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How to choose the an internship on your career path in human rights

Updated: Apr 15

Being a university student has a lot of responsibilities because it is one step closer to becoming an active member in society after graduation. In reality, some students are worried about their future careers within their chosen major. Job opportunities, in most fields like in the human rights, require students to obtain both practical and academic skills by studying the degree courses and doing an internship.

This article focuses on some internship and career options available to human rights students. The College of Liberal Arts, Minneapolis, writes this about their human rights program, “protecting and promoting human rights in the field can be a life-changing experience,” while an article published by the United Nations states that “studying and training in human rights leads to changes in attitudes and behaviours and develops knowledge and skills that contribute to prevent[ing] and resolv[ing] conflict,” since students who are majoring in this field are studying humanitarian legal cases on a regular basis.

Moreover, the UN article provides some evidence about the benefits of combining both studying and training (internships) for human rights majors.

Internship opportunities

Practical experience is necessary for students to develop their skills. As Human Rights Careers says, “gaining practical experience in the field can do much to enhance one's understanding of the day-to-day challenges that are faced by human rights practitioners”. Furthermore, the Columbia University Center for Career Education lists some required qualifications for human rights graduates to secure a job. Conveniently, most of the skills required by companies are soft skills that graduates have been able to acquire during their university courses, internships, and volunteer participation, such as the ability to work in teams, decision making, problem solving, information processing, ability to use software programs, create and/or edit reports and inspire others.

For instance, I personally had been looking for internships as part of my study program and I applied for several internships, but did not land one easily. I eventually applied and was offered a project assistant role with SET Padova as part of the Humanitas podcast project. I can clearly observe the development of my skills after two months as an intern. I am improving skills in time management, working under pressure, multitasking, networking with several interviewees for the podcast episode, etc. This experience is helping me understand the importance of both studying and having an internship as a senior year student to prepare me for the real world after graduation.

Future careers Popular job search platform Indeed states that “a career path in human rights can often bring both unique challenges and satisfying rewards.” Eventually, if an individual is passionate about serving others and motivated to create better environments for persons in need, then pursuing a profession in the human rights field is an ideal choice. There are several career paths suggested by Columbia University’s Center for Career Education and Indeed that fit human rights students, such as:

  • Research assistant A human rights research assistant is a professional who gathers information and performs literature reviews on various human rights issues within government agencies and nonprofit organisations. Research assistants may work with other researchers and scientists to create documents that support human rights efforts.

  • Interpreter A human rights interpreter is a professional who provides communication assistance to human rights organisations and the communities they serve. They often help these organisations draft documents and create social media posts in other languages so various audiences may understand them.

  • Journalist A journalist in the human rights field is a professional who provides valuable stories and accurate information to the public to promote awareness of specific issues and foster conversation or change. These professionals often work for human rights organisations, media outlets or other nonprofits and may publish newspaper columns, investigative pieces and newsletters.

  • Policy analyst Policy analysts within the human rights field are professionals who evaluate and promote various policies or policy changes within specialised areas such as gender equality or immigration rights. They usually work in nonprofit organisations, corporations and government agencies and provide their research skills to produce data for potential policies.

  • Campaign manager Human rights campaign managers are professionals who develop and promote various human rights campaigns for organisations by advocating for change and bringing awareness to current issues. They also attract supporters and motivate them by using different strategies, tools and media platforms to reach multiple audiences. These professionals typically act as the public face of their organisations and promote their voice for communities that may not have the ability to speak for themselves.

In my search for suitable career paths for human rights students, I reached out to Irina Samson, based in Padova, who is working as a Co-lead of the Arqus Student Agora under the Arqus University Alliance and Felix Combreau, who is a policy officer at DG HOME at the European Commission whose insightful interviews are available for streaming on April 13th, 2023.

Majoring in human rights means having a responsibility to stand up for humanity and not to keep quiet when things around us go wrong. By doing that, we will be able to change the world around us, but of course, we need to work on developing our skills first by being open to learning through different experiences. The path is not always clear, so in case you still need a nudge in the suitable direction, use some of these career assessment tools posted by Yale University.

Written by Khaledah Burhmah

Edited by Christine Nanteza and Ioanna Polydorou


Khaledah is a second-year student of the Masters in Human Rights and Multi-level Governance at the University of Padova. Obtained an MA in Politics from Swansea University 2016. Worked as a Legal Translator in the Criminal Investigation Department at Interpol of Kuwait. Volunteered for Save the Children Italy in Brescia and Bergamo in Oct. 2022. Participated in 5th annual edition of Padova Model UPR by SPGI Department and the Human Rights Centre 2022. She was a team leader of outgoing Global Volunteer at AIESEC Kuwait 2020. She was an Intern at Global Studies Centre (GUST University in Kuwait). Awarded by the International Youth Federation to represent Kuwait’s 2035 Vision. Follow Khaledah on instagram @Kburhmah8.


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