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20 Humanitarian Careers to Make a Real Difference

Humanitarian careers are all about improving the lives of individuals and a community. Careers are often found in developing countries and emergency situations, but need exists all over the world, even in countries most would associate with privilege and peace. Humanitarian careers exist in just about every sector you could imagine. Here are twenty exciting examples in health care, engineering, technology, and other sectors:

Foreign aid worker

Working with NGOs, local communities, and agencies like the U.S. Agency for International Development, foreign aid workers/officers travel where they are needed most. It can be a dangerous job with risks for disease exposure or violence. To do well in this position, a person needs a background in international relations, human rights, humanitarian aid or a related degree and fluency in another language (or multiple languages). Tasks can include fundraising, planning and managing projects, communicating closely with local authorities, and preparing reports.

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Social worker

Social workers can be involved in helping others in a variety of ways. They work at schools, hospitals, and government agencies. Whether it’s with children, people with disabilities, for people who need basic necessities like food or housing, a social worker can help. At the minimum, most social workers need a bachelor’s degree.


As a nurse, you can work at a hospital, NGO, or wherever you’re needed. Nurses help with medications, health monitoring, testing, and more. If you work with an international NGO, you might need to travel to poorer countries to help provide healthcare. Nurses need to be licensed and have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.


Nutritionists are experts in health and wellness. They can work with NGOs on food security, providing clean water, and developing nutrition plans for people with certain health conditions. A lot of humanitarian-minded nutritionists focus on vulnerable populations like children and pregnant women.


Speaking of pregnancy, many countries face troublingly-high infant mortality rates and mortality rates for pregnant women. Midwives specialize in pregnancy and infant care, providing medical aid, delivering babies, and giving information on nutrition and reproductive health. To become a midwife, you will need to complete a nurse midwife program. Birth doulas and postpartum doulas need less education.

Health officer

A Health officer or health promoter is usually responsible for tasks like supervising and training others. They might also collect and analyze health data, develop programs and initiatives to improve a community’s health, and respond to health emergencies. Required education could include a degree in nutrition, applied science, and so on.

Human resources specialist

The human resources department is very important to an NGO or government agency. A specialist will be responsible for tasks like recruiting staff, organizing visas and permits, and making sure other administrative details are performed smoothly. While they don’t necessarily have to travel or work in the field, they are essential to the operation of an NGO and its goals.

Training coordinator

This humanitarian job supports the staff of an NGO or government agency. Training coordinators are experienced in learning theory, and responsible for tasks like training staff to go out in the field. They will also organize or develop training materials and policies.

Program director

Program directing is a wide field and can be found in various sectors like health, education, and so on. A director is responsible for leading the program and staff, organizing fundraising and training, and anything else that keeps the program successful. It’s a job that humanitarians work up to, since it requires a lot of experience.

Database developer

When an organization needs to store, organize, and manage lots of information and data, they need a database developer. This techy job requires knowledge of databases, computer systems, computer languages, security, and more.

Technical advisor

Another tech-based job, a technical advisor is a high-up position that requires lots of experience. It could be a permanent position within an NGO, or you could be a consultant and work with a variety of orgs. Your experience and education should be specialized. As an example, to work as a tech adviser in a health org, you need a background in health as well as technology.

Data analyst

Orgs need people who are able to look at data and make meaning out of it. Their analysis informs policies, programs, and more for an NGO or government agency. The research they provide can also be used to lobby governments for certain actions or changes to existing structures.

Civil engineer

Civil engineers are responsible for the planning and development of infrastructure. This includes schools, roads, bridges, and so on. When these areas need to be built or repaired, that’s when a civil engineer steps in. To qualify for a position, you would at least need a civil engineering degree.

Environmental engineer

These engineers focus on the environment as it relates to infrastructure. In humanitarian orgs, this could include designing clean water systems, safe waste disposal systems, and more. Environmental engineers also conduct studies on the environmental impact of projects, keeping in mind things like air and water pollution.


Agriculture is still one of the most common ways people make their livelihoods around the world. An agronomist is essentially an expert on farming, plants, and soil. They work with farmers to improve their harvests, whether it’s starting a new cultivation strategy, planting a different kind of crop, and so on.

Grant specialist

Organizations need grants to keep their programs funded. As a grant specialist, you would be responsible for seeking out funding sources, reporting donations, and distributing grant money. An educational background in a field like accounting is a good fit, as well as knowledge of other languages, depending on the org.

Social media communications officer

Social media is a huge force in today’s world, and orgs need people who are proficient in it to reach out to potential donors and raise awareness of issues. Knowledge and experience in public relations, marketing, digital content, and more is important.

Education advisor

Education is extremely important as a way to bring people out of poverty. Education advisors manage and organize educational programs, train local teachers, and more. Depending on the org you work with, fluency in different languages may be required, as well as a background in teaching, learning theory, and other related fields.

Legal aid officer

People need advocates, whether they are a refugee, a victim of domestic violence, or in another frightening legal situation. A legal aid officer can help provide essential information and support to guide others through the legal system. Depending on your focus, you could help with work permits, asylum paperwork, and so on. To be a legal aid officer, you don’t need to be a lawyer, but a law degree of some kind is required.

Security officer

NGOs are frequently found in dangerous areas, so security is very important. A security officer is responsible for tasks like securing the NGO’s building, keeping the staff safe, monitoring equipment, managing security-related programs, and so on. You can find security officers at any NGO or government agency, like the United Nations, which has a Department of Safety and Security.

About the author

Emmaline Soken-Huberty

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.