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March 13, 2012

This site is about getting your first job as a humanitarian aid worker. Whether you want to run refugee camps, micro-credit programs or health programs, this is my personal opinion (not my employer’s) about ways to make the transition to international relief and development work.

If you find this site at least as useful as a coffee and a bagel, and wonder how you can possibly thank me, please consider buying my e-book on Amazon! Getting your first job in relief and development. It also helps me to recover some of the costs of hosting this site when people review the e-book – thanks!

My take on getting a job as a humanitarian aid worker is organized by chapters (on the right-hand side under the heading Book chapters) – and is supposed to be read top-to-bottom more or less like a book. Book reviews and other pieces are posted below. Find out more about this blog here.

Please read the disclaimer, and understand that this line of work is not risk free. You need to do your own research, make your own decisions, and take responsibility for them.

If this site is as useful to you as a book you might have paid for please consider buying my new Kindle eBook, which contains much of the content from this site, thoughtfully formatted for off-line reading on a Kindle, iPad, laptop, or other e-reader. It’s $7.99, and honestly, what can you get for that these days? Get it here.

If you have questions please do send them either by email or in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them or find someone who can. I also offer individual coaching services for people who have in-depth questions about their particular situation, want feedback and support with resumes and cover letters, or want interview coaching and critique. To learn more about that see my career coaching page.We answer phones at a relief org, and we direct almost all of our requests for informational interviews to this resource. It's an honest, clear summary of what you need in order to work in international relief. Thanks for this great reference.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennah-Louise Salkeld permalink
    April 15, 2010 12:22 am

    Hi there,

    I could not find a contact email for you. I would like to ask you several questions and advice. If you have time i would appreciate if you contacted me via email so i can send through my thoughts.

    Thank you!

  2. Dane Fredenburg permalink
    April 21, 2010 4:47 pm

    Dear Nick,

    What an excellent blog – I’ve had many of the same questions asked to me over the years and you have really summed it up well. I’ll be pointing people to your blog in the future. Thank you and keep up the good work!

    Dane Fredenburg
    Catholic Relief Services

  3. Jeff permalink
    February 13, 2011 11:17 am

    Hey Nick,

    Thank you for the fantastic blog about humanitarian jobs and beginning a career with them. I had so many questions and your blog was able to answer most of them. With your site and some others I have been able to get much better direction on what I should do in order to work with humanitarian organizations in the Middle East.

    Best wishes,


  4. Judyth permalink
    March 7, 2011 10:20 am

    Absolutely needed! This blog is what I have needed. As an international retired athlete and almost graduate student with some unofficial background in volunteering and humanitarian work, I can say I have struggled with getting into the field. I have begun making my personal notes from your interviews and I am now carefully and strategically chartering my course. Thank you for the valuable tips from your blog. I will be posting and advertising your blog to my friends within the field.



    • March 11, 2011 11:39 am

      Thank you for the feedback Judyth, I appreciate it!

  5. June 18, 2011 7:18 pm

    Folks – I have no idea what this organization is like, and can’t vouch for them in any way – if anyone has any feedback on them I’d love to hear about it!

    GVI has loads of jobs around the world, in a variety of fields. If you are passionate about helping people & enjoy a bit of hard work while having fun on the job then ‘Global Vision International’ may be the organisation you’ve been looking for.

    Volunteer Work

  6. Thomas permalink
    August 14, 2012 2:20 am

    Nice sire, well done, with useful information!

    • August 14, 2012 10:32 am

      Thanks Thomas, I appreciate your tips too!

  7. December 13, 2012 9:07 am

    I am glad I found this. As someone who was lucky enough to “fall into” humanitarian work, I find what you write here is very true. I was happy to promote this blog and your book on an article I just wrote.

  8. Austin permalink
    February 6, 2015 8:44 am

    Hi, I am 18 years old about to graduate this year in May. I’m very interested in doing humanitarian work, the only problem, I have absolutely no clue how to go about getting into it. Hopefully you can guide me into the right path as this is something from within calling out that this is what I should do. Thank you, sincerely Austin.

    • February 6, 2015 8:46 am

      Hi there Austin – thanks for the question – take a look at the site – it’s my attempt to help you figure out whether it’s the right thing for you! Let me know if you have a more focussed question,

  9. Emily Jefferies permalink
    April 29, 2015 2:56 pm

    Are there hard copies of your book available? I’d love to learn more.

    • April 29, 2015 2:59 pm

      I regret not – but you can read the ebook on pretty much any device… Sorry!

  10. Guillaume Larue permalink
    June 20, 2015 3:14 am

    Hii Nick,

    Well I’m 25 years old, with diploma in Human Resources Management, well living in quite a materialist world, having being lucky enough in my life for having real pleasant life and really want to start giving to other people that has not been lucky like me.

    So feel free to contact me on for any advice.



  11. Sandra permalink
    September 13, 2015 10:09 pm

    HI Nick, What a fantastic website. Thank you for making it available to people like me.

    I have a question for you. I’ve long been in the NGO world — I’ve lived in third world countries, including some very remote areas and one high-conflict zone, for 9 years, working for a faith-based organization. For personal reasons I’ve transitioned out of that NGO and am currently teaching ESL in the U.S. But I find my heart still longing to be out on the field. Unfortunately, my background is in linguistics (I have an M.A. and I worked in literacy / language development), but I have no desire to continue working as an ESL teacher; nor am I interested in more schooling at this point (I’m 40). Anyone looking at my resume will immediately pigeonhole me as an educator. I’m interested in humanitarian aid, refugee work, gender issues, advocacy, and community development. When I look at job listings, however, they all seem to require some sort of degree in social work or something else.

    Do you have any specific advice for someone like me beyond what’s on your website? Would an NGO give me a chance in a new type of role, seeing my field background?


  12. sara Fenster permalink
    October 17, 2015 2:56 am

    I noticed that you replied to a previous post in regards to there being many jobs for nurses in aid work, I am a nurse and I have recently obtained my DTN(Diploma Tropical Nursing)and am looking to work in refugee camps. I am having trouble finding organizations in which to work other than MSF, which I hear is more administrative and not hands on clinic situtation.

    • October 26, 2015 11:21 am

      Hi Sara,
      Sorry to be behind on replying – I’m afraid I don’t have my pulse on who is hiring in this area, but I would think that all of the primary health organizations would be recruiting nurses. MSF certainly has opportunities for hands on clinical work, btw.
      You might want to check out this AMA –
      Where in the world are you? I’d recommend you check with your professional body about this too, since they will likely have good contacts.
      Good luck,

  13. Austin permalink
    October 25, 2015 12:33 pm

    Hi Nick, Thanks so much for the info on this website.

    I’m interested in working in logistics for an international refugee agency. My background isn’t one in Humanitarian work, but it is in logistics and operations management.

    I graduated from a top business school with a degree in Supply Chain Management and Spanish and have worked 2 years as a operations consultant and 2 years as a logistics officer for a global car manufacturer. I specialize in rebuilding supply chains after disruptions due to political instability and natural disasters.

    My concern is I wouldn’t be considered due to lack of professional experience in humanitarian work (although I have years of volunteer experience). Do you have any advice for someone in my position?

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