Volunteer & Internship Opportunities

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If you are interested in pursuing a career in anthropology, then volunteering or doing an internship in a relevant area is a great way to gain first-hand experience of what anthropologists do, as well as knowledge of specialist areas within the discipline. Many students want to volunteer but struggle to find the right placement, not knowing where or how to begin their search. One of the difficulties is that anthropologists work in many different organisations in various roles, often not with the title of ‘anthropologist’. To find out more about where anthropologists work, take a look at our Career Paths section.

The following information is intended to help students interested in volunteering or doing an internship related to anthropology. It is important, however, to supplement the information found here with individual research.

What is the difference between volunteering and doing an internship?

Volunteer positions can range from a day to several weeks (longer in some cases). People offer their time, skills and knowledge to an event, cause or organisation primarily in the interest of gaining experience and helping out.

Internship positions are usually longer and more demanding than volunteer positions, with the majority ranging from one to six months. Organisations often look for candidates with previous knowledge of the discipline or a related subject, whose skills and knowledge can help complete a project or programme of activities.

In certain universities, internships form an important part of a student’s undergraduate degree, either as an inbuilt component or as an external activity for which they can gain academic credits. In some cases, internships provide an opportunity to earn some extra money while studying or looking for work.

Important considerations when choosing to volunteer / plan an internship:

  • Work out how much time you can realistically give to volunteering or doing an internship.
  • Pursue opportunities in the specialist areas of anthropology you are most interested in. For example, if you are interested in material culture, you may wish to do an internship at a museum or art gallery.
  • Investigate possible organisations. Bear in mind that high-profile institutions often have more competition for placements, and longer and more complicated application procedures, than smaller ones.
  • When applying, include a cover letter with your CV indicating that you know something about the organisation’s work and have an idea of the department/project where you would enjoy working.
  • If you are going through an agency to do an internship abroad, make sure you understand what type of support, etc, is included in your package; and that there is the possibility of changing your internship position or leaving, if any major problems arise.
  • Be open and flexible towards your internship tasks. You may not be able to do as many high-level tasks as you might wish, and project plans can change unexpectedly.

Internships as part of your undergraduate anthropology degree:

In the United States, a number of universities offering anthropology strongly recommend that students undertake an internship or work placement as part of their undergraduate degree. In Britain, it is less common for students to undertake a work placement as part of their undergraduate degree. Currently Brunel is the only university to offer students a work placement option. At Brunel students are able to choose a four-year ‘thin-sandwich’ BSc Anthropology degree, which includes two six-month work placements (or shorter if unpaid).

Doing an internship through educational exchange programmes

Several British universities offer the option of taking part in educational exchange programmes through the Erasmus scheme. Erasmus offers registered students the opportunity to do work placements and study for a semester abroad at partner universities, primarily in the EU.

Possible volunteer/internship opportunities:

Anthropological events in the UK

The RAI Education Outreach Programme organises several outreach events throughout the year. Volunteers are essential to ensuring the smooth running of the events as well as the pre-event organisation. If you are interested in being a volunteer, take a look at the following web pages and email the RAI’s Education and Communications Officer.

ESRC Festival of Social Science

London Anthropology Day

RAI Volunteer and Intern Policy

Anthropological Organisations

Royal Anthropological Institute

American Anthropological Association

Anthropological Associations around the world

Archaeological activities

British Archaeological Jobs and Resources

Council for British Archaeology

European Association of Archaeologists


Ecological Anthropology/ Environmental activities

Earthwatch Institute


Economic Botany at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Forestry Commission

Museums & Libraries

Look at our interactive map which lists museums and libraries with ethnographic material around the UK.

Charities/Non-Governmental Organisations

Plan International


Action Aid

Working with animals

http://www.animal-job.co.uk – this website has general listings of volunteer jobs around the UK for working with animals

The Great Primate Handshake

Monkey Sanctuary

Specialist programmes for 14-19 years old

The Gov.UK website has excellent information, specialist programmes and volunteer opportunities for young people of 14-19 years.

Get involved in anthropology through the RAI’s Education Outreach Programme

image © Nafisa Fera

The RAI’s Education Department organises events, activities, contests as well as produces teaching and learning materials for anyone interested in learning about anthropology. Take a look at the many ways to get involved with like-minded people who are passionate about the subject:

  • Become an RAI member: take a look here for all the benefits associated with joining the RAI.  
  • Attend an event: take a look at our events page for a list of various anthropological events which take place nationally. 
  • Take part in discussions by joining our Facebook Group
  • Become a volunteer: the RAI’s Education Department is always looking for enthusiastic individuals to help out with our outreach events such as the London Anthropology Day. If you are interested in volunteering email the RAI’s Education and Communications Officer.
  • Apply for an internship: interns form an essential part of the RAI’s Educational Outreach Activities. A minimum of two months is required in order to be considered. For further information about internships at the RAI please visit the getting involved page.