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International Volunteering Certificates: An In-Depth Guide

Nick Callos
Written By
By Nick Callos
volunteer certificate

International volunteering offers many benefits. When you volunteer abroad, you can enable local communities to build a brighter tomorrow. And you can develop professional skills and grow as a person.

While the experience alone makes international service worth doing, it’s always nice to have something tangible to take home. This allows you to say, “Here’s what I accomplished while volunteering abroad!”

After all, your contributions deserve recognition. Not only will that recognition serve as a reminder of your time abroad, but it can also impress potential employers or schools.

In this guide, we’ll cover all you need to know about international volunteering certificates. This way, you can learn what certifications and credit you can get through your program. Read on!

Types of International Volunteering Certificates

You can earn a wide variety of international volunteering certificates and awards. What you get depends on the organization, where you go, and what you do.

Types of certificates include:

  • Certificate in International Volunteering: Most courses teach the importance of responsible volunteering and sustainable tourism.
  • TEFL Certification: When you volunteer abroad to teach English, you can get certified to “Teach English as a Foreign Language” (TEFL).
  • Certificates for Medical Volunteering: Many medical associations, institutions, and schools recognize international volunteer service.
  • Scuba Diving Certification and Other Certificates for Conservation Volunteers: PADI scuba certification is your passport to join marine conservation initiatives. Organizations like Global Vision International have plenty of programs that provide PADI certification courses, like this marine conservation initiative in Mexico.
  • Recognition of Volunteer Service: Your organization may hand you a certificate showing you completed a volunteer program and made a positive contribution to a local community. You can also get certificates of completion for internships abroad.
  • Awards and Distinctions: Your contributions can earn you an award in your home country and from an international organization. Some examples include the Queen’s Award for Volunteer Service in the United Kingdom and the Jefferson Awards for Public Service in the United States.

Now that you know what kind of international volunteering certificates exist, you may be asking yourself, “How do I get a certificate?”

We have the answers for you. Let’s go over the organizations, programs, and institutions that offer certifications, recognition, and/or awards for your service abroad.

Global Travel Academy’s Certificate in International Volunteering

Want to learn how to volunteer abroad ethically and effectively?

Then study with Global Travel Academy, an organization that teaches travelers how to traverse the world in a safe and responsible manner. For international volunteers, they offer a class that educates you on the “best practices for volunteering responsibly and effectively while abroad.”

To earn the Certificate in International Volunteering, you have to complete a self-paced online course ($149). It takes roughly three hours, and will equip you with the tools and knowledge to have a great volunteer abroad experience.

Created by industry professionals with more than three decades of combined experience, the course covers everything from choosing a volunteer abroad program to health and safety while volunteering abroad. You’ll even go over reverse culture shock.

The class features real-life video content from destinations like IndiaSouth Africa, and Peru, combined with colloquial language and interactive learning activities. Many volunteer industry experts have contributed to the course, including leaders from top volunteer organizations such as International Volunteer HQ, Global Vision International (GVI), and African Impact.

Past students say the course prepared them well for volunteering abroad, like Stephanie:

“The course was simple and easy to follow. It highlighted many important issues about my trip volunteering abroad, some of which I had not even thought of. I found it extremely informative and useful.”

Given how helpful the course is, many organizations, including International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ), a leading volunteer abroad provider, have joined forces with Global Travel Academy to offer their volunteers access to online training. IVHQ advises all their participants to take this pre-departure training and earn a Certificate in International Volunteering.

So, want to become certified in international volunteering? Click here to start the course!

TEFL Certification

TEFL certification

Did you know that there are more than 1.5 billion English learners worldwide?

Clearly, the market for English language teachers is massive. And considering teaching English abroad is a popular choice for volunteers, it makes sense to choose a program where you can obtain TEFL certification. This way, you have proper credentials should you decide to pursue a career in the ESL industry (English as a Second Language).

TEFL certification means you’ve been professionally trained in teaching non-native English speakers how to write, read, speak, and listen in English. An internationally recognized certificate, TEFL certification makes you a more qualified candidate for ESL teaching positions around the globe, from Brazil to Thailand.

So, if you want to teach English overseas and get TEFL certification during that time, know options abound. You can choose from many programs, such as:

  • Onsite TEFL Certification with Maximo Nivel: Journey to Costa Rica ($1,700), Peru ($1,600), or Guatemala ($1,400) with Maximo Nivel, a leading volunteer abroad organization in Latin America. Take part in a four-week, 150-hour TEFL program that will develop the real-world skills you need to be a successful ESL teacher. The program consists of 100 hours of in-class instruction, 35 hours of writing and reading assignments, and 15 hours of practical teaching and observation.
  • English Teaching in China with Frontier (from $1,445 for four weeks): Teach English to friendly children and immerse yourself in Chinese culture. And earn your TEFL certificate through Frontier by accumulating 20 hours of teaching practice (requires four weeks) and completing assessment logbooks.

