Become an Activist

Activists are people who see the need for change and devote their time to doing something about it. They are driven by passion and a vision for a better future. If you want to be an activist, seek the right education and experience. Volunteer with charities and grassroots organization and work on building your people, public speaking, and fundraising skills. Get involved with a cause you care about and stay committed. In the future, think about pursuing a professional career that will allow you to best help with your cause. You could, for example, obtain a law degree to advocate legally for your organization.


Gaining Experience and Education

  1. Start gaining experience related to activism in high school. If possible, start your career as an activist as early as high school. Take classes that will give you the skills necessary for activism and work on learning about problems in the world that need addressing.[1]
    • Take classes in things like history and English. This will help your written communication skills and help you learn about activist efforts over the course of time.
    • Volunteer with organizations you care about. See if you can plan events. Try to plan something like a charity can drive for a local humane society, for example.
    • Learn about famous activists, like Malcolm X and Susan B. Anthony.
    • Make a habit of reading the news regularly. You can read the news online or read a local newspaper to stay informed about what's happening in the world.
  2. Seek out higher education. There is no specific educational pathway to becoming an activist. However, a four-year bachelor degree can be a good start. You can volunteer and intern while you're at college and stay involved with campus politics. This will give you a good skill set as you pursue activism professional outside of school.[2]
    • Get your degree in something related to activism, such as political science, history, or public relations. If you're looking to go into a specific type of activism, such as activism related to health care, opt for a more specific degree. You can try a degree in healthcare or public health, for example.
    • Your journey as an activist can begin in college. Most colleges have many student activist organizations that try to enact change in the community and the larger world. Find a group whose goals fit your needs and get involved. For example, if you care about the environment, join a student group that supports environmental sustainability.
  3. Volunteer. Volunteering is at the core of activism. Before, after, and during college and high school, volunteer for charities and grassroots organizations that you find inspiring. Donating your time can help you gain invaluable skills to drive your career as an activist.[2]
    • Be on the lookout for groups that inspire and interest you. If you want to make healthcare more accessible, for example, look for groups that volunteer to educate the public about health and provide low-cost healthcare for certain communities.
    • Volunteer your time and services. At first, you may be doing small jobs. You may stuff envelops for a non-profit or make phone calls asking for donations.
    • With time, take on leadership roles. If an organization is in need of a treasurer or secretary, take on that role. Try to plan your own events to raise money or public awareness.
  4. Seek internships. Internships can be a great way to begin a career as an activist. During college, look for internships related to your interests. See if your favorite grassroots organizations and non-profits offer internships. Talk to your college adviser about where to find internships related to activism. Having a few internships completed by the time you finish college can put on the right track to becoming an activist.[2]
    • Some degree programs may require you to complete an internship to graduate. Make sure you check your graduation requirements and complete an internship if it's necessary for your degree.
  5. Identify your passions. As you volunteer and intern during high school and college, think about your passions. Being an activist is a difficult job that is full of setbacks. If you want to succeed, aim to take on a cause you care about deeply. This will give you the motivation to be successful longterm.
    • Think about everywhere you've volunteered or interned. Think about how you feel when reading or watching the news. Which issues do you feel most passionately about? Where do you most want to see change?
    • For example, maybe you loved interning at a low-income health clinic and find yourself getting very frustrated at the lack of affordable healthcare. You can fuel this anger and passion into a commitment to reforming healthcare. You can become an activist in this arena.
Sugathakumari is an Indian poet and activist, who has been at the forefront of environmental and feminist movements in Kerala, South India. (Image: Wikipedia)

