How to be non-profit program assistant – good paying jobs for refugees and immigrants

A program assistant working on a computer with a coworker

Find out how to become a program assistant at a non-profit organization.

Non-profit organizations (also called NGOs) help solve problems with people, in societies, and in the environment. In many non-profits, a program assistant helps the program director organize the programs. They work on tasks that help the projects run well or make changes happen.

About the job

Duties

Program assistants have two main kinds of work: administrative and program support. Some of their responsibilities include:

  • Answering phone calls
  • Filing documents or keeping information up to date on a computer
  • Scheduling meetings and taking notes
  • Helping with budgeting
  • Researching programs
  • Answering client questions
  • Finding the cause of issues in programs
  • Helping figure out next steps for the organization

Workplace

Non-profits are organizations that do not work for money. They are there to help. Most do not earn money either, so they must find donations. A non-profit may be a small local charity helping one community. It may be a large international organization concerned with world problems, such as famine. It may be a foundation that gives money to support the work of other non-profits.

Workplaces are often small. Most program assistants work in an office. They often spend a lot of time in front of the computer or working on documents. They usually interact with clients or coworkers a lot.

Salary

Program assistant salaries vary by the organization. Larger organizations usually pay more. The average salary is around $38,000. Most people stay in this job for a long time before getting promoted. The average is about 10 years.

About the person

Non-profit program assistants have to do a lot of different things. You may have to learn skills after you start the position.

Qualities you should have:

  • Being organized –  program assistants have to manage a lot of tasks. Keeping a schedule and managing your time is important.
  • Creative thinking – you need to think of many different ways to solve problems
  • Resourcefulness – This means that you are able to accomplish goals without a lot of money or resources. You have to be smart and use what you have already have
  • Good listener – if you are helping people, you need to be able to listen to them

Skills you may need:

  • Research skills for finding and reporting information
  • Computer skills
  • Math skills for grant writing and budgets
  • Writing skills for emailing coworkers, customers, and supporters and for creating documents

Your language skills will also be very valuable if you are working at a nonprofit where the people you help are newcomers.

Get qualified

Training

Program assistant is a first job for many people. Most people in leadership positions in nonprofits started as assistants.

You do not need a degree to become a non-profit program assistant. But having a Bachelor’s degree in business administration, social welfare, or similar fields is helpful.

Previous essay-writing experience or a journalism degree may help get you get the job. Sometimes, non-profit assistants may have to write grant applications or fundraising letters. Grant applications are requests for donations. They persuade people that your cause is worth donating to.

Certification

There is not one specific certification that will help you become a program assistant. It is helpful to know basic computer systems like Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. If you do not, you should take a class online or at your local library or college. You will almost always have to have a high school diploma. Many non-profits work with people from different cultures. Speaking other languages can be helpful.

Experience

Volunteering and internships jobs are great ways to get hired for program assistant jobs. Some nonprofits hire their interns. Even if you do not get hired, you will gain experience. You will also meet people who can help you get jobs in the future.

If you help your coworkers with their responsibilities, you will learn new skills. If your employer offers you a chance to train in something, accept it.

Watch this video to learn how to start your career in nonprofits.

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