5 Free Online Courses to Foster Your Humanitarian Career

Access to the lessons and resources is free of charge, and students need only pay if they wish to obtain an official certificate of completion at the end. Free courses are great for those who wish to amp up their knowledge of a particular subject in order to complement their pre-existing qualifications and experiences. While there are dozens of topics that would be useful for those seeking out a humanitarian career, the following list offers a quick glance at the options currently available.

Introduction to Humanitarian Aid

If you already have a degree in humanitarian aid, this course probably won’t do you much good. However, for those who studied a related field (like political sciences, conflict management, etc) and really want to up your knowledge of humanitarian specifics, this is a great complement to a CV and academic transcript. The course is offered by Deakin University via FutureLearn, a well-reputed online database of free university courses that changes throughout the year. In this course, students will learn about the approaches and guiding principles that have been developed throughout history and are currently utilized by humanitarian teams in response to conflict, crisis, and natural disaster.

International Humanitarian Law in Theory and Practice

Offered by Leiden University, this humanitarian law course is a great introduction for those who aim to work in conflict-affected areas. Humanitarian law covers such areas as when armed forces can intervene with terrorist groups, how POWs must be treated, and the rights of the injured, among other topics. In participating in this course, students will learn about the rules of civil war and military interventions, how hostilities are waged and which weapons can be used when. The professors will also discuss protective elements of the law during conflicts. Note that humanitarian law applies only to conflict and does not cover the issues of migration and refugee rights, for example. However, this course is a great supplemental 101 for aid and NGO workers who do not have the specific aim of being a lawyer or conflict-management specialist. This course is hosted on the Coursera platform.

Sustainable Development in Humanitarian Action

Offered by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross, this course incorporates sustainability within the realm of humanitarian action. It will enable a staff or volunteer working in the humanitarian sector to learn about the keys to making organizations more effective and accountable. Sustainability will be examined through supply chain management and field operations, covering the three main dimensional pillars of sustainable development: social equity, economic efficiency, and environmental preservation. With a duration of only four weeks, this course is a great supplemental option for those aiming to work on strategy, projects, and programs within an organization. The course is held through the FutureLearn platform.

Health in Humanitarian Crises

Also hosted on FutureLearn, the Health in Humanitarian Crises course from the extremely reputable London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine focuses on key illness and outbreaks that are possible during a crisis. This can be during armed conflict, after a natural disaster, or in a developing and impoverished place with low hygienic capacity. Students will learn about the major contributors to ill-health around the world, examining the effects of widespread outbreaks on community and national social development. Humanitarian crises, especially large-scale ones, face serious challenges for public health officials, and having pre-discussed and trialed health interventions is crucial for rapid onset outbreaks of disease. The course examines trends in key health needs in humanitarian contexts and prepares students to be able to think critically and respond to health concerns swiftly.

Humanitarian Communication: Addressing Key Challenges

Rounding out this list of free courses for those interested in a career in a humanitarian field, this five-week course from the University of Geneva covers one of the most basic yet crucial aspects of a humanitarian response. Some of the main challenges when responding to a disaster, conflict, or crisis are due to communication…or lack thereof. Through this course, students will learn how to design and implement communication plans before and in the midst of disasters. The course is hosted on the Coursera platform and is part of the public health sector.

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