How to Give Your Career a Boost: Volunteering Abroad

There is a critical need for skilled professionals in the nursing and teaching fields to volunteer abroad. Some of the least developed countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific are in desperate need of volunteers with professional experience and qualifications  that can influence global initiatives on poverty, education and healthcare. Volunteering abroad can benefit newly established professionals, mid-career workers and recent retirees. Not only can volunteering overseas bring about lasting change, there are also professional benefits to be had. 

Volunteering abroad is good for the soul, and, it turns out, the career as well. Established professionals may be wondering if working for free for any period of time can translate into a career boost. For a number of careers, such as nursing and teaching, there are indeed numerous personal and professional benefits to be gained from a stint in overseas service. 

Personal benefits

A desire to help others is what unifies volunteers the world over. Health professionals and teachers in particular have already demonstrated their willingness and ability to help others by simple choice of profession. Volunteering abroad can give professionals a real insight in to how much impact their services can have in communities.

Professional benefits

An inability to affect lasting change is often a major source of frustration to people in careers that lend themselves to the service of others. Participating in a volunteer service assignment overseas can inspire professionals across the spectrum of experience levels. Relatively new professionals have the ability to take on roles of greater leadership, responsibility and influence than might normally be offered in the typical domestic career track. Mid-Career professionals can rediscover the passion and enthusiasm that initially called them to their work. Recently retired professionals can stay active in the areas that they love, with the added satisfaction that comes from working purely out of one’s own desire, rather than out of societal or domestic pressures. Additionally, their professional experience is highly valuable to communities with particular skill shortages.

Most Needed Volunteers

Charities often need particular skills, and look to a wide range of professions. Some skill sets that are in huge demand, namely midwives and healthcare workers, education managers, teachers and engineers.

For example, volunteer nursing positions may entail much more than routine patient care. Volunteers may also be afforded the opportunity to train and mentor peers and patients, promote awareness, and implement systems for improved quality service. In short, volunteer  health professionals can touch thousands of lives in over 30 of the poorest countries across Africa and Asia.

For teachers, there are positions all over the world. For example, VSO, one of the larger volunteer charities, has positions in 17 countries. Beyond classroom instruction, voluntary teachers work to mentor and support local colleagues, or work with educational authorities on overarching issues like school management and curriculum development. Education volunteers are part of a global effort to make sure every child can access quality primary education by 2015.

Engineers in all disciplines have the opportunity to stretch their skills and knowledge across a wide range of projects in poor countries where resources are scarce. Engineering volunteers face technical challenges of securing livelihoods to ensure those living in developing countries have the income and resources necessary to meet basic needs and survive shocks. From managing projects to providing technical support and guidance, volunteer engineers are needed for their computer skills, construction skills and practical problem solving.


Volunteering abroad provides numerous personal and professional opportunities for skilled service providers, like midwives and teachers. Volunteers satisfy their desire to help others by filling critical roles in some of the poorest countries in the world. Professionally, you have the opportunity to assume roles of greater responsibility and influence than experiences afforded domestically. Additionally the mentoring and leadership requirements of volunteering reflect well for those in all stages of their careers.


Graham is a volunteer veteran often working on behalf of charity organisations to raise awareness and led his support through skill sharing.

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