If you want to make a difference in the world, then one of the best things you can do is to pursue a career as a humanitarian aid worker. People all over the world are struggling with problems ranging from hunger to illness to displacement from war, weather events, and government oppression. Humanitarian aid workers provide relief and help people during the darkest times of their lives.
Ideally, everyone in the world would be coming together for a better future. You can be part of that transformation by making a career out of helping people. If you're driven, compassionate, and ready for anything, then this could be the perfect path for you.
Few roles are as important and fulfilling as helping others rebuild their lives. Here's what you need to do if you want to start your career as an aid worker.
Earn a Degree & Learn More
As with any career, you need to start with getting your education. Choosing a relevant field is important preparation for working as a humanitarian aid worker. You don't need to know exactly what kind of aid you want to specialize in immediately, but it's important to identify areas of interest before you choose your program.
For aid work, a degree in public health, disaster relief, international studies, or a related field is recommended. Generally, you'll need a master's degree to be competitive in the field. An undergraduate degree can help you choose a direction and gain basic skills before you pursue an advanced degree, however.
Even before you choose a program, educate yourself. Learn more about the biggest humanitarian aid projects of the last few years. Find out more about the biggest problems facing our world. Try to understand what makes an international aid project succeed—or fail.
Find a Cause You Are Passionate About
Aid workers can help in all kinds of different ways. While the classic humanitarian aid project takes place due to natural disasters, political unrest, or other incidents, aid workers can also help with problems that need ongoing attention, like hunger or child illiteracy. It's important to find a cause you're passionate about in aid work.
Being an aid worker can be emotionally and physically exhausting. You have to be passionate about your work and determined to make a difference in order to push past the challenges. That's why it's so important to find a cause that drives and fulfills you.
In aid work, it's important to gain as much experience as you can. Usually, that means starting as a volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to not only build skills but to make sure that you want to pursue this career path. It can be a grueling lifestyle and if you don't want to make it your career, it's best to find out as soon as possible.
For your first volunteer experiences, consider sticking closer to home. Help with refugees or the homeless population in your area and get a feel for how it would be to do this work full-time. Then, you can volunteer internationally. Be sure to volunteer only with reputable organizations that are making a real difference in the lives of the people they serve.
Shadow or Interview Current Humanitarian Workers
Another great way to answer any questions you may have and gain firsthand experience is to work with someone who is willing to mentor you or at least consent to an interview. Come up with a list of questions or ask to shadow a humanitarian aid worker for a day or two. You can get some great insights into the actual work and start to build connections in the field.
Be respectful. Someone who is offering to let you shadow or interview them is giving you some of their valuable time and expertise. Appreciate that and make sure to thank them for their willingness to help you.
Although the field isn't very glamorous and doesn't generally offer the best salaries, it can be very competitive. Why? Because it's an incredible way to live your life. You will get an option to see the world through all different lenses. You'll help people who are struggling for survival. And you'll become a better person by helping to make the world a better place. Be persistent and keep putting yourself out there so you can break into the career of your dreams.