This page has been written by Paul Brown
, the relevant Careers Adviser for this occupational area. To see how you can meet Paul, or any of our advisers, go to our website to view how and when you can meet them.
The voluntary sector is made up of not-for profit organisations or charities which respond to identified needs that are not adequately met by either the state or profit-making organisations. Charities are usually set up by passionately committed individuals and continue to attract such people to their ranks. Individual charities range from the very small and entirely volunteer staffed to the significantly large eg Oxfam employs over 5,500 people in the UK and abroad. Over 162,000 organisations have registered with the The Charity Commission and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator has a further 24,000 registered north of the border. The sector employs around 2% of the overall paid UK workforce (circa 610,000 people) and a further 3 million unpaid volunteers. Their UK income in 2008-9 was nearly £60bn. But note that government funding cuts are impacting on the revenue streams of many voluntary organisations.
A very wide range of professional, technical, research and administrative roles are available in the voluntary sector. Volunteer roles are typically less specialised and usually focused on service delivery or fund raising. In general, the smaller the organisation the more varied the tasks any worker may be expected to do.
For information on working overseas and/or ‘out in the field’ you will also find the I want to Work In... pages Overseas Development, International Organisations, and Environmental Work useful.
How to get experience
In St Andrews
Use your time in St Andrews to gain relevant work experience. The opportunities to volunteer are endless and working on projects will give you many relevant skills that you will need to kick-start your career. Graduate jobs may value evidence of charity fundraising or experience of events organisation, all of which can be achieved by working on University projects or within the community.
- SVS Student Voluntary Service - help you find opportunities in the local area.
- Volunteer Centre Fife has details of voluntary projects in the local area.
- Involvement in Societies - particularly if it involves events, fundraising or increasing awareness. Go to your union for more information.
- Community Service Volunteers (CSV) offers a range of voluntary opportunities nationwide, including opportunities in Fife.
- The Council For Voluntary Service (CVS) Fife has a good directory of voluntary organisations in Fife searchable by location and category
- Contact the Millennium Volunteers scheme for details of schemes in your area and gaining recognition for your involvement.
- Can’t find the right project for you? Set one up yourself. Starting up societies or initiating volunteer projects looks even better than becoming involved in them.
- Some charities, eg.NSPCC run competitions aimed at encouraging students to hold fundraising events on their behalf.
- Third Sector Internships Scotland - this four-year programme, part of the Scottish Funding Council’s Learning to Work 2 initiative, is open to students from all Scottish Higher Education Institutions, and is being delivered by Queen Margaret University, The Open University in Scotland and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, with support from universities across Scotland and Student Volunteering Scotland.
- Barnardo’s internship scheme offers a 13 week voluntary placement, which runs in one of Barnardo's offices, children’s services or retail outlets across the UK. You can volunteer for an internship at the charity in a variety of areas such as retail, policy, fundraising and digital media.
- There are a small number of structured opportunities with some large charities (eg British Red Cross, Oxfam and UNICEF). However, some have unusual start dates and require long commitments making them only really suitable for graduates.
- Research the Charities charities that you are interested in. Many have good volunteering search options on their websites. Look at The Charity Commission and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator for directories
- Most work experience opportunities in the voluntary sector will be found through researching organisations and schemes which are on-going in your area. Search the many websites which promote and advertise volunteer schemes (see below) and contact regional volunteering centres.
- Other vacation work experience will mainly be found through Speculative Applications and Networking. Research organisations which interest you and approach them work shadowing opportunities.
- Working Holidays (eg National Trust, RSPB, National Parks) can give you a taster of working in the voluntary sector.
How to find a job
The links given below will lead you to positions which are advertised in this sector.
Remember that evidence of commitment and networking are both very important. Jobs in this sector frequently go to those who can show that they have had a long term commitment to the voluntary sector, often through working as a volunteer in the specific area they are applying to. Often volunteers will hear of jobs that are coming up before they are advertised more generally, and will often be the front runners for the position.
Paid positions within charities often go to those with needed professional or technical qualifications and experience. Other roles, eg in Policy, will often go to those with postgraduate qualifications. It is vital for you to identify the role(s) that attracts you and to then establish the profile of qualifications, experience and skills which you will need to have in order to succeed. Spend time browsing current job adverts to get a feel for this and then make contact with people doing the jobs that appeal to you and seek their advice and experience before deciding on how to build up your own employability profile.
Building a career in this sector requires strategic thinking and a commitment to developing future opportunities for yourself through the development of a compelling mix of experience, skills and qualifications.
Please also see I want to work in Overseas Development
- Bond.org: Officially recognised by DfID, excellent information, links and vacancies.
- Idealist Voluntary and paid work in 150 countries
- My Platform2 Website aimed at students of limited means to undertake voluntary work overseas.
- OneWorld: International information, vacancies and links
- People and Planet: Information, links and vacancies
- UN Volunteers The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is the UN organization that contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide.
- Voluntary Service Overseas VSO is the world’s leading independent international development organisation that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries.
Key Links and Resources
Careers Centre resources
- Green Volunteers
- International Voluntary Work
- Worldwide Volunteering for Young People
- Charities Digest
- Working in the Voluntary Sector
- Working in Development
Useful Background Information
Internships in the US - Voluntary Sector