Human Rights is a very varied employment sector with a large number of career paths, entry points, routes and structure.
Opportunities may arise in central and local government bodies; international governmental and non-governmental organisations; charities, pressure groups and campaigning organisations; academia and law.
There is a huge variety of roles, including research, marketing, public relations, fundraising, finance, investigation, administration, lobbying and education.
Whatever role you are interested in, and whatever your qualifications, getting into Human Rights work is highly competitive. You will need to have relevant experience, which is generally gained on a voluntary basis, through internships or other involvement with a human rights organisation.
Further general background:
They have about 200 staff working in a wide range of roles from campaigning to marketing and from finance to human resources. Volunteers are involved in roles in campaigning, marketing, media and general support.
Human Rights Watch is an independent, international organization that works as part of a vibrant movement to uphold human dignity and advance the cause of human rights for all. Our staff consists of human rights professionals including country experts, lawyers, journalists, and academics of diverse backgrounds and nationalities.
Recruits volunteers to work in administrative support, helping with the day-to-day work of our operations, membership, campaigns and/or media teams, and advice and Information, helping us respond to written queries from the public about their rights (you need a law degree for this one, but anyone legally qualified can apply)
UK charity which aims to help provide legal representation for those awaiting capital trial and punishment in the US and raise awareness of potential abuses of their rights. Offers internships in the USA.
An independent charity based in London which raises awareness and understanding about the importance of human rights.
The Danish Institute for Human Rights is an independent state-funded institution promoting and protecting human rights in Denmark and internationally.
Worldwide international human rights NGO federating 178 organizations from 120 countries. Offers internships.
Institute offers unpaid internships to undergraduate and postgraduate law students and to graduates at the IBA offices in London, The Hague and Washington DC.
Recruits legal interns to work on a variety of assignments related to seeking reparation for torture survivors
Works for tribal peoples' rights through education, advocacy and campaigns. Recruits volunteers, staff and interns.
The only UK organisation dedicated solely to the treatment of torture survivors. Offers a medico-legal report writing service.
The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945. Currently made up of 193 Member States, the UN and its work are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter.
Canadian-based online resource, information and documentation centre for human rights actors and organizations, as well as interested individuals, around the world.
Careers and other opportunities in human rights.
Other sites with listings of internships and voluntary opportunities:
- Do-It - search for volunteer opportunities in Human and Civil Rights by geographical location in the UK
- Idealist - over 56,000 not-for-profit and community organisations in 165 countries, which you can search or browse by name, location, or mission for volunteer opportunities, jobs and internships.
- Charitable sector job sites such as Third Sector Jobs and Charity Job
Work in law firms and other organisations specialising in Human Rights law:
The Human Rights Act has resulted in some very high profile and specialist cases. However many firms have long worked in the field of civil liberties which covers a very broad range of work, such as discrimination, actions against the police, mental health etc and can overlap with other areas, such as immigration, employment etc.
Human Rights is a niche field and highly competitive to get into. Students will need to show a commitment to this area by involvement with related organisations, usually through voluntary work with organisations who work in this area. A postgraduate degree in Human Rights law may also be helpful (see below).
When applying for training contracts it helps to be as flexible as possible.
Few firms specialising in Human Rights law will recruit trainees more than a year in advance, and most will recruit people once they have completed their LPC. This may involve starting employment as a paralegal before progressing to a training contract.
To search law firms by area of practice:
Other law-related organisations:
- Bar Human Rights Committee
- Human Rights Lawyers Association - open to all connected with the law and the legal professions who have an interest in human rights law in the United Kingdom, including pupils, trainees and law students. Membership is free for law students/trainees, and might offer some valuable contacts
- Justice - an all-party law reform and human rights organisation working to improve the legal system and the quality of justice by promoting human rights and through other activities. Offers summer and winter internships and other voluntary positions for law graduates.
Find out more
Postgraduate Study in Human Rights
There are a number of Human Rights courses available in the UK and internationally, and new courses begin every year. Some of these are LLM (Masters in Law) degrees which focus on the legal aspects of human rights, but which are not always restricted to Law graduates. Others are open to graduates from a wide range of disciplines.