An insight into international aid work

Humanitarian aid work often encompasses a range of different job roles across various different sectors. This can include responding to emergency situations, helping those affected by natural disasters or even man-made disasters (terrorism and conflict for example).

You will most likely work in developing countries , responding to disasters in the short-term but also setting up sustainable solutions and resilience in the longer term. This can typically involve working on development projects in fields such as education , sanitation , health and agriculture.

Sectors you can expect to work in

  • Conflict
  • Migration crises
  • Economics
  • Environment
  • Gender equality
  • Healthcare
  • Human rights
  • Livelihoods
  • Security
  • Governance
  • Education

Typical responsibilities

  • Manage , monitor and evaluate responses and projects
  • Conduct needs assessments
  • Organising fundraising
  • Research and write project proposals and reports
  • Evaluating the response to crises
  • Conduct strategic planning for long term development and disaster management to reduce effects of crises
  • Draft funding proposals to ensure the future of specific overseas programmes
  • Recruit, manage and train staff and volunteers
  • Develop relationships with partner organisations in the field and encourage capacity building
  • Communicate effectively with relevant internal and external stakeholders including volunteers, clients, partners and donors
  • Negotiate and liaise with public bodies and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
  • Implement security procedures to ensure the safety of staff working in unstable areas, maintaining an overview of the security situation and making appropriate decisions
  • Represent the needs of poor communities by advocating, and lobbying sponsors, governments and the public.

Expected salaries

  • Typical starting salaries for UK-based (mostly London) roles with NGOs providing administrative support to overseas programmes, such as team administrator, coordinator or research assistant, range from £18,000 to £25,000.
  • Salaries for UK posts with experience, such as project manager, policy manager or programme development adviser, are in the range of £25,000 to £50,000.
  • An overseas post requiring extensive experience, such as regional or country programme manager, field coordinator, specialist engineers, logisticians, can earn you £21,000 to £37,000. This varies widely depending on responsibility, skills, organisation and base country.

Lifestyle and what to expect

  • UK roles are mostly office-based. Overseas posts may combine office and field-based work.
  • Many NGOs have headquarters in London with far fewer jobs available regionally. Exceptions include World Vision UK (Milton Keynes) and international organisations, such as the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Oxfam, which have opportunities nationwide.
  • The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) employs staff in East Kilbride, Scotland as well as in London.
  • Overseas locations include both cities and remote locations, such as refugee camps or educational programmes in small towns and villages. Frequent relocation between overseas postings is common and those with partners or dependants should be aware that some postings are unaccompanied.
  • Work locations may include areas of political instability, natural disaster and medical hazard, all of which pose some risk to personal security.
  • Short trips to visit projects in the field may add up to several weeks or months per year in some UK jobs. Internationally based staff may spend up to 50% of their time travelling within their country or region.

How to gain experience ?

Most university students’ unions offer opportunities to volunteer. Internships can often be taken during summer vacations. Formal internship schemes are more common in larger charities such as:

Organisations that provide information and advice about getting involved in volunteering include:

There is no doubt that this work is incredibly rewarding and equally as impactful. It will be demanding and emotionally challenging, so it is best to conduct research about the type of work and sector you are seeking to get involved in.


Insightful overview! A great comprehensive glimpse into the field’s impact and depth