Career Development

Finding a Career in International Public Interest

What is international human rights law?

Modern human rights law holds that governments everywhere must adhere to certain basic principles of human rights in the treatment of their citizens.

What do you do with a career in international human rights law?

International human rights workers are generally advocates. There are some that work on policy development and others that work on alerting the media and the general public to human rights abuses. Some areas of work include:

  • Direct Service: Delivery of medical, social, educational, or legal aid to individuals or communities in need.
  • Advocacy: Work to intervene on behalf of individuals or communities suffering from human rights abuses.
  • Policy Development: Work to shape policy, laws, and treaties.

Getting a Job

Careers in human rights can be highly competitive to enter. Therefore, your resume should follow the general rules of good resume writing and should conform to your interest in international work.


  • Include travel experiences and cultural knowledge
  • Do not use acronyms
  • Languages--include level of proficiency. Do not overstate your abilities as this may be critical to your job.

Cover Letter: Your cover letter should not only include the basics, but should also include the follwing:

  • Flexibility and availability to travel
  • Funding sources you may have for unpaid internships
  • Cultural sensitivity to areas which you may be applying
  • Why you are interested in this particular organization

Getting Started

The range of oppertunities within human rights work is varied. There are countless organizations working on many different issues in a variety settings. It is important to do research on which field you are interested in.
The best way to get your foot in the door towards a career in international human rights is to live or travel abroad. This can be done through a number of different ways including paid or un-paid internships, jobs, or study abroad, just to name a few. It may be important to take into consideration funding for these opportunities. It is also important to note that many of these opportunities may be in remote places which do not have the most modern facilities. You may be asked to travel to parts of the world that you may not have considered.
A good place to start is to research the leading institutions that play a major role in the development of human rights.

United Nations
This website will give you a basic overview of the structure of the UN and their role in the development of human rights law. Although there are few opportunities for employment within the UN, it is important to learn the structure of this body and their role in order to better serve any organization that you plan to work for.

Organization of American States
The OAS contains 34 member states including the United States. Under the OAS is the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in Washington, D.C., and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in Costa Rica which provides an avenue for people that have suffered human rights abuses. The OAS has a student intern program for students with at least a 3.0 GPA and a “good command of two of the four official languages of the Organization: English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

U.S. Department of State
The U.S. Department of State provides information about employment opportunities, internships, and fellowships within the Department of States and other locations such as the UN. It is also important to look at this website for information regarding travel warnings and events around the world.


There are countless organizations specifically formed for the advocacy and development of international human rights. Here are just a few of the organizations that serve in the area of international human rights law:

Human Rights Watch
This is the largest human rights organization that is based in the US. This NGO investigates and exposes human rights violations. This organization offers internships in New York, London, Los Angeles, and Washington DC.

Amnesty International
This organization campaigns for human rights. Most positions are in the UK and are highly competitive.

American Society of International Law
The ASIL provides an international law career guide and gives an extensive list of international law organizations and other legal career websites.

United States Agency for International Development
USAID is an independent federal government agency that provides assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Near East, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe and Eurasia. This organization provides internships, career opportunities and has fellows programs.

Rights International
Represents victims of human rights in several international tribunals. This organization provides interns with the opportunity to research and write on human rights issues.

Human Rights First
Provides fellowships and internships in New York and Washington, DC participating in research, writings, and Asylum case work. These internships are unpaid, but this organization has several opportunities to receive $1000 fellowships.

Search Engines

Human Rights Jobs
This is a search engines that contains a number of postings in the field of human rights. There is a $50 annual fee to access of password protected jobs, but there are a number of postings that you are able to view for free. There is also a free email newsletter for new career opportunities.

International Career Employment Weekly
This search engine posts opportunities in a vast array of international arenas. NSU subscribes to this newsletter and you can receive a password to access the information on the internet through the CDO.
This website provides resources for opportunities in public service and also gives information and tips to anyone pursuing a career in international human rights.

Nonprofit Career Network
Nonprofit career network provides a databank for individuals pursuing a career in the public sector.

This search engine posts opportunities in public interest organizations. It includes short-term volunteer work, paid internships, full-time jobs, fellowships, and pro bono opportunities. NSU is a member of this website; therefore, all information is accessible to any student.

Other Resources

Many law schools have provided lists of public interest web sites including international human rights. These websites will help further your search in career opportunities in this field.

Harvard Law School

Stanford University

University of Southern California

University of Minnesota

Virginia Law