Human rights opportunities

The field of human rights offers numerous educational and career opportunities.  There are study abroad programs in human rights, graduate programs in human rights, law school human rights programs, and human rights fellowships. There are also meaningful and rewarding jobs in the human rights field, including with nongovernmental organizations, government agencies, private companies, think tanks, and regional and international organizations.

Moreover, the study of human rights provides expertise and skills that are of benefit for numerous other professions.

Study Abroad

The International Human Rights Exchange is a full-semester, interdisciplinary program in human rights that is based in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Students enrolled in the program take classes at the University of the Witwatersrand, live in a residence hall on the main campus, and undertake an internship at a civil society organization in Johannesburg.

Graduate Schools

Several graduate schools, in the US and elsewhere, offer advanced degrees in human rights.  Among the better known programs are the following:

Law Schools

Numerous law schools have human rights programs that offer courses in human rights law, as well as clinical and internship opportunities. They include:


A large number of law schools, both in the US and abroad, also offer an LL.M (Master’s) in human rights law.  Such programs are not only open to lawyers, they are also open to students without a legal background.  Below are some of the schools that offer this degree or related degrees in human rights law; for more information and a more comprehensive list of schools, visit this site.


There are lots of different ways to work in the human rights field, including via positions with nongovernmental organizations, think tanks, media outlets, intergovernmental organizations and government. Possible human rights careers include human rights advocate, public defender, documentary filmmaker, human rights lawyer, field investigator, aid worker, and professor of human rights.

Many students of human rights are not planning to pursue a career that is specifically focused on human rights, but are instead planning to apply the knowledge and skills they have gained via the study of human rights to other careers. Graduates with a minor or certificate in human rights may follow a range of career paths, including in diplomacy, social work, medicine, public health, urban planning, corporate responsibility and journalism. There is growing demand in these professions for expertise on human rights issues.

The study of human rights is particularly good preparation for future lawyers, because of the field’s grounding in the discourse of rights and emphasis on effective advocacy.  In addition, many students of human rights, given their heightened awareness of rights violations, power imbalances, and injustice, are drawn toward careers in government and politics, and seek to use their skills to institute policy reforms either domestically or internationally.

If you would like more detailed information about careers in human rights, watch some of the following videos, in which human rights professionals discuss their educational and career trajectories, how they got their first jobs in the human rights field, and what kind of work they do –


You can also learn about what it’s like to work at specific organizations, and how to get jobs there –