Careers Web

Volunteering

Volunteering is one of the most rewarding things a person can do but it can also put you ahead of the game when applying for university, apprenticeships or employment. 

Why Volunteer?

People choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons. For some it offers the chance to give something back to the community or make a difference to the people around them. For others it provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge. Regardless of the motivation, what unites them all is that they find it both challenging and rewarding.

Below are some of the reasons people choose to volunteer. For some it provides an opportunity to:

  • Give something back to an organisation that has impacted on a person's life, either directly or indirectly
  • Make a difference to the lives of others
  • Help the environment
  • Help others less fortunate or without a voice
  • Feel valued and part of a team
  • Spend quality time away from work or a busy lifestyle
  • Gain confidence and self-esteem

For some, volunteering can be a route to employment, or a chance to try something new which may lead to a career change. From this perspective, volunteering can be a way of:

  • Gaining new skills, knowledge and experience
  • Developing existing skills and knowledge
  • Enhancing a CV
  • Improving employment prospects
  • Gaining an accreditation
  • Using one's professional skills and knowledge to benefit others (usually described as pro bono)

For others, volunteering appeals because of its social benefits. These include:

  • Meeting new people and making new friends
  • A chance to socialise
  • Getting to know the local community

To find voluntary work in the UK, search:

Volunteering abroad

If you like the idea of venturing further afield there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer abroad. You could get involved in animal, childcare, conservation, community, education, medical or sports projects.

Overseas voluntary work can last from a couple of weeks to one year. It's common for students and graduates to make a voluntary position the purpose of a gap year, especially during or after their studies.

For international opportunities, search:

Conservation volunteering

You could get involved in animal, community, environmental or marine conservation through a range of charities and non-profit organisations.

For community projects get in touch with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV), who work across the UK to create healthier and happier communities by conserving local green spaces.

For animal and environmental volunteering see organisations such as the Wildlife Trust and the Woodland Trust. With the Wildlife Trust you can care for nature reserves and get involved in habitat management and species surveying. With the Woodland Trust you can support wildlife, plant trees and campaign to protect vulnerable woods.

You could also help out at the Marine Conservation Society head offices, get involved with local coastal conservation groups, take up beach cleaning or become a 'sea champion' and help to promote their campaigns.

Other voluntary conservation opportunities exist with the National Trust, where you can help to conserve historic houses and gardens.

Social work

If you're aiming towards a career in social work relevant experience is vital. You can gain this through a range of voluntary opportunities.

If you have a couple of hours to spare each week you could become a befriender. This involves supporting isolated individuals, usually the elderly or disabled. As a befriender you'll spend a couple of hours each week with your befriendee in their own home. Services are available with charities such as Age UK and Deaf Blind UK.

Alternatively you can help to combat poverty with The Trussell Trust. Through the charity you can locate local food banks and donate your time as a warehouse volunteer (sorting, weighing and storing donated food), food bank centre volunteer (meeting service users and giving out parcels), or as a supermarket collections volunteer (helping at collection points and encouraging people to donate).

Volunteer social care jobs are also available with charities such as:

Emergency volunteering

This type of volunteering involves being prepared to help out in emergency situations such as natural disasters, fires, floods, individual medical emergencies and transport accidents.

As an emergency response volunteer you'll support the emergency services, provide first aid and transport assistance, offer practical and emotional help to people in crisis and help to organise evacuations.

To get involved visit:

United Nations Volunteers programme

The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide. You can volunteer in your own country, abroad or online.

Becoming a volunteer is a unique opportunity to enrich personal and professional experience, and it benefits both the volunteer and society at large. UNV sends professionals with specialised experience to serve in assignments with a variety of UN agencies to support peace and development. There are a number of requirements that volunteers must meet, to find out more see UN Volunteers.

Medical volunteering

Medical students looking for work experience should consider donating their time and knowledge to volunteering projects. There are a variety of opportunities that you can get involved in both in the UK and abroad.

For volunteer jobs in the UK get in touch with the St John Ambulance Service. You can volunteer as a first aider, doctor, nurse, or paramedic. You can also become a first aider for the British Red Cross.

Festival Medical Services is a non-profit organisation that delivers high-quality medical services to Europe's largest festivals and gatherings. You can volunteer in a number of capacities, either as part of a clinical team of doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, paramedics, dentists etc. or within an admin and support role.

For international medical volunteer assignments see: