The pictures on the evening news are heartbreaking: flooded villages, earthquake-damaged homes, tornado-ravaged towns. If you want a career helping those who have experienced a disaster, seek a position with a local, federal or international disaster relief organization. To build your credentials in the field, consider volunteering with an aid organization to help determine where and in what capacity you want to work, then consider which agency might provide the best opportunity for you to serve.
If you're looking for a cushy, low-stress office job, disaster relief work probably isn't for you. You need to be able to work long hours in challenging conditions, often without access to regular communications or creature comforts, sometimes in remote areas. Training in areas such as search and rescue, safety issues or emergency management are valuable for disaster relief jobs, as is education and experience in medicine, construction or agriculture. Build a resume. Document each of your volunteer experiences and include specific tasks or responsibilities you have performed. Emphasize specialized training or education related to disaster relief.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is the primary U.S. government organization tasked with responding to major disasters. FEMA offers a variety of job options, from full-time permanent positions to serving a two- to four-year stint in the Cadre, a force of trained professionals who are called upon as needed to help with disaster response. Students and young adults can do short-term unpaid internships with FEMA, as well as do disaster preparedness and response training through the FEMA Corps. FEMA jobs are posted on USAJOBS.gov. You can apply for jobs through that site.
Organizations such as the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross provide disaster relief support throughout the world. The Red Cross and UN need a broad cross section of people, such as medical personnel, scientists, builders and media specialists, to help with all aspects of disaster relief. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs serves as a clearinghouse for humanitarian and disaster response activities. The UN Office's website is an excellent source of international disaster relief information and listings of job opportunities. The International Committee of the Red Cross website also offers information about its worldwide operations. You can apply for job openings directly through these sites.
Look into local and international nonprofit groups. Doctors Without Borders, for example, provides medical professionals to regions stricken by natural disasters, in war zones and in refugee camps. These jobs require medical training and experience. You can apply for vacancies through the group's website. Leyla Giray of TransitionsAbroad.org recommends the websites ReliefWeb and Eldis.org as valuable sources of information about worldwide humanitarian and disaster relief jobs. ReliefWeb also offers humanitarian-related training. Ask your local religious leaders about humanitarian job opportunities through the church's national or international mission organizations, such as the Methodist Church's United Methodist Committee on Relief.
- United Nations: Global Issues: Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Assistance
- FEMA: Career Paths at FEMA
- United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- Hinton Human Capital: Disaster Relief Jobs: Do You Have What It Takes?
- Transitions Abroad.com: A Practical Guide on How to Find Work in Disaster Relief
- Working Abroad Magazine: Disaster Relief Jobs Abroad
- International Committee of the Red Cross: Working for the ICRC
- Doctors Without Borders: Work With Us
- United Methodist Church: Disaster Relief -- Volunteer Opportunities
- Photo Credit Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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