Interested in working for an NGO in London? While competitive, working in London can be a very rewarding experience that provides great networking opportunities. In this guide, let’s explore why London is a great location, what organizations are offering jobs, and how to land an NGO job in the city.
Why work for an NGO in London?
For years, many leading NGOs in human rights and humanitarian aid have established headquarters in London. Save the Children, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, Anti-Slavery International, and Oxfam are just a few. With so many major organizations in the city, a person can gain valuable NGO experience, build network relationships, and access more career opportunities. London is also one of the most multicultural cities in Europe with more than 300 languages represented. Employees for NGOs can expect a diverse working and living environment.
What human rights issues do NGOs in London focus on?
London-based NGOs work on local and international human rights concerns. Locally, a big change came in the form of the UK leaving the European Union on January 31, 2020. That, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, has affected human rights. Already vulnerable people bore the brunt of challenges related to health, housing, domestic violence, and discrimination. According to Amnesty International’s 2020 breakdown on the UK, the intersection of racial injustice, the effects of the pandemic, and police powers was also an issue. NGO jobs focusing on the London/UK area will no doubt prioritize these specific issues while internationally-focused ones continue human rights work on a global scale.
Which organizations offer NGO jobs in London?
There are many NGOs offering work in London. Here’s are some of the most prominent:
Amnesty International has a country office and its main headquarters in London, making this organization a great choice if you’re based in London or hoping to move there. This international NGO first focused on abolishing the death penalty and torture, but has since expanded its priority issues to include deadly force and police accountability; gender, sexuality, and identity; climate justice; and technology. AI uses a “three-pronged approach” focusing on research, mobilization of activists and members, and advocacy.
Founded in 1919 to help children in the aftermath of the war, Save the Children UK is one of the world’s leading independent organizations for children. Not to be confused with the United States Save the Children nonprofit, the Save the Children Fund (or Save the Children UK) has its international headquarters in London. The umbrella organization has 29 national member organizations working in 122 countries. Activities are coordinated with a central body – Save the Children International – which also oversees humanitarian aid. The organization focuses on food, medicine, and medical care.
Also known as Doctors Without Borders, this organization has an office in London. MSF focuses on crisis response, including running various healthcare projects (short-term and long-term), responding to climate emergencies, running emergency logistics, and more. The organization works in more than 70 countries.
Other NGOs in London
The Equal Rights Trust – fights discrimination and promotes equality
Human Rights Watch – research and advocacy on human rights
ActionAid UK – focuses on women and girls in poverty
Anti-Slavery International – the world’s oldest international human rights organization that focuses on ending slavery and related human rights violations
The Refugee Council – provides support for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK
How to get an NGO job in London
Jobs in London will require fluency in written and speaking English. Depending on the job, knowledge of another language will be an asset. For NGO work specifically, relevant education and experience are a must. If you aren’t local to London, your chances of getting a good job are better if you have a master’s degree. NGOs prefer candidates with degrees in human rights, international development, economics, history, political science, or other relevant fields. Organizations also look for candidates with experience, so be sure to describe any applicable volunteer work, internships, or jobs you’ve had before.
Given the city’s reputation as a locale for prominent NGOs, expect competition. Through the application and interview process, make it clear why you and this organization are the best fit. A common mistake people make is being too vague. It’s one thing to want to work in the NGO field, but why is this organization the right one for you and why should they hire you? Proving you’ve done your research on the organization’s mission and goals increases your chances of getting the job.
Not from the United Kingdom? To work in the UK, third-country nationals need a visa. Visas come with different conditions, i.e. a highly-skilled migrant needs a Tier 2 visa, which requires a certificate of sponsorship from an employer. Because the UK left the EU, EU/EFTA residents are now classed as third-country nationals. You also need to apply for a biometric residence permit if you’re staying in the UK longer than six months. The visa process can be complicated (there’s more info on UK work visas here), but remember: you need to have the job before applying for any visas and permits.