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Do I need a degree to work in humanitarian aid?

July 11, 2017

Q. Hey Nick!
Don’t worry I won’t ask if there’s a specific degree I should get to land a job in humanitarian aid 😅
What I was curious about though was whether you think anyone would look at my resume with a diploma and a specialized certificate as opposed to a degree? I work in logistics and have 4+ years in supply chain management but got into the work with no credentials. I have also travelled extensively and sit on the board of directors for a preschool in Rwanda, which I have volunteered at as well. I’m looking at getting back into school, but am not sure I can get through a full 4 year degree at my age, while juggling my current work and living situation (I have to study part-time so a 4 year degree will actually take me closer to 5-6 to complete)
I don’t need the diploma/degree for my current work, so I don’t want to go back for the diploma if it won’t help me find work.
Sorry for rambling!


A. Thanks Mathew – I appreciate you pitching me a new one!

OK – so – my usual advice is that a degree is pretty much the baseline for jobs in humanitarian aid these days. Most jobs require one, and most times CVs without one (particularly entry-level) will be discarded.

That said – your case is a little different – you have extensive experience in a relevant field, and it sounds like at least a little bit of overseas experience. Once a resume has a few jobs and years of relevant field experience, most recruiters won’t look at your degree (or not, as the case may be). I know several people without degrees who work in this field, and I don’t think it’s an issue once you’re established. I know that I have never once, in over 20 years, been asked to provide evidence of my education, or even asked about it.

Don’t ever lie or misrepresent yourself, but I would encourage you to simply write a resume that emphasizes your work experience and doesn’t draw attention to your educational background. I bet if you don’t mention it 90% of recruiters are not even going to notice. If they do, simply be honest, and explain it to them the way you did to me.

Good luck!


One Comment leave one →
  1. William permalink
    November 27, 2017 8:38 am

    Hi Matthew

    You should try MSF. Go to one of their recruitment evenings if the are held close by and then try and get a field position that way. I work for MSF as a logistician and am currently on my second mission in Iraq right now. I don’t have a degree or diploma, in fact I didn’t even complete secondary school. I’m now 40 and have as good as a decade working in Africa behind me, good all round skills and prepared to learn, commit and rough it a bit and I find I fit right in! A degree isn’t everything, and sometimes you can’t learn in a lecture what you will learn in the field. Supply is a major component of my job, and it seems like you are more than qualified in that area, and MSF can offer trainings. You’re well travelled and seem to know the world, and care enough to want to do it, so I’d say don’t let a lack of “education” hold you back. You need life skills and the ability to adapt to be a part of humanitarianism. So if that’s what you want to do it’s there if you look in the right places. Good luck!

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