Who can volunteer?

Who can volunteer?

Right now, our international partners are looking for volunteers like you. Are you ready to use your professional skills and experience to change people’s lives – including your own?

Petra Van Der Spek, education advisor in Rwanda

VSO welcomes volunteers from most professional backgrounds, between the ages of 24 and 75.

Requirements vary according to the needs of VSO’s overseas partners, but you’ll typically need:

  • at least two years’ relevant experience in your field (see detail below)
  • a degree or other recognised qualification (to help secure your work permit)
  • to pass VSO's medical assessment and clearance process, and a criminal record check
  • to be available to start your placement within the next 18 months, and be away from home for between six and 24 months
  • to be willing to live on a basic allowance, adapt to new living conditions, and be prepared to learn the local language
  • to have experience of (or interest in) mentoring others, so you can pass on your knowledge to local colleagues

Are you keen to leave your comfort zone to make a difference overseas? Check you have sufficient experience in your profession:


Experience needed

Business, third sector, technical and natural resources and engineering professionals

2 years

Primary, secondary, early years and TEFL teachers

2 years

Midwives and nurses

2 years

Health managers

3 years

Anaesthetists, paediatricians, surgeons, other hospital doctors and GPs

3 years post registration

Primary head teachers and deputy head teachers

5 years

Obstetricians and gynaecologists

5 years post registration

Volunteering with a disability

We’re committed to investigating every possible option to enable disabled people to volunteer.

We ask you to tell us about your disability on your application form. When you apply, a placement adviser and our medical unit will work closely with you. They will identify jobs that would be suitable for you before you come to assessment.

Some of the environments we work in are challenging. It may be difficult for us to match your professional and personal circumstances with a volunteer role. We'll make every effort to consider all possibilities and think flexibly to prevent this.

You can request volunteering information in a range of different formats, for example, Braille, large print, and audiocassette. A reader and writer service is available. Sign Language interpreters can be provided.

To discuss disability further, you can contact our medical unit in complete confidence on +44 20 8780 7685.

Volunteering with a pre-existing medical condition

If you are planning to volunteer, VSO needs to be sure that you are fit and healthy to do so. 

No volunteer can take up a VSO placement overseas, and be covered by our medical insurance policy, without medical clearance.

You should consider any personal health issues from an early stage because having a current or previous significant medical history may limit your volunteering options with VSO.  It may mean that VSO cannot take you on as a volunteer now, because it's not possible to find a placement which offers the right medical support. 

If you think this may be an issue, it's important to discuss it with VSO’s medical team as soon as possible. You are not required to give your name. 

Volunteering as a couple

We welcome applications if you are a couple wanting to volunteer together, however we respond to demand from overseas partner organisations, and many of them request only one volunteer. It is rare to receive a request for two volunteers for the same location that will match both of your skills. Read more about volunteering as a family

Please contact us if you have any questions about your eligibility to volunteer.

Ready to change lives? Search and apply for a volunteer job now.

If a professional volunteer job is not quite right for you, check out VSO’s youth volunteering opportunities