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Is a nursing degree a good start for humanitarian work?

February 8, 2016

Q. Hi,
Maybe this is a little well ambitious for a 20 year-old to say, but I would like to dedicate myself to humanitarian work. I believe that this line of work may be the only one to take in order to live with myself. Aaaanyways, I wonder what sort of education I need. Would for example a bachelor in nursing be a good start?

A. Hi William,

Thanks for the question. It’s one a get a lot, and my typical answer is on this page. Before I get to the detail of your question, without wanting to sound patronizing, I would urge you to keep an open mind on the question of how to live with oneself – it can take a while to feel at home in the world.

That said, the main thing that you need to decide is whether you are interested in a role that has some technical component that requires a particular qualification. Nurses are in demand in medical agencies, and if you want to serve as a nurse you will need a the appropriate qualifications and several years of professional experience as a nurse to be considered. Likewise if you want to serve as an accountant, an engineer, a pharmacist, a doctor, or a lawyer.

Most people who work in humanitarian aid though are generalists – the manage projects, write proposals, lead teams etc. In this case what you need above all things is field experience. No education can supplement for this, and you need to use your university career to get as much experience living and working in the developing world as you can.

Good luck!


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