Charities and voluntary sector

Working in charities and third sector organisations - a wide variety of roles, all sharing the common goal of improving society.


This sector, also called the third sector, not-for-profit sector and community sector, covers a diverse range of roles from social care, advice and counselling to fundraising, campaigning and finance.

The last ten years have seen an increase in job opportunities as the voluntary sector continues to grow; however, be prepared for competition for paid roles due to the large volume of unpaid, voluntary roles in the sector. 


What's it like? 

Job roles vary considerably and will reflect the kinds of jobs found elsewhere, such as those in human resources, marketing, information technology, policy and research. Other roles are more specific to the sector, such as volunteer management and fundraising. 

There are opportunities to work part-time, with 37% of voluntary sector employees in part-time employment, and there are often flexible working conditions. 

NCVO 100 

Responsibilities may include travel to visit sites and service users, marketing and public relations activities, holding fundraising events, co-ordinating volunteers, teaching, administrative tasks, undertaking research and conducting risk analyses. In smaller organisations, you may be expected to take on a range of roles, whereas at larger organisations, you are likely to use more specific skills.  


Follow the links below for profiles of common occupations in this sector: 

Advice worker

Charity officer

Charity fundraiser

Community development worker

Community education officer

Volunteer coordinator

Other job titles to search for include campaigns assistant, celebrity manager, grants assistant, housing officer. It can be useful to combine these titles in your job search, e.g. 'campaigns officer'.

Watch films with tips and insights into this sector (University of Edinburgh login).

Industry insight: charities 

How do you get into the sector? 

Entry is open to all graduates. An undergraduate or postgraduate qualification is not essential, but is becomingly increasingly desirable as the sector becomes more popular. For specific roles in areas such as accountancy, IT or social work, the relevant professional qualifications will be required.  

Experience, both paid and unpaid, is important, with a need to show commitment, knowledge and understanding of the sector in general. Employers often look for skills such as adaptability and flexibility, strong communication abilities, organisation, language, negotiation, and creativity.  Volunteering is a valuable and widely-recognised way of building the necessary experience for entry to the sector. 

Getting a graduate charity job (Prospects)  

Keep up-to-date with what is happening in the sector:  

Third Force News - a weekly newspaper for charities and voluntary organisations in Scotland, published by the SCVO. It has news from the third sector, including funding, charity management and legal issues. 

Third Force News 

The Guardian - articles and specific news about the voluntary sector and ethics. 

The Guardian 


How can I get experience? 

Volunteering will help you stand out and show your commitment to the sector while also give you the opportunity to gain experience and explore the different types of organisations that exist. As a volunteer you will hear about paid opportunities that become available within the organisation, as well as building up a network of contacts to keep you informed about future possibilities. Even volunteering for a few hours every week, when you can fit it in is beneficial.  Look for volunteering opportunities at:


Join a relevant student society and volunteer your time by helping out with planning their events or joining the committee: 

Find a society 

For volunteering in the environment also see Countryside Jobs Service: 

Countryside Jobs Service

 Internships tend to be offered by larger charities and vary in length from a few weeks to a year.  These opportunities aren’t as numerous as in some other sectors and you will need to spend some time researching what’s available.  To get you started these are a few examples:

Cancer Research UK Internship Scheme 

British Red Cross Internships

Wellcome Trust Summer Internship 

You can also find internships using Change Agents UK website.

Change Agents UK website

Shadow individuals who already work in the sector to get an insight into day-to-day activities, as well as demonstrate keenness and commitment. 


If you are looking for international opportunities, have a look at our information resource to get an insight into what research you should be doing beforehand: 

Questions to Ask When Researching International Opportunities 


Are there graduate schemes available? 

Most graduates entering this sector will apply for direct entry roles as graduate schemes are not common.  Larger charities are more likely to offer them than smaller organisations.

Here are examples of graduate schemes: 

Cancer Research UK- offer 6 different streams of graduate schemes: fundraising and marketing; finance; policy, information and communications; scientific strategy and funding; technology; HR.  

Cancer Research UK  

Charityworks- a paid, 12 month national graduate placement programme, equipping graduates with the tools they need to build a career in the UK social sector. There are more than 100 opportunities per year across a range of charities and housing associations. 


Wellcome Trust

It's also worth checking the following organisations:



TARGETjobs has a number of great resources on their website, such as: 

Professional bodies 

Joining a professional body brings opportunities to network, access to information resources and regular updates in the sector. It shows your commitment to the profession and keenness to continue professional development after graduating. For example, the Institute of Fundraising supports fundraisers with guidance on best practice and compliance, education and networking, and leadership and representation. The website provides information about fundraising as well as a helpful directory and contacts, and advertises job vacancies. 

Institute of fundraising

Search for relevant professional associations on the Government website:  

Approved professional organisations and learned societies 

Where can I find vacancies? 

Charities and voluntary organisations mainly advertise for positions as needed and they recruit in a variety of ways. Start by checking MyCareerHub. 


National and local newspapers online - The Guardian is a good example of a newspaper that actively promotes job vacancies in charity and voluntary organisations. 

The Guardian

Recruitment sites for the charity and voluntary sector in Scotland, Wales and England - Good Moves contains information about getting into the sector, and also advertises work experience placements for students and graduates. CharityJob contains useful career guides and resources, news and events, as well as advertsies lots of job opportunities and internships.  

Good Moves 


Specialist recruitment agencies and websites - Charity Careers Scotland and Third Sector Jobs specialise in advertising charity job vacancies in Scotland and in the UK.  

Charity Careers Scotland 

Third Sector Jobs 

Directly from charity and voluntary organisation websites, especially for smaller organisations - search national databases to find charities you are interested in, such as the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR)

Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) 

You also have the option of setting up your own charity and can get advice about this from NCVO Knowhow. This website has information about setting up your own charity, career development multimedia resources and career advice articles.

NCVO Knowhow