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 -
- Careers in Human Rights: An Alumni Forum, The New School, April 7, 2011 (panelists begin at the 0:06:45 mark)
- NGO/IGO Careers and Human Rights, Santa Clara University, October 6, 2011 (panelists begin at the 0:02:50 mark)
- International Human Rights Careers Seminar, Castan Centre, March 29, 2011 (panelists begin at the 0:02:15 mark)
- Domestic Human Rights Careers Seminar, Castan Centre, March 30, 2011(panelists begin at the 0:03:40 mark)
You can also learn about what it’s like to work at specific organizations, and how to get jobs there -
- International Rescue Committee: Work with Us, June 15, 2007
- Human Rights Watch, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) For Job-Seekers