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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental ScienceUndergraduate study

Becoming an aid worker

Development is a competitive sector, so having the right skills and experience is highly important.


  1. You will need an undergraduate degree. It is very rare to enter this profession without one. In general the subject does not matter, but specialised subjects such as medicine may give you more options of roles you can apply for.
  2. Consider a postgraduate course if you want to go into a specific area. The Development Studies Association maintains a list of relevant courses for aid work, such as international development studies.
  3. The most important factor in gaining these positions is relevant experience.
  4. Consider a qualification in first aid or management to boost your application
  5. Languages skills are often a requirement so consider a language course if you do not already have these skills. French, Spanish and Portuguese are often requested, while knowledge of Arabic, Russian, Swahili and other African or Asian languages may be advantageous.

Work experience

Relevant experience is key to getting that important first position. Larger charities such as Oxfam, Christian Aid and People and Planet have established summer internship placement schemes.

Work experience can be either overseas or UK based but should be engaged in development activities.

Travelling or undertaking voluntary work in a country where humanitarian aid takes place shows commitment and will allow you to gain valuable knowledge about the areas the employers are working in.

When gaining work experience in this sector it is important to keep your safety in mind, don't just turn up in the middle of a crisis, as the charities there may be unable to use you. Instead, work at building up your skills to increase the chances of you being selected by these charities to volunteer as part of a team.

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