What are the career opportunities in NGOs

Entry opportunities with NGOs - How you can get your dream job in the non-profit sector

Stand up for the solution of major societal challenges such as poverty, flight, climate change or environmental degradation - with NGOs (engl .: non-governmental organizations) or sometimes also called NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in German, there is always something (meaningful) to be done. How good that there are several thousand such NGOs in Germany that are regularly looking for junior staff. Not only are the well-known job profiles such as “Fundraiser”, “Campaign Manager” or “Project Manager” sought after, but also skilled workers in all possible areas. In larger NGOs in particular, as in medium-sized companies, there are a large number of career opportunities ranging from HR and IT to public relations and marketing or finance.

Economists and social scientists in particular have been increasingly sought in recent years, but natural scientists, engineers and IT specialists have also been recruited again and again. Graduates from other degree programs can also find their way into NGOs, especially humanities and humanities scholars. In addition, more and more colleges and universities are now offering specific study or specialization opportunities for the non-profit sector, be it in the field of development aid, social entrepreneurship or environmental sciences, etc.

There is little agreement in the industry about how many positions have to be filled, but there is definitely potential for ambitious graduates, that much is certain. The all-important question now is how to make your way into an NGO ...

First of all, it should be noted that not all NGOs are the same. Similar to the free market economy, there can be enormous differences between the individual non-governmental organizations - these include above all size and sponsorship, but to a lesser extent also the focus of the NGO. Well-known NGOs, such as Amnesty International, Welthungerhilfe or Diakonie Deutschland, of course have different financial resources and needs than smaller, privately owned foundations or organizations. Small non-governmental organizations, however, usually offer workers more responsibility and faster »advancement opportunities« than large, international organizations with clear hierarchies and more stable structures. In this respect, you should think carefully about what is most coherent or most important for you.

But now to the possibilities of how you can get your foot in the door of an NGO:


Probably the simplest and at the beginning perhaps also the most recommendable strategy for finding accommodation in an NGO is to start as a volunteer. So you can check whether you can really identify with the goals of the NGO or with the work in the non-profit sector in general. This is an ideal opportunity for schoolchildren and / or students in particular to make contacts and gain experience before the actual job search, which can be immensely important later when looking for a job. And if you do a good job and already have the famous "foot in the door", it will certainly work much faster with a (paid) job.

Internship / student auxiliary positions

Interested parties can also gain initial taster experience through an internship or a student assistant position and try their hand at the various work areas in an NGO. You either work in a certain position (project coordination, fundraising, finance, etc.) or you may even have the opportunity to get a taste of several areas. If you have previously volunteered or at least socially committed somewhere (e.g. leading youth groups, helping out at parish festivals, etc.), you also have a higher chance of being accepted here.


The same applies to an internship. Here you learn your future profession more or less »on the job«, while you take part in theoretical seminars or workshops every few weeks or months - in principle, it works in a similar way to vocational training. Although the requirements often vary a lot here too, you generally have to be at least 18 years old and usually already have a university degree in your pocket. Volunteer positions are usually hotly contested and here, too, without prior practical experience in the form of internships, voluntary work and the like, you have few chances - especially because you cannot do internships with many NGOs and the rush is therefore very high. Volunteers are mainly offered in the areas of press, public relations and campaigning.

Junior programs

Some NGOs also offer young talent programs in which young people can make a social contribution in different regions of the world, either through scholarships or paid jobs. These are also wonderful stepping stones into the NGO industry, as you learn a lot of useful skills here - be it hard or soft skills. Examples are, for example, the leadership program from “Teach First”, the ASA program from Engagement Global or the associate program “On-Purpose” for people with professional experience.

Junior positions / project assistance

If you have completed your degree and would like to try your hand at the non-profit sector after completing your studies or training, you should look out for junior or project assistant positions in addition to possible volunteer positions. These vacancies offer first-class opportunities to gain a foothold in NGOs and gain experience, especially for areas that cannot necessarily be reached through voluntary work (e.g. finance, project management, administration, etc.). The good thing about non-governmental organizations is, above all, that you can usually work your way up quickly and take on more and more responsibility, so that you don't have to stay with the »junior« for long. On the other hand, the chances of advancement and possibly also the salary jumps are not quite as enormous as they might be in business, but you can live out your commitment all the more.

Lateral entry

The famous lateral entry into the NGO industry is still a classic. Many of the workers in non-governmental organizations currently mostly still come from the private sector and after a few years of professional experience they take on similar positions at NGOs - a classic, for example, is the switch from marketing and sales to fundraising, as both fields of activity have many parallels and require similar skills. Although this usually results in a drop in salary, it is usually offset by a less competitive working atmosphere, meaningful work and an often better work-life balance. The more voluntary engagement etc. you have to offer, the easier it will be to get started here.

What matters

As has probably already emerged in the course of this article, a high level of commitment and commitment is essential for a job in NGOs. Therefore, you should start gaining experience as early as possible. At your canditature you should make sure that you explain and justify your motivation and your attitude towards the goals and ideals of the organization in detail. Even if good grades are always well received, non-governmental organizations attach great importance to soft skills. tolerance, Communication skills and particularly Teamwork are very popular. So if you have international experience, a voluntary social year behind you or, for example, lived in a multi-generation dormitory, then definitely state this in your application. Theses on a relevant topic are also interesting for NGOs.

Since many non-governmental organizations also work internationally, we are here Foreign language skills practically taken for granted. In addition to excellent English, fluent French and / or Spanish are mandatory for many organizations, especially those that operate a lot in Africa or South America. However, you should be honest here, because nothing is more embarrassing than saying "fluent language skills" and not being able to produce correct sentences in the interview afterwards. If, in your opinion, your foreign language skills are not good enough, try doing an internship or a voluntary social year abroad. So you kill two birds with one swat.

As you can see, it is not that easy to gain a foothold in the non-profit industry and get one of the coveted positions. On the other hand, this is also good, because that's how people really work there who put their heart and soul into it and want to achieve something. In our job database in the members area of ​​Impactify you will surely find the right NGO job for you!

No suitable job advertised at the moment?

Can't find a suitable position for you at the moment? However, that doesn't have to mean that they don't exist! Did you know that, especially in the non-profit sector, the majority of jobs are not even published on job portals, but rather via internal channels on the »hidden job market«Be forgiven? There are, however effective network strategieswith which you can gain access to the covert job market. You will find a detailed article in our member area in which all strategies of proactive networking are explained in detail. Become a member of Impactify now and get access to our premium articles and thousands of vacancies with a focus on sustainability!