs often post their vacancies on their websites and various online job boards like Idealist, ReliefWeb, and Devnetjobs. Also, don’t forget LinkedIn as a valuable resource. Be proactive and check these regularly.

Step 4: Submit Application 

Follow the application guidelines given by the organization. Ensure you submit all necessary documents. Remember to proofread for any errors before clicking the ‘submit’ button. 

Step 5: Follow-up 

Do not hesitate to do a polite follow-up if you haven’t heard back within a reasonable period. This shows your interest in the role and can make your application stand out.

Job Interview Questions at NGO 

After you’ve submitted your job application, if an NGO is interested in hiring you, they’ll give you a call to set up an interview. Scoring an interview at an NGO is a big deal, which is why being properly prepared for it is so critical.

As you prepare for your interview with an NGO, it’s important to anticipate some of the questions you might be asked. I’ve put together a few of the typical questions that you might encounter during an NGO interview. 

In every answer, remember to be authentic and enthusiastic. Show how much the role means to you and how excited you are to contribute to the NGO. Most importantly, don’t forget to ask your own questions. Inquiring about their team, their challenges, or their future projects shows your real interest and your initiative.

With that said, let’s go over these and discuss what the itnerviewer is trying to gauge with each of these questions.

“Why are you interested in this role and our organization?” 

This common question gives you a chance to express your passion for the NGO’s cause. Be specific about what appeals to you about their mission, their programs, or their impact.

“What is your understanding of our organization’s work?” 

Here, the interviewer wants to gauge how much you’ve researched and understand their work. It’s good to show that you’ve taken the time to understand their goals, projects, and their overall mission.

“Can you give an example of a time you worked on a similar project or campaign?” 

Speak about past experiences that are relevant to the role at hand. Talk about the outcomes, what you learnt and even challenges you overcame. You can use the STAR method to answer these questions efficiently. Your answer will show your problem-solving skills and how you handle tasks. 

“How do you handle stress and high-pressure situations?” 

NGO roles can sometimes involve high-pressure situations, particularly if you’re working on the ground. Answer this by sharing your own strategies for staying calm, focused, and productive even under stress.

“Describe a time you had to consider ethical considerations in your work.” 

This question tests your understanding of ethical considerations. It’s important in the NGO sector, where you’re often dealing with vulnerable populations, to always maintain integrity and ethical standards.

“How have you made a difference in your previous roles?” 

NGOs are about making a difference. In your answer, include specifics of how you positively impacted past roles, projects, or teams.

Tips for Getting a Job at an NGO

Embarking on a journey to work with an NGO can often seem intimidating, especially given the competitive nature of these roles. 

However, with the right tools and mindset, you can greatly improve your chances of securing the job of your dreams. 

Here, I’ll share several of my top tips to bolster your NGO job application.


NGOs appreciate individuals who are genuinely committed to their cause. In addition to your professional skills and experience, having a record of volunteer work in the relevant field shows your passion and dedication. 

Volunteering can range from local community projects to international missions. To illustrate, if you’re looking to join a children welfare NGO, volunteering experiences at local shelters, schools, or child-focused programs can add value to your application.


In the world of NGOs, knowing the right people can make a world of difference. Attend relevant seminars, webinars, workshops, and conferences to connect with professionals already working within NGOs. 

Such connections could potentially offer invaluable insights and even open doors to job opportunities. A good example is reaching out to connect on networking platforms like LinkedIn with someone who works at an NGO where you’re interested in applying. 

Build a Digital Presence

A professional online profile can be highly advantageous. Platforms such as LinkedIn are increasingly used by employers. 

Showcase your achievements, skills, qualifications, and volunteer work. However, remember to keep your online presence professional and consistent. Above all, showcasing your passion for their cause is paramount.

Stay Updated

Follow the latest news and trends in the sector that the NGO belongs to. Whether it’s human rights, environment conservation, or education, it’s essential to understand the current issues, innovations, and challenges in the field. 

Salary Scale for NGO Jobs

Though the primary motivation for most choosing to work in the NGO sector is often the meaningfulness and impact of the job rather than the monetary reward, it’s essential to know the expected salary ranges. After all, everyone wants to earn a living that meets their lifestyle needs and future goals. 

As with any industry, the exact salary you can expect from an NGO job varies dramatically depending on factors such as: 

  • Area of specialization
  • Geographical location
  • Size and resources of the organization
  • Seniority and number of responsibilities
  • Past job experience
  • Industry standards

With that said, salaries typically range from $30,000 for entry-level positions such as Project Assistants to as much as $100,000 for executive roles in well-resourced NGOs.

Keep in mind that the non-monetary benefits working in NGOs are immense. In addition to the satisfaction of contributing to important causes, opportunities for personal development and learning are typically plentiful.

Benefits of Working at an NGO 

I briefly mentioned that working at an NGO comes with a number of benefits. Many times, these go far beyond just the standard 401(k) and health plan. 

Here are a couple of the key benefits of working at an NGO.

Emotional Fulfillment

One of the significant benefits I’ve witnessed is the sense of emotional fulfillment that comes from doing work that makes a tangible difference in people’s lives. 

For instance, being directly involved in projects that combat poverty, protect the environment, or improve education brings a sense of purpose to your daily tasks. You get the satisfaction of knowing that your work is contributing to positive change in the world.

Skill Enhancement

Another benefit is the diverse set of professional skills you can develop in an NGO. Due to often limited resources, you’re likely to wear many hats, allowing you to gain experience in a multitude of areas.

Global Exposure and Networking Opportunities

Working at an NGO often gives you the chance to meet and collaborate with people from different countries and cultures. You’ll likely interact with local communities, volunteers, donors, and professionals from various fields. 

Being part of such diverse networks can be a great learning experience and can also open up new career opportunities.

Charity and Non-Profit Perks

Many NGOs have benefits such as flexible work schedules and remote work policies, centered on the premise that happy workers create better results. You may also be privileged to receive generous vacation time, wellness initiatives, and other unique perks. 

Take the Next Steps to Working at an NGO

Choosing the right NGO job involves aligning with an organization’s mission, its impact, and considering your career growth within it. Job applications processes can be increasingly competitive in the NGO sector. Hence, careful consideration and tailoring of your application, as well as persistence, plays a crucial role in securing your desired position. 

Remember that embarking on a career with an NGO is not just about landing a job – it’s about making a commitment to drive positive change in the world. If your heart is in the right place and you’re ready to make a difference, the right NGO job can be an enriching part of your life’s work.

If you’re ready to take the next steps and commit to a career at an NGO, our career coaches can help. Our personalized approach is aimed at preparing you for a meaningful career, serving causes you are passionate about. So, connect with us for an enriching discussion about your future career and let us assist you in landing a fulfilling NGO job that matches your skills, interests, and goals.

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