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Is a college education necessary for a career in relief work?

May 21, 2016

Q. Hello Nick!

I find this blog very helpful. I have a heart for relief effort. I am 24 years old. I spent 3 months in cambodia teaching english, teaching villagers the importance of clean water and served in an orphange. I spent a total of 2 years in the Philippines getting training and interning doing character development with college students. I have graduated from 2 mission training schools, both with a christian organization. I was a volunteer I did fundraising for those experiences.

I have a few questions for you. I am currently living state side and I feel like i dont have any options. I feel stuck. The reason being is one I dont have a college education every time I do research I find that I need a bachelors degree and two I had a negative experience in the Philippines. I realized its more than just showing up its about having a skill to offer to people and organizations.

My first question is is it possible to get a job in relief work with out college education? Two does my resume from what I told you count as field experience? Will that help at all with me getting a job?
Thanks for listening,
Best regards,

A. Hi Paul!

Thanks for the question – it sounds like you’ve had a fascinating first look at the relief and development sector. You don’t mention exactly what your ‘negative experience’ in the Philippines is, but my suspicion is that it has to do with realizing that development is a complex and time consuming activity. It is certainly more than ‘showing up’, and you need to bring something to the table that isn’t available in the local context. Most development expatriates are either experts in their field, or have substantial management experience over a number of years.

So – to get to your first question, while it is certainly possible to get a job without a bachelors degree, you’re at a huge disadvantage. With many positions these days requesting advanced degrees and several years experience you’re going to need to compensate for the lack of a degree with some pretty serious other credentials.

Secondly, from what you’ve written it looks like you have about three months of field experience. That’s a good start, but it’s not generally enough. I would seriously look into the Peace Corps if I were you, bearing in mind that 90% of those positions do require a degree.

Good luck!


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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Han Duong permalink
    May 24, 2016 3:53 am

    Hello Nick. I am a high school student and I am researching Humanitarian Studies as a major. Would it be possible for me to interview you with a few questions? (there are only ten). Thank you!

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