How to Get a Job at an International NGO?

How to Get a Job at an International NGO?
Resource by Savannah

Savannah is a humanitarian, content writer, and author of the blog She is passionate about helping others get their start in the humanitarian aid sector. Follow her on YouTube and Instagram!

How do I start a career in international development? How do I get an entry level NGO job? Is it hard to get a job in international development? What are the entry level NGO jobs? How to find a job with an international NGO?

"I had these same questions at one time. Now, I work for Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) as an international field worker in conflict and post conflict zones. Was it easy to get here? No. Would I do it all again in order to reach my dream? Certainly. And I am here to help you do the same.

How to get a job at an international NGO

  • Get a Masters degree in a subject that is relevant to what you want to do in the field (law, public health, nursing, engineering, gender studies, political science, etc).
  • Have excellent command of the English language
  • Learn a second language. For international NGO’s French, Spanish, and Arabic are in high demand
  • Get work or volunteer experience with the population you hope to work with

Get an education

Most NGO’s will not even consider you without a Master’s degree. If you want to really be competitive, go for your Doctorate. However, this is truly not necessary as many positions require only an MA. Relevant fields can include:

  • Education
  • Nursing
  • Law
  • Political Science
  • Human Resources
  • Mental Health
  • Economics
  • Business
  • Procurement
  • Data Collection and Analysis/Research
  • Gender Studies
  • Security
  • Monitoring and Evaluation
  • Communications
  • Photography/Videography
  • Health

Speak English

International NGO’s typically require their staff to speak English. This is because in the field you will likely work with many people from diverse backgrounds and countries. They typically require everyone to speak English to make communication easier amongst staff. If English is not your first language, get studying!


Some International NGO jobs will require you to speak another language. Some common languages I have seen on NGO job postings are: English, French, Spanish, and Arabic.


I know.. I am telling you to gain experience before you can get your experience. Welcome to the future. But truthfully, that was the only way I was able to break into international NGO work. I had gained five years of relevant experience within my home country before any NGO would look at my resume. I am not saying this will be your experience, I am just sharing my personal experience. Sometimes gaining experience in your home country is all you need to do in order to get into international development/International NGO work. Here are some examples of relevant experience that would look appealing to International NGO’s:

  • Hospital, clinic, or emergency setting with a diverse client base
  • Experience with refugees, low-income, and vulnerable communities
  • Trauma, PTSD, HIV/AIDS, TB experience
  • Legal experience
  • Teaching
  • Management/Supervision experience
  • Community outreach and advocacy

Remember that it doesn’t matter as much WHERE you get your experience as much as it matters that you can prove that you are an expert in your field.


The best way to find a job with an international NGO is to look on websites that only post jobs at NGO’s. The following websites come highly recommended:

  • Devex
  • Idealist
  • Reliefweb
  • UNJobs


Another way to find a job at an international NGO is to go directly to the source and apply:

Action Against Hunger

Agape Flights

ADRA International

American Red Cross


Beyond Borders

Brother’s Brother Foundation


Catholic Agency for Overseas Development

Catholic Relief Services

Chilecare Worldwide

Concern Worldwide

Cross International

Direct Relief International

Doctors Without Borders

Food for the Hungry, Inc.



Habitat for Humanity

International Committee of the Red Cross

International Rescue Committee

Lutheran World Relief

MAP International

Medical Teams International

Mercy Corps

Network for Good

Operation Blessing International


Plan USA

Project HOPE

Save the Children



The UN Refugee Agency

U.N. World Food Programme

World Concern

World Food Programme

World Vision


Remember when I said it wasn’t necessarily easy to break into the international NGO world? Well, I would like to pass on the knowledge and lessons I learned along the bumpy way to make your life easier. Here are a few tips for getting a job at an international NGO:


If you want to work on international development issues, it will be important for you to know what is going on in the world. Download some news apps, listen to the news in the morning, bookmark it, whatever you need to do. Stay up to date on what is happening where. Sometimes NGO interviewers will ask you what you know about the context of the place you could potentially end up working in. It’s good to have that knowledge at the ready.


Join MeetUp groups with other folks interested in NGO’s, international development, and humanitarian aid. When I first graduated, I reached out to people on LinkedIn that worked in the field I wanted to work in. I suggest you do the same. Knowledge is power. And it never hurts to have a “mentor” of sorts to help you along the way.


Do you know how many times I saw a job posting that fit my expertise perfectly only to read “Must be fluent in both English and French” or “English and Spanish”? It has happened a lot. I wish I had started learning a second language much earlier. The most common languages I have seen in NGO job postings have been: English, French, Spanish, and Arabic. This is especially helpful if you plan to work in the field on missions internationally."

Published 2 years ago (Sunday 19 Dec 2021)