Person hanging up label in the shape of a flower with writing on it about work experience at the volunteering fair

Getting experience

Find and apply for volunteering opportunities

Do you want to make the most of your time at university? Are you looking to make a difference in the community and learn new skills?

When you volunteer, you'll apply knowledge you gain on your degree to a cause you care about. When you study with us, you'll get plenty of support to find a volunteering role you'll love.

Volunteering for a charity that matches your hobbies and ambitions will enhance your time at uni. It also improves your career prospects by expanding your employability skills and your experience of working in a professional environment.

Benefits of volunteering as a student

Volunteering while you're a student means you can:

  • Develop transferable skills and enhance your CV
  • Experience different working environments to help find the right career path for you
  • Network, meet new friends and boost your confidence
  • Get practical experience in a role and examples to support your graduate job applications
  • Improve your wellbeing and give back to the local community
  • Apply your skills to the workplace and enhance your employability

If you spend a significant amount of time volunteering for an organisation or particularly impress an organisation, you might also receive a professional reference to support your job applications after you graduate.

Spending time volunteering can also help to address challenges you might encounter as a new student, such as homesickness.

Volunteering opportunities

Our Volunteering Team in the Careers and Employability Service supports around 100 local and national charities and not-for-profit organisations. These include local theatres, schools, small community groups, social enterprises, the prison service, and the NHS.

We advertise between 150 and 200 opportunities which are available at any one time during the year. All volunteering roles we promote let you engage with different members of the community, including children, teenagers, adults and other students around campus. We advertise opportunities related to marketing, criminology, technology, history, science, creative arts and more.

Places you might volunteer

  • Charities that support young people to reduce offending, help survivors of domestic abuse or help people in conflict to resolve issues
  • Local museums, art galleries, charity shops and food banks
  • Charities that provide extra help to hospital patients, visitors and staff
  • Local schools helping pupils with reading, coding and other classroom activities
  • Local authorities such as the police, council and libraries
  • On projects that engage the younger generation in STEM activities

Searching for volunteering opportunities

Visit the Volunteering Team in the Careers and Employability Centre to discuss your volunteering queries and search through the Volunteering Bank. We can advise you on researching opportunities and how to apply. We'll also support you throughout the application and recruitment process.

You can book a 20 minute 1-to-1 appointment on Mondays and Thursdays between 11.00am and 12.00pm. Book now via MyCareer to speak with one of the team.

You can apply to all volunteering opportunities via the online Volunteering Bank via MyCareer. Select the search option and choose either:

  • "Volunteering Sector List" – for roles broken down into areas of interest such as Business Support, Children & Young People and Criminology
  • "Search Volunteering Roles" – for an overview of all opportunities available filtered by your requirements

Think outside the box

We can process 3 volunteering applications for you, so you must know why you want to volunteer.

  • Do you want a course or career-related experience?
  • Do you want to improve your confidence?
  • Do want to show your ability to problem solve?
  • Is teamwork something you want to demonstrate on your CV?

Be open-minded when researching opportunities. Those that aren't directly linked to your career or course aspirations can still give you the transferable skills and experience to enhance your employability.

Applying for volunteering opportunities

Once you've found a role you're interested in, read the role description. The role description will outline what duties the volunteering position includes, where it will take place, the time commitment required, training provided and a bit about the organisation.

Details on how to apply will be listed on the role description in the "How to apply" section. You might be asked to complete an application form or upload a CV and cover letter. Or you'll get information on how to apply directly to an organisation via an external website.

Applying for a volunteering role is a competitive process. Consider the following when preparing your application:

  • Why you've chosen to apply to this particular opportunity
  • What skills and experience you could bring to the role
  • What you hope to achieve during your time volunteering
  • That you've researched the organisation and understand what they do

Make sure to submit your completed application – click on the green "Apply Now" button to complete the registration form and upload your details. Once submitted, your application will be sent to the Volunteering Team for review and you'll get an email to notify you of your next steps.

The application process

Once the Volunteering Team reviews your application they'll forward your application details onto the organisation. You'll be sent a confirmation email once this has been done. If you have to apply directly to the organisation, you'll get an email advising you how to apply on an external website.

The organisation will make contact with you directly by phone or email to update you on the next stage in their recruitment process. They might invite you to an interview or an informal chat to find out more about you, give you an overview of the organisation and the work they do, and discuss the role in more detail. This is a perfect opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have.

If you haven’t received an update on your application within 30 days, contact the Volunteering Team at We can contact the organisation for you and find out what's happening with your application. We do encourage you to follow up with the organisation directly first, if you had the first contact with them. Remember to keep an eye on your voicemail and check the spam folder in your emails – just in case.

How to track your applications

Once you've applied for a volunteering opportunity, you can track the status of your application in your "My Applications" section of MyCareer. If there are any problems with your application or if the status of your application changes, you'll be notified by email to your university email account.

Your application will have a status update in MyCareer. Please see below for what each status means:

You've submitted an application form or CV and cover letter which is being reviewed by the Volunteering Team, or you've received details on how to apply to the organisation directly.

The Volunteering Team have sent off your completed application or CV and cover letter to the organisation to follow up or your registration details have been logged with the organisation. Your direct applications will not move forward unless you follow the information in your email.