If you wish to obtain your TEFL certification online before teaching abroad, you can do that as well. For instance, Maximo Nivel has an accredited 150-hour online course with live trainers ($495).

Plan My Gap Year (PMGY), a trusted organization that places more than 4,000 volunteers per year, has an accredited 60-hour course that covers the core principles of teaching English, as well as plenty of teaching tips. For PMGY volunteers, the course costs just $150!

Want to get your TEFL certificate and travel in Europe on the cheap? Angloville, who provides English-language immersion programs throughout Europe, has a wonderful program for doing just that. They offer a 120-hour TEFL certification course plus a real-life teaching experience in a destination like Hungary, Poland, or Czechia. The TEFL training is partly sponsored by Angloville through their TEFL Scholarship initiative. And your volunteer experience is completely free, including your stay in a local hotel. How amazing is that?

For more information on getting your TEFL certification, read our detailed guide here.

Certificates for Medical Volunteering

international medical volunteer certificates

Many academic institutions, volunteer organizations, and medical associations recognize those who have served in international medical volunteer programs. This offers you evidence of your contributions, and can help you stand out from the crowd when applying to medical school or a job.

If you volunteer abroad in dental care, you can apply for a Certificate for International Volunteer Service from the American Dental Association (ADA). The ADA gives the certificate to those who’ve given their time and expertise to improving oral healthcare in developing countries, so it’s truly an honor to receive this distinction. The deadline for this is typically in July (click here for the application).

For medical volunteering in various fields, know your school may provide a certificate that recognizes your service. For example, UCLA Health hands out award pins for every 100 hours of community service you complete. They also give certificates of program completion to volunteers.

When you volunteer abroad in a hospital or clinic through a volunteer program provider, such as Love Volunteers, you can earn a Certificate of Completion upon finishing the program. Love Volunteers is an affordable volunteer abroad organization that’s known for their commitment to creating lasting change in local communities. Through Love Volunteers, you could earn a medical volunteering certificate through programs like:

Other volunteer programs may require you to take medical training in order to assist with various tasks, like GoEco’s Wildlife Conservation Expedition in Seychelles or the Diving for Marine Conservation Project in Mexico. Through these programs, you can take Emergency First Response (EFR) training and get certified in CPR and First Aid for children and adults. That certification and the skills you’ll learn can come in handy anywhere.

For more information on international medical volunteering, read our guide here!

Scuba Diving Certification and Other Certificates for Conservation Volunteers

scuba certification

If you volunteer in marine conservation, you either need to have PADI certification or must get it prior to beginning the program. It’s your ticket to explore the world below the surface!

Many volunteer abroad organizations partner with PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). This allows organizations to combine scuba diving classes with a conservation initiative. You can obtain a variety of scuba certifications through these lessons.

One organization to consider for scuba certification is GoEco, a leading ecotourism company. They run many marine preservation initiatives that involve getting PADI certified. Through their Great Barrier Reef Conservation project in Australia ($2,390 for 12 days), you can get PADI Project AWARE Specialty certified and PADI Open Water certified. If you sign up for GoEco’s Diving and Marine Research project in Madagascar (from $1,650 for one week), you can become PADI Coral Reef Research Diver certified and PADI Advanced Open Water certified.

Dream of earning your PADI Divemaster qualification? You can do that through a volunteer abroad program, such as Global Vision International (GVI). GVI is a go-to organization for achieving Divemaster status (which requires you log 60 dives!). A Divemaster qualification gives you the authority to lead recreational dives and train others.

You can get your PADI Divemaster certification through GVI’s internship programs, including:

More interested in land conservation? Some projects offer field guide training and certifications for volunteers interested in a career in environment and wildlife conservation.

For example, Naturally Africa Volunteers, a top service organization in Africa, runs a Field Guide program in South Africa where you can obtain FGSA Level 1 Certification. Completing the course and getting FGSA Level 1 Certification provides you with an excellent foundation for a career as a field guide and wildlife educator. Note that FGSA is an accredited training provider for tourism guiding in South Africa. That means your qualifications and certificates are highly valued by parks and reserves around the country.

