I Want to Work in ...... Human Rights



Human Rights is emerging as an employment sector in its own right, but does not as yet have clear career 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.

“People who work in human rights aren't bleeding heart liberals. You have to be resilient and realistic or you can't get anything done. You have to keep plugging away and be prepared for disappointments.

"The more people who go into the human rights field, the better. Anyone can get into human rights from any field and find their niche”.

Sara MacNeice , campaigns co-ordinator for Amnesty International.

Further general background

Human Rights Careers Forum www.careers.lon.ac.uk/output/Page651.asp

Five Human Rights professionals discuss their own careers and offer advice on getting into this area of work. From a forum held at SOAS in March 2006. Listen to audio recordings from the event below (you will need an MP3 player installed). The sectors are: Policy & Research - Bail for immigration detainees; Grant Making - Sigrid Rausing Trust ; Research - Amnesty International; Campaigning – Survival; Solicitor - Pierce Glynn

Getting an Internship in International Human Rights:


Other sites with listings of internships and voluntary opportunities:

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).

As the Law Society requires trainee solicitors to gain experience in at least three areas of law, you cannot specialise in Human Rights from the beginning of your legal career. 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.

Some well-known firms in this area which recruit trainee solicitors – see firms' websites for full details: 

Some well-known barristers' chambers in this area which offer pupillages – see websites for full details: 

You can find other firms and chambers practising in this field by searching the following sites:

Other law-related organisations:

Postgraduate Study in Human Rights

There are a number of Human Rights courses available in the UK and Ireland , and new courses begin every year. Some of these are listed below.


Last fully updated 2012