We've been notified that your application has been unsuccessful or your application needs amending (for example, references need updating). You'll receive an email telling you what needs changing to progress your application

Either you or the organisation has notified us that your application has been withdrawn or your application can't move forward (for example, the organisation is no longer recruiting). You'll receive an email telling you why.

You've successfully secured a volunteering role this academic term or you're continuing a volunteering role from the previous academic year.

An application submitted for and completed in the previous academic year.

Update us on your volunteering

Throughout the year the Volunteering Team will try to make contact with you by telephone or email to see your progress with your volunteering applications.

If you haven’t had an update, we can follow up with the organisation on your behalf. If you're volunteering, we'll update your student record. If you want to update us in the meantime, you can do so by completing our 'What is the status of your volunteering application form'.

Tell us about your previous volunteering

We're keen to hear about the volunteering activities you've done while studying in Portsmouth. We keep a record of any volunteering activities you apply to through our Volunteering Bank, but we can also verify the volunteering roles you find independently.

To tell us about your volunteering experience, complete this short form: Have you already done some volunteering?

Volunteering for a short-term placement

You may need to secure a volunteering opportunity for a short term placement or work-based learning module. The Volunteering Bank is a great way to search for short-term opportunities. The Volunteering Team can help you find suitable opportunities and send an overview of your placement requirements to the organisations with your application.

Not all opportunities we advertise support module requirements. Some organisations may not have the resources to facilitate a placement or they might not be able to guarantee the hours required. We will advise on this at the application stage as best we can, but this changes each year.

Applying via the Volunteering Bank is one way to source your short-term placement. You should also apply through other methods, as we can't guarantee you'll find a placement through our service. This is free for volunteers and can be accessed by multiple organisations.

  • Some organisations can't defer applications and require a face-to-face interview. For this reason, you may need to start volunteering before your module starts. This gives you the benefit of being able to 'hit the ground running' when your module starts and make the most of your volunteering. Keep this in mind, especially if you are applying for a placement over the summer.
  • Consider the time commitment and training for the role. Can it give you the amount of hours required each week? Does the role fit in with your timetable and other commitments?
  • Are there mandatory training sessions and, if so, do they fit around your classes? All this information will be listed on the role advert, so take time to research this before applying.
  • Be mindful of the commitment asked by the organisation. If they ask for a longer commitment than your module requires, remember that volunteering needs to be mutually beneficial for both parties.

Most application forms will ask you to provide 2 references. References from partners or family members won't be accepted and friends will be reviewed on an application basis.

Make sure you find out who qualifies as a reference before you contact them. Your reference should be one of the following:

  • Professional – a current or previous employer. You can also use current or previous work experience organisations
  • Academic – a current lecturer or personal tutor. You can also use a sixth form teacher or teacher from school/college
  • Character reference – this can be a family friend or someone you know in a personal context who has a professional standing such as a doctor, solicitor or pastor

Ask your references for permission before passing on their contact information. Not doing this could delay the application process. If you've got any questions about references, contact the Volunteering Team at

A Disclosure and Barring Service check (or DBS check for short) is the analysis and record of your past. It specifically looks at any convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings you may have received.

DBS checks will generally be carried out for roles involving children and vulnerable adults. Where possible, the Volunteering Team make it clear which roles require DBS checks.

DBS checks are provided by the organisation and are free to volunteers. If you're volunteering for academic credit, the host or organisation can ask the University to cover the cost of the DBS process. If a DBS check is needed for you to start volunteering, consider how the processing of this check could impact your start date.

To get a DBS check you'll need to provide identification and an address history. Below are the ID documents most commonly used:

  • Current passport
  • Current UK Driving license
  • A recent bill (less than 3 months old and posted to your address – Council Tax bills can be up to 12 months old)

Full details of acceptable ID can be found on the Government website. If you've had a check done in the last 6 months some organisations will accept it. However we encourage you to bring your ID with you when requested by the organisation, just in case.

We would encourage you to register with the Update Service once you've received your paper certificate. The Update Service is an online subscription service that lets you keep your standard and enhanced DBS certificates up-to-date. This is free for volunteers and can be accessed by multiple organisations.

International volunteering opportunities

Volunteering abroad can give you experience and skills that can be hard to get elsewhere, improve your CV and help you decide what you might like to do in the future. It can also be an incredible experience that will always stay with you.

However, volunteering abroad can also be expensive and unfortunately, risks surround some companies/organisations that should be treated with caution. See our guide to international volunteering to find out more about international volunteering.

Volunteering as an international student

If you're on a Student Route or Tier 4 visa you may have restrictions on your right to complete paid and unpaid work in the UK, for example being able to complete a maximum of 20 hours each week. This also may impact the hours you can work during vacation. Specific details can be found on your Biometric Residence Permit.

For more information on your Student Route or Tier 4 visa working restrictions for term-time and vacations, please see the MyPort article: Working hours guidance – International/EU/EEA/Swiss students

You can also visit the UK Visas and Immigration website and the UKCISA website for further information.

Contact the Volunteering Team

If you've got any questions about volunteering, contact the Volunteering Team at You can book a 20 minute 1-to-1 appointment on Mondays and Thursdays between 11.00am and 12.00pm. Book now via MyCareer to speak with a member of the team.

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