You can get field guide training and certification through other programs too, such as Frontier’s South Africa Game Ranger Internship ($4,445 for eight weeks). Completion of Frontier’s internship qualifies you for FGSA Level 1 Certification. The internship is at a reserve that’s home to Africa’s Big 5 animals.

International Volunteer Awards and Distinctions

There are literally hundreds of awards and distinctions for those who show an exceptional commitment to community service. These distinctions are a tremendous honor. Put your name in the competition if you qualify for the award.

Some examples of prestigious volunteer awards include:

  • President’s Volunteer Service Award: This award recognizes US citizens or lawful residents who’ve reached a certain number of volunteer hours. Presidential recognition starts at 100 hours (see the full chart here). Be sure to volunteer through a certifying volunteer organization, such as Maximo Nivel.
  • Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE): A youth awards program, this award recognizes adolescents and young adults who complete a series of self-improvement activities. Sections include volunteering, physical, skills, and expedition. You must complete the program by the time you’re 25 years old (it usually takes one to four years). The DofE award is a distinction that demonstrates your ambition and commitment.
  • ILM Young Leaders Award: ILM, a group of leadership experts in the UK, hand out this distinction to teens and young adults who’ve developed their leadership skills through training and real-life experiences. They work with many volunteer program providers, including Global Vision International (GVI). You can earn your ILM Youth Leadership Certificate through GVI programs like the Coastal Conservation Internship in Thailand and Cambodian Cultural Immersion Program.
  • Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers: This medal recognizes exceptional volunteer achievements of Canadians, and is one of the highest honors a volunteer from Canada can receive. Someone must nominate you for the award.

If you’ve contributed a lot through your volunteer efforts, do your research to see which awards you deserve. Note that some awards are specific to countries and places, like the Hong Kong Volunteer Award, the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards (USA), and the Volunteer Ireland Awards.

Recognition of Volunteer Service or Internship Experience

Getting tangible documentation of your volunteer or intern abroad experience can bolster your resume. That will help you with your next steps, whether you’re applying to grad school or entering the workforce.

Most intern abroad organizations provide a certificate of participation or completion. Intern Abroad HQ, a leader in planning and delivering international internships, gives you a Certificate of Internship Completion, alongside a portfolio that summarizes your work, skills development, and internship goals. Intern Abroad HQ does this for every intern, whether you do a business internship in Japan or tourism internship in Ireland.

Projects Abroad, a well-regarded volunteer and intern abroad organization that was founded in 1992, gives interns a professional evaluation and a Certificate of Hours upon completion (this can help with getting academic credit!). Projects Abroad boasts an awesome variety of internship opportunities, from a law and human rights internship in South Africa to a public health internship in Belize.

Reputable volunteer abroad organizations also provide certificates of your contributions. Whether you build homes in Jamaica with Love Volunteers or volunteer in India with Plan My Gap Year, you’ll get a certificate of completion when you finish.

When you volunteer with International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ), an organization that’s sent more than 101,000 volunteers abroad, you can obtain an International Certificate of Volunteering upon completion. As IVHQ says, the “certificate can be a valuable addition to your resume as many employers recognize that volunteer travel is beneficial for personal and professional development, as well as cross-cultural competence.”

Don’t Forget About Academic Credit and Scholarships!

It may not be an actual certificate, but academic credit brings you closer to a degree. Many volunteer abroad organizations partner with universities, enabling you to get college credit for your volunteer service or internship.

One organization that does a great job of ensuring you get credit is Maximo Nivel. They work directly with many universities, including California State University San Marcos, to offer you academic credit for volunteer abroad projectsSpanish immersion programs, and international internships. Their programs span across wonderful locations in Costa Rica, Peru, and Guatemala.

Additionally, apply for volunteer abroad scholarships. Scholarships not only fund your trip, but they can also are an achievement you can put on your resume! You could win an IVHQ Scholarship ($1,000 travel voucher), GoEco Volunteer Scholarship (covers the full cost of the program), or our very own Volunteer Forever Scholarship ($500 to $1,000).

For a full list of volunteer abroad scholarships and grants, click here!

Final Advice

Volunteering abroad not only helps those in need, but it is an excellent way to build your skills, expand your network, show people your ambition, and motivate yourself to do great things.

A good way to ensure your volunteer experience leads to exciting opportunities in the future is to get the certificate you qualify for. A certificate proves your volunteer accomplishments and should be something you carry with you for a lifetime.

In addition to looking over the international volunteering certificates in this article, ask your volunteer program about what certificates you can earn through your service. This way, you can guarantee you get all the credit you deserve for your contributions.