Community & Social Services
International Aid Worker
International aid workers manage and develop programs in areas that have been subjected to war, natural disasters or developmental problems.
What does an International Aid Worker do?
International aid workers manage and develop everyday and emergency programs in areas that have been subjected to war, natural disasters or other environmental or developmental problems. International aid workers may work in administrative aspects of international aid, or can be deployed overseas for fieldwork.
International aid work covers a broad range of roles and responsibilities.
In an administrative role, an international aid worker might:
- conduct needs assessments
- organise fundraising efforts
- research and write project proposals and reports
- evaluate the response required in emergency situations
- manage budgets and allocate resources
- recruit, manage and train staff and volunteers
- communicate with relevant internal and external stakeholders.
In the field, an international aid worker might:
- rapidly assess emergency situations
- deliver specialised services, such as logistics, engineering, construction of housing or shelter, agricultural development, medicine, nursing, or security
- implement, overseeing and ensure strict adherence to security and safety procedures
- understand and comply with appropriate national and international procedures, policies and regulatory codes
- work closely with other staff and volunteers to manage resources and deliver aid effectively
manage and train other staff and/or volunteers.
Key skills and interests
To become an international aid worker, you would need:
- high energy levels
- adaptability, resilience and problem-solving skills
- able to manage multiple tasks and to operate effectively under pressure
- the ability to relate to and communicate with a wide range of people
- empathy and cross-cultural sensitivity
- a willingness to ask for resources, help and advice
- willingness to travel and live in basic conditions
- language skills would be an advantage.
Working hours and conditions
Most international aid workers who work in administrative roles work full time.
Those who work in the field often work on fixed-term contracts, ranging from a few months to a number of years. In the field, working hours may be long and unpredictable, particularly in emergency relief situations.
You may experience periods of unemployment between contracts.
In an administrative role, you would usually work in a head or regional office, in a typical office environment.
As a field worker, you would work in remote, and often dangerous, locations, and be away from home for long periods of time.
In emergencies, you may live in temporary accommodation, such as a tent, or share a small room with co-workers. in insecure environments you may live in the same house or compound as colleagues. You may not have reliable access to amenities such as electricity, hot and cold running water, or reliable heat and cooling. You may not be able to leave a compound or living quarters without security.
How to become an International Aid Worker?
Entry Level Education
- Bachelor’s degree
To become an international aid worker, you usually have to complete a bachelors' degree. There is a broad range of degrees which can lead to work in international aid and development, including social science, international relations, business or economics. Additionally, you could qualify in a specialist area such as engineering, medicine, nursing or teaching. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your senior secondary school certificate or equivalent. English and mathematics would be appropriate subjects to study prior to university.
A number of potential NGO employers such as the Red Cross offer introductory industry-based workshops or training courses to help you get a better understanding of the range of careers in international aid, and what to expect.
The key to getting your role in the sector is a relevant previous experience. Getting relevant voluntary or paid work experience is essential during or following study. Many graduate roles are offered on a voluntary basis, with travel, accommodation and living expenses being covered. Paid roles in overseas aid or development may only come after three or four years' experience.
The challenges we face globally from weather events and conflicts means there are more people needed both on the ground to help but also manage the logistics and funding behind the scenes.
With new and developing nations needing assistance and more access to countries previously shielded from the rest of the world, that need help with sustainable food sources and water as well as access to education and healthcare in a gorwing world population there will be more need than ever for international aid workers.