Getting Involved with a Cause

  1. Look for communities in need. Oftentimes, to carve out your niche as an activist you have to identify what's missing. Look at the communities in any given area. Which communities are in most need of extra support? Which communities are often overlooked? You can focus your efforts here to become an activist.[3]
    • For example, think about a community you care about. Maybe you're invested in the local LGBT+ community in your area. Try visiting an LGBT+ resource center and see if they need support in any specific areas.
    • Maybe you find out that many LGBT+ people in your area need legal help as they've been terminated from positions due to their sexual orientation. You could lead an initiative to raise money to support legal help.
  2. Research existing efforts. Your cause might already have some action going on at the local, regional, national, or international level. Find out what exists now and where you fit in. See if you can liaise with existing efforts and consider how you'll join in or bolster existing efforts independently.[3][4]
    • For example, say you care about LGBT+ rights. What kind of services are being provided for LGBT+ people in your area? Is there a resource center? Could you volunteer here or apply for work here?
    • From there, try to identify anything you could help change or innovate. Maybe, when looking at what was missing, you noticed a lot of LGBT+ people in your area have legal troubles but no access to lawyers. You could talk to other volunteers about leading an initiative to help provide LGBT+ people with affordable legal aid.
  3. Educate yourself about the cause. Once you begin committing to a cause, learn as much about it as possible. You want to stay informed about any major issues or news stories in your area of interest. This will help you get in on the action when change and protests are needed.[5]
    • Subscribe to newsletters put out by organizations dedicated to your cause. If you care about the environment, for example, subscribe to Greenpeace. Make sure newsletters are literature are related to an organization with a good reputation for honesty. An internet search will provide you information about any controversies regarding specific organizations.
    • Read the news regularly, focusing on news articles and stories about your cause. Make sure to seek out well-known news sources and always read multiple articles to get as full an understanding of the issue as possible.
    • Read existing literature about your cause. If there is a major author writing about something like the food industry or global warming, read the books they put out. Seek out authors with credentials related to your cause. Someone with a PhD in food sciences, for example, is likely to be knowledgeable about the food industry.
  4. Use social media. Oftentimes, being an activist is about engaging with and informing other people. Use social media to your advantage to spread information about your cause.[5]
    • Post news articles relevant to your cause to keep people informed.
    • Encourage people to engage. Post calls for donations or petitions people can sign.
    • Let people know what specific things they can do to help. For example, tell people to call their congressmen and women about an issue and provide a link where people can enter their zip code and find the name of their representative.
  5. See if you can find a professional position as an activist. Being an activist is not always someone's primary career. It may be something you do on the side. However, if you're very committed to a cause, look for ways to make it your career.[2]
    • See if there are positions opened at charities and grassroots organizations you believe in that are relevant to your skills. For example, if you have strong writing and editing skills, see if you can work as a copywriter for a grassroots organization. If you have skills with planning and coordinating events, try to work as a volunteer coordinator.
    • Some places, like hospitals, actually hire community activists to keep the community informed and help enact positive change. Be on the lookout for these types of positions.
  6. Involve friends and family members. Keep people around you informed about issues. You don't have to be preachy or guilt-trip people. However, try to let people in your day-to-day life know what they can do to help.[6]
    • Try to discuss your cause with friends and family members. Talk about what's going on in the news to help people stay informed.
    • Let friends and family members know what they can do to help. If you need volunteers for a fundraising event, for example, recruit people you know to help.

Continuing into the Future

  1. Make activism a part of your everyday life. As you move into the future as an activist, learn the make your cause part of your everyday life. Try to live your values as much as you can and inform others of your cause.[7]
    • Carry literature on your cause wherever you go. Leave things like brochures, pamphlets, and fliers up around town.
    • Wear buttons and stickers advertising your cause. Someone may be inspired to learn more about something if they see you advertising it.
    • Try to live your values. If you're an advocate for animal rights, for example, you can strive to avoid products that are tested on animals.
  2. Think about furthering your education. It can be a good idea to get more education after working as an activist for a number of years. This can allow you to pursue opportunities to grow as an activist and open up new career possibilities.[2]
    • If you're interested in something like healthcare reform, degrees in things like public health can be helpful.
    • Activism often requires changing the system. You can get a degree in something like public policy so you know the ins and outs of how the system works.
    • There also may be degree programs or certifications related to a specific type of activism. See if an organization you volunteer for provides specialized training or certificates to help you get involved.
  3. Think about a career that could help with your cause. You can pursue a career with the goal of using this career as a means to help a cause. For example, get a law degree. As a lawyer, you will be able to legally advocate for your cause.[3]
    • Other career paths can be fueled towards activism. You could go to film school to become a documentary filmmaker or become a teacher to educate others about your cause.[8]


  • Be creative! Activism doesn't have to involve large events. Even if you're working out of your garage you can still make a difference. Bloggers can be activists through their writing, teachers can be activists by encouraging students to challenge their beliefs, artists can leave guerrilla activist art around town, computer-savvy folks can arrange an e-zine, and so on.
  • When working with others, consider the needs of the group. Be willing to compromise on the details, if not on your core values.


  • Be aware of the consequences if you plan to engage in activities of civil disobedience. Carry a lawyer's business card if you believe that you may be arrested. In the USA, the ACLU makes pocket cards for this purpose.

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Sources and Citations