Disclosure: Human Rights Careers may be compensated by course providers.

10 Courses to Prepare for Your Human Rights Job

Starting a job in human rights can be quite intense. You’ll learn about new team members, processes, terminology, working culture, projects, goals and so much more. Although you should receive an induction in your new job, many organizations struggle to allocate an appropriate amount of time and resources to onboard new employees. We’ve curated a list of 10 courses that might ease your transition by equipping you with skills that are helpful in most contexts. All courses below are included in Coursera plus, which is currently available at a discount. If you do not have access to a suitable payment method, consider applying for financial aid.

Explore courses

#1 Human Rights for Open Societies (Utrecht University)

Offered by the University of Utrecht, this course explores the challenges faced by human rights worldwide, including violent suppression of protests and discrimination. Focusing on the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the course guides participants on when and how to address human rights violations through the European Court of Human Rights. Covering issues like freedom of expression, voting rights, discrimination, and rights of vulnerable groups, the course is beneficial for individuals entering human rights organizations or seeking to enhance their knowledge in this field. It provides a comprehensive understanding of human rights, emphasizing their importance in fostering an open and equal society.

#2 Getting started with Microsoft Teams (Microsoft)

In a human rights job, effective administration is crucial for coordinating efforts, sharing information, and working together. Team members often need to collaborate across different geographical areas and time zones. Organizations like Amnesty International and the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) are using Microsoft Teams for emails, meetings and chats. If you are working in one of the offices, you will be using Microsoft Teams on most days. To get a head start, it makes sense to learn the basics.

#3 Foundations of Project Management (Google)

Project management is essential in human rights work: to navigate complex initiatives, allocate resources effectively, respond promptly to urgent issues, facilitate collaboration, measure impact, manage risks, maintain accountability, and strategically plan for the advancement of human rights goals. Regardless of your role in a human rights organization, you will use project management methods and tools frequently. Needs assessments, evaluation surveys, stakeholder mapping, project planning and budgeting are just some of the areas you will be involved in. In this course you will acquire basic project management skills, explore the project management life cycle, and learn about roles and responsibilities. While every human rights organization has their “own way of doing” things, this course will equip you with a helpful foundation.

#4 International Organizations Management (University of Geneva)

Speaking from my own experience, it takes years until you “understand” a complex human rights organization. This includes learning about global structures, strategic frameworks, working culture, power dynamics, internal politics and much more. While you’ll have to learn most of these things on the job, there are aspects you can explore already beforehand. This course on international organizations management introduces you to global organizations, focusing on the United Nations. You’ll learn about its mandate, objectives, structure, and activities, covering areas such as humanitarian protection, human rights, peace and security, and economic development. Although the UN is unique, many of the learnings in the course can be applied to other organizations. In any case familiarizing with the terminology used in the course will be a great asset when starting a job in human rights.

#5 Positive Psychology: Resilience (University of Pennsylvania)

If you are similar to me when I started, self-care and resilience won’t be your top priority. After 10 years working in human rights I think very differently about it. Human rights work is tough. Resilience is crucial. Developing routines for self-care and strengthening your resilience is essential. Without it the risk of burning out is very high. In this course by University of Pennsylvania you will learn about the protective factors that make a person resilient, you will learn strategies to reduce anxiety, and you will learn to identify issues that undermine resilience. If you choose to take only one course in this list, this is the one you should take to ensure you can – sustainably and for a long time – contribute to human rights impact.

#6 Introduction to the Nonprofit Sector (University of Buffalo)

If you’re moving from a business job to a nonprofit job, you’ll discover surprising similarities. Nonprofits often require the same skills and competencies. However, there are some crucial differences too. The nonprofit sector has its own unique dynamics, structures, and challenges. This course by University of Buffalo provides insights into how nonprofit organizations operate, their goals, and the broader social impact they seek. You will learn about the different roles and responsibilities in nonprofit organizations and you will explore governance and leadership models. Learning about these topics can help you better navigate the organizational complexities. It might also enable you to better understand how your role fits into the bigger picture and how it contributes to the organization’s impact.

#7 Improving Leadership & Governance in Nonprofit Organizations (University of Buffalo)

If you found the previous course engaging, consider diving further into leadership and governance with the “Improving Leadership & Governance in Nonprofit Organizations” course. This program equips participants to identify and analyze leadership and governance issues within nonprofit organizations. It provides practical strategies for enhancing board performance and guides individuals in working collaboratively with boards to implement these improvements. This course is especially valuable for those transitioning from leadership roles in the corporate sector, offering a valuable tool for learning and reflection before taking on new challenges in the human rights field.

#8 Global Perspectives of DEI in the Workplace (University of Colorado)

Even the most renowned human rights organizations still have a lot of work to do when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). This course encourages participants to reflect on their personal experiences and understand how these experiences shape their beliefs. Participants will identify strategies for resisting and surviving marginalization, and learn how they can establish support and awareness for marginalized groups. Upon completion, participants will be better prepared to integrate DEI principles into the workplace and adept at recognizing and addressing bias in recruitment. Overall the topics covered in this course are highly relevant for everyone working in the human rights sector, with diverse teams and on sensitive human rights topics.

#9 Negotiation, Mediation and Conflict Resolution (ESSEC Business School)

Most human rights jobs require skills in negotiation, mediation and conflict resolution. As advocacy officer you might negotiate with government officials about policy changes, as a staff member you might mediate between colleagues and as a manager you might engage in conflict resolution on sensitive topics. With a focus on negotiation skills, cross-cultural competence, and conflict resolution, this course provides a practical learning experience through case studies and online negotiations with peers. The program includes a Capstone Project, allowing learners to apply their knowledge in analyzing negotiation situations, conducting negotiations in challenging environments, and resolving conflicts as mediators.

#10 Effective Communication: Writing, Design, and Presentation (University of Colorado)

This course focuses on some of the core tasks in most human rights roles: writing, design and presentation. You will learn how to craft clear documents, design visually appealing presentations and speak more confidently in front of your team or the public. Overall, the course provides a practical, step-by-step guide to refine your communication strategies. In the context of human rights work, where effective expression is vital, this course serves as a valuable tool for articulating new ideas persuasively in the workplace.

Explore courses

About the author

Robert Fellner

Robert is founder of Human Rights Careers (HRC). A platform with the aim to support human rights students, alumni, graduates and professionals in pursuing and developing their career in human rights. Prior to launching HRC, Robert worked as Global Human Rights EdTech Manager at Amnesty International in London and as consultant for international human rights organizations globally. During 2011 and 2012, Robert worked as lecturer at Ain Shams university in Egypt. Robert has a masters in literature and human rights.