It is perfectly possible to apply directly to jobs in the charity sector with some relevant work or volunteering experience. Entry-level paid roles often relate to support work, including ‘Administrative Assistant’, ‘Information Assistant’, ‘Marketing Assistant’, ‘Policy Assistant’, ‘Fundraising Assistant’ or ‘Project Assistant’, or similar titles.
Often charities seek to hire new staff who have already developed the skills that they need. It’s feasible, for example, to apply for a Marketing Manager role at a charity, having previously been a Marketing Officer in the private sector.
Similarly, it’s not unusual to recruit staff ranging from frontline customer-facing roles, to Strategic Directors and CEOs who have learnt their skills outside of the charity sector, and are now seeking to combine their abilities with the desire to ‘give back’.
Trainee and Graduate schemes
There are few graduate schemes in the charity sector, as they take a lot of time and money to run – two things which most charities find in short supply. The few that exist (generally serving larger organisations and housing charities) are competitive, but don’t forget that lots of direct entry opportunities exist too. A number of organisations have also changed their selection criteria and are no longer using degree entry as part of their selection criteria, such as CharityWorks and Cancer Research but they remain a fantastic route into the sector with structured training.
Examples of charity (and related) schemes include:
- Cancer Research UK– The Accelerate Trainee Scheme. Applications usually open in the Autumn.
- CASE Graduate Trainee - Europe - a 12 month programme for those interested in fundraising and philanthropy in Higher Education, schools and not-for-profit. Closing date is usually around the end of February with assessments in March.
- CharityWorks – a 12 month scheme, involving leadership training and independent research. Trainees undertake a real job in a placement organisation e.g. Age UK, NSPCC etc starting around Autumn time. Applications usually open around October and close in February with assessment centres in May/June. There is a "fast track" application system for BAME applicants.
- The Wellcome Trust – a 2 year scheme, with the option of choosing an investment programme or a general programme. Applications usually open in September/Oct to mid Nov, interviews in January and assessment centres and final interviews in Feb/March.
- Gradunique – a 2 year joint scheme with Macmillan Cancer Support and the British Heart Foundation. If the scheme runs in 2023/24 applications usually open in Autumn.
- IntoUniversity – a graduate training scheme as an education worker
- City Year – 1 year volunteering role in schools. They recruit on an ongoing basis for an August start.
- Sanctuary Group – a 2 year graduate scheme of 4 placements in this housing charity. Applications open in October 2022 with interviews in January.
There are an increasing number of postgraduate courses (and similar) available which are designed for charity sector career paths. Specific short courses are available too (e.g. those at The Institute of Fundraising or through Oxford Community and Voluntary Action )However, neither are a requirement for entry for general roles. It’s advised that you begin work in the sector before undertaking further study, as you are likely to be able to better choose a course once you’ve confirmed your interest in a specific area of work (you may also find that you learn the skills you’re seeking ‘on the job’).
Many charities will also look to recruit ‘specialists’ for highly skilled roles. Depending on the charity these could be academic researchers, scientific or technically-trained personnel, accountants, lawyers, qualified teachers, psychologists and many more. The vast majority of these roles will be filled by those who trained and developed outside of the charity sector, although they may still be advertised on charity-specific sector pages, or on the pages of the individual charity itself.