University of Minnesota




Obtaining a Career in the Human Rights Field:


Working in human rights is a lofty and traditionally almost-unattainable goal.  The field of human rights has expanded and diversified in the last few decades, and the practice of human rights is now a more realistic career option for many who wish to work in the field.  The purpose of the profiles included is to give an idea of human rights in practice.  Careers in human rights are not easy to obtain; but as stated before, human rights organizations are more common than ever before.  Human rights organizations employ a wide background of professions, and individuals who previously may have been discouraged by the narrowness of career choices may now be encouraged by new opportunities in the field.


What is required for a career?

The following profiles are organizations that are located only in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN.  They are arguably the most prominent and visible of human rights organizations in the area, but there are many other associations that address human rights issues in one form or another in the area.  Each of these organizations employs a variety of educational backgrounds and experience levels.  Individuals who peruse these profiles are likely to find job descriptions that can loosely fit many avenues of education. 


Even with the new variety of human rights applications, students ideally will have a background in law, research, political science, education and often a medical background.  Most organizations employ individuals with advanced degrees and some experience in the field.  The most common advanced degrees noted among the organizations profiled are law degrees, M.D.’s or psychology degrees, Ph.D.’s in various backgrounds, and master’s degrees in education or public policy. 


Individuals will be aided if they speak more than one language (although this is not necessary for all jobs) and international experience is always a plus—even if the job an individual is seeking does not require an international background. 


Individuals seeking careers in human rights will have a demonstrated dedication to public service.  This includes full- or part-time volunteer experience, volunteering or interning throughout college or after college, and leadership roles, especially in service organizations.  Many of the organizations profiled had a number of employees with Peace Corps or AmeriCorps experience, individuals who had volunteered regularly with service organizations, or individuals who had previously volunteered or interned with that particular organization.  Internships and volunteer appointments are often necessary for an individual to become known or be able to network in the human rights field. 


Understanding human rights careers      

In these profiles alone, individuals who envision careers in human rights have more hope than those in the same boat a few decades before.  However, it is important to remember that each of these organizations promotes human rights in a unique fashion; students may have to envision a new application of human rights.   A traditional vision may be a career in the field in a foreign country, distributing food or necessary goods, or actively promoting peace.  Many of these organizations fit some traditional stereotypes of human rights organizations, but most require a more diverse staff and a modern application.  The new field of human rights is much different than traditional visions. 


Understanding and using the profiles

The profiles of each organization are broken down by the same sets of criteria.  This makes each profile “user friendly” and allows students to quickly understand what organizations are specifically looking for when they seek employees.  Starting with a basic description and location of each organization, students can also find numbers of employees, educational backgrounds, and specific employee profiles with descriptions of current employees’ backgrounds.  Beyond this, on the website there are links to each organization’s webpage, so students can peruse in more detail if desired.


Good luck in the search for employment in human rights.  There is hope, with the number of organizations in the Twin Cities area alone, for many careers in the field.  Please contact the Human Rights Center at the University of Minnesota with more questions about this specific compilation.  


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