Does Volunteering Count as Work Experience?

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does volunteering count as work experience?

A common question when it comes to resumes and job applications is whether or not volunteering counts as work experience.

To that end, this article is going to unpack whether or not volunteering counts as work experience based upon my experience as both an employee and a hiring manager. Additionally, it’s going to cover what volunteer work should be listed on a resume, and how to most effectively list it.

Does Volunteering Count as Work Experience?

Technically, no, volunteering does not count as work experience. Work experience basically means the same thing as professional experience, which is paid work that you do on behalf of a company.

However, practically, volunteering can count as work experience. As a hiring manager, I’ve seen volunteering listed in the work experience section of a resume and job application and have never had any issue with it, particularly if it was relevant to the role. That said, I have mentally given it less weight and credit towards a job than a paid working role.

As a general best practice, make sure to indicate that the role was volunteer-based. Additionally, when listing it on a resume, I would try to put it in a section titled “experience” or “relevant experience” rather than a “work experience” section. Again, practically, you should be fine, but listing it that way avoids anyone potentially getting hung up as a technicality.

Should You Include Volunteer Experience on a Resume?

resume

In general, it’s a good idea to list volunteer work on your resume in a couple of different scenarios.

First, if you’re early in your career and don’t have a lot of work experience. If you don’t have a lot of actual work experience to list, including volunteer experience, particularly that is relevant to the field will help to fill out your resume. Additionally, it will show that you’re a proactive person that is interested in making a contribution.

Secondly, if listing volunteer experience better positions you for the role that you’re applying for than other type of experience. For example, let’s say that you’re looking to get into marketing, but only have experience in retail. To help build your marketing experience, you volunteered to help organize and promote an event for a local non profit. Even though that was a volunteer position, that type of work better shows your skills and interest in marketing than other work experience.

What Type of Volunteer Work Should be Listed on My Resume?

Ideally, you would list volunteer work on your resume that meets two key criteria.

First, the volunteer work should be relevant to the role that you’re applying for. Going back to the previous example, if you’re applying for a marketing position and have done volunteer marketing work for a non profit, that would be a great thing to list. Also, this is a bit of a side note, but if you’ve completed volunteer work that’s relevant to your role, that can be a great source of references for a job application.

Secondly, if the volunteer work is something that you could tell a story about if asked in an interview. In many cases, a hiring manager will pick and choose experiences on your resume that they’ll ask you about during your interview. If you’re asked about volunteer experience that’s listed on your resume, you’ll want to be able to speak to it in a way that will position you well for the well.

Where to Put Volunteer Work on a Resume

There are a couple of ways that you can put volunteer work on a resume.

The first option would be putting volunteer work in a general “experience” section of your resume along with other relevant experience that you have for the role. Personally, that’s my preferred approach as it combines all of the relevant experience for a role in one place. If you go this route, just make sure to indicate that the experience that you’re listing is volunteer experience.

Secondly, you could list volunteer experience in a “volunteer experience” section of your resume. That would be a standalone section of your resume that is likely listed below a “work experience” section of your resume. That approach could be helpful if you need to make the resume look longer.

This video from KISSS Career Coaching provides some good tips and perspective on where to put volunteer work on a resume:

How to List Volunteer Work on a Resume

You would list volunteer work on a resume in the same way that you would paid work. The general best practices would be the following:

  • List the volunteer work in the experience section of your resume
  • Indicate the name of the name of the organization that you volunteer for
  • Indicate your volunteer title
  • Indicate the dates that you volunteered
  • List your contributions to the organization in bullet form 

An example of how to list volunteer work on a resume is below:

how to list volunteer work on resume

Conclusion

Volunteer work is a great thing. And it can and should be listed as work experience if it’s relevant to the role to which you’re applying. In fact, it can help you to get job offer that you’re excited about.

Just make sure to list it on your resume or job application appropriately, and be ready to speak to it in your interview if you’re asked about it.

About the author

Dan Slocum

Dan is the founder of Best Fit Work and is a business professional with over 10 years of experience. He has been a hiring and people manager on multiple occasions, and has also gone through the hiring process himself at a variety of different companies. Dan serves as a career counselor on the side. He writes to share content, tools, and resources to help people discover and thrive in their own best fit work.

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