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Paid Or Unpaid Volunteer Work?

Wednesday 18th July 2012

Volunteer work is work that you do for a project or cause that you feel an affinity with and one that you have interest in helping by giving up your time and skills. Volunteer work can either be paid or unpaid. If the work is paid this is often because it is a long-term project where a specific skill from an individual is required to benefit the project. If the work is unpaid it is because the work is suitable for a range of people and no specific skill sets are required on the short, medium or long-term endeavour.

Often choosing whether to do paid or unpaid work can be a harder decision than the question original seems. There are many considerations when deciding which type of gap work experience is for you and the two main questions that you should review and think about are:

  1. Will you be able to afford to live if the work that you undertake is unpaid?

  2. What type of work that you want to do to help you achieve your goals of a gap year?

The first question is based around whether you can afford to live if you are not taking home any money. You will need to factor in the cost of accommodation and food as a minimum if the work that you want to do is unpaid. You should also consider whether you would need to get paid part-time or evening work to support a gap work role or what other action you could take to help your finances while undertaking unpaid work.

The second question looks at your goals and aspirations on a year out and the type of work that you want to be involved with. You may feel that to gain the work experience of your choice that you may have to forgo payment for work to get the experience. If this is the case then you should consider the work experience as helping towards your future and consider how the experience will help you financially in a career when you return to the UK. 

However, a volunteer experience is often not as ‘black and white’ and a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer given as to whether paid or unpaid work should be undertaken. Volunteer work is about you giving as well as learning new skills, languages and mixing with different cultures. It is a personal development and growth experience which is hard to quantify or put a price on.

Paid or unpaid work is therefore a difficult decision but if you have decided to take a gap year out you will already have an idea of what you want to do. So, depending on the type of person you are go with either your heart or head when evaluating the practicalities and you will come to the right and correct decision for you.