Aid Worker

Job Description:

Aid workers help people in overseas countries affected by man-made and natural disasters like wars, outbreaks of disease and earthquake

Job Category:

What you will do:

In this role you may:

  • provide emergency aid like food, shelter and medical supplies
  • organise transport, sort and handle deliveries
  • oversee the distribution of goods
  • recruit, train and organise local people to work as staff and volunteers
  • write reports, monitor budgets and do general administration
  • network with other organisations and government officials in affected areas
  • work with communities longer term, for example, to roll out healthcare or
  • education programmes, or work on building or engineering projects


You’ll need:

  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

What would be useful are the following specialist skills – qualifications in

  • medicine or healthcare
  • education
  • languages
  • engineering

As well as:

  • sensitivity and understanding
  • the ability to work well with others (teamwork)
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • the ability to understand people’s reactions
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • excellent written communication skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • organisational skills
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

Becoming an aid worker involves working in humanitarian and international development organisations to provide assistance to people and communities in need, often in crisis or disaster situations. While specific requirements can vary depending on the organisation and the role you’re interested in, here are some relevant GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) subjects that can provide a strong foundation for a career in this field:

  1. English: Strong communication skills are essential for aid workers to effectively interact with beneficiaries, colleagues, and stakeholders. Being able to write clearly and communicate empathetically is crucial.
  2. Foreign Languages: Learning a foreign language, especially one commonly spoken in regions where aid work is prevalent, can be highly beneficial for effective communication and cultural understanding.
  3. Geography: Geography provides insights into global issues, cultural contexts, and understanding the locations where aid work is often required, including disaster-prone areas.
  4. Humanities (History, Sociology, Anthropology): These subjects provide a broader understanding of human societies, cultures, and historical contexts, which is valuable when working with diverse communities.
  5. Mathematics: While not always a primary focus, basic math skills are useful for aid workers to manage budgets, logistics, and basic data analysis.
  6. Science (Biology, Environmental Science): Depending on the specific aid work focus (e.g., healthcare, environmental projects), science subjects can be relevant for understanding health issues or environmental challenges.
  7. Social Studies: Social studies subjects can provide insights into global issues, ethics, and social dynamics, which are important considerations in aid work.
  8. Citizenship Studies: This subject can deepen your understanding of social justice, rights, responsibilities, and global citizenship, which are pertinent in the humanitarian field.
  9. First Aid or Health Education: While not a formal GCSE subject, obtaining basic first aid certification or participating in health education programs can demonstrate your commitment to aiding others.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • volunteering
  • working towards this role

You can do a degree that will give you specialist skills, which will be useful in humanitarian work, for example:

  • medicine or healthcare
  • education
  • languages
  • engineering

You could take a subject that will give you a wider understanding of global issues, like:

  • economics
  • international development
  • law
  • social policy

After completing a degree, you can study for a postgraduate course in:

  • international development
  • humanitarian aid
  • disaster management

It’s important to get relevant work experience through volunteering, internships or year abroad opportunities.

Your university careers service can help you find suitable vacancies like those offered by organisations including:

  • Charity Works
  • Relief Web

To get a paid job as an aid worker you’ll need experience, so most people start out as an unpaid volunteer.

You can begin by volunteering for a charity in the UK. You can also get involved with charities while at school, college and university, through student groups and societies. Most jobs involve office-based work at first but can lead to a wide range of opportunities.

You can find UK volunteering vacancies on Do IT, or by going directly to the websites of charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Some experience of living and working overseas may be helpful.

You can also apply for internships with charities and NGOs while you’re at university. Entrance to these is very competitive.

Direct Application
You can apply directly for jobs if you’re an experienced professional. As well as professions like nursing, healthcare, teaching and engineering, you’ll find organisations often look for experience in administration, project management and logistics.

Aid organisations like RedR run courses for experienced professionals, who want to put their skills to use in humanitarian aid work.

Working Hours and Environment:

You could work in remote rural areas or be based overseas.

Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding and you’ll travel often.

Career Path & Progression:

You can develop your own unique career path by working with different organisations and in different parts of the world. With experience, you can move into senior management or advisory positions, making decisions on how relief efforts are co-ordinated.