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’.
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.
Examples of charity (and related) graduate schemes include:
- Cancer Research UK– a 2 year scheme, with four 6 month placements
- CharityWorks – a 12 month scheme, involving leadership training and independent research
- The Wellcome Trust – a 2 year scheme, with the option of choosing an investment programme or a general programme
- gradunique – a 2 year joint scheme with Macmillan Cancer Support and the British Heart Foundation
- IntoUniversity – a graduate training scheme as an education worker
- City Year – 1 year volunteering role in schools
- Year Here – 1 year social enterprise study-style programme, free of charge
- Sanctuary Group – a 2 year graduate scheme in this housing charity
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). 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.