This e-learning program offers a complete competency-based curriculum that prepares both aspiring humanitarians and those who are already working in the sector for the challenges they will face in the field.

Designed and taught by experts from around the world, Humanitarian U’s Core Program combines academic rigor, evidence-based practice, standardized learning objectives and content that is globally recognized as “core” to all humanitarians. This professional training program streamlines the essential competencies that every humanitarian must achieve

Who is this course intended for

  • Students
  • Humanitarian practitioners
  • Professionals from all disciplines


Core Professional Humanitarian Training Certificate of Competency

Program Leaders

  • Dr. Kirsten Johnson
  • Dr. Peter Walker
  • Dr. Hilarie Cranmer
  • Dr. Miriam Aschkenasy
  • Mr. Will Plowright
Time required
6+ hours per course
Number of modules per course
per course

Our courses Core Professional Humanitarian Training Program

Once you have completed one of the courses below you can test your knowledge and get certified for $50. To successfully obtain your certificate you must receive a score of 80% or higher. Please note you only have ONE attempt.


Course 1

Humanitarian Context, Systems and Standards

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Course 1 sets the scene for humanitarian action, providing a portrait of the contemporary humanitarian environment while highlighting the complexity and diversity of humanitarian contexts and response. Course 1 explores the Humanitarian Context, Humanitarian System, Humanitarian Actors and Humanitarian Principles and Standards. As we delve deeper into these 4 areas, you will get a fascinating insight into the workings as well as the huge challenges associated with humanitarian action.

Course 2

Building Blocks for Humanitarian Practice

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Course 2 introduces the values, ethics and principles that underpin humanitarian action. It provides an overview of the bodies of law that inform humanitarian response including international humanitarian law, human rights law, refugee law, and international disaster response law. In Course 2 you will also learn about the Project Cycle – the life of a humanitarian project. We will answer questions such as: how do we decide where to run a humanitarian project?

What tools and methods of data-gathering can we use to assess these projects? And finally, how do we ensure our projects are successful? From this Course, you will come to understand how projects are financed, how they are run, and what it means to be a successful leader in a humanitarian context.

Throughout this course, you will learn to a much greater extent what the legal basis is of humanitarianism, as well as how we can lead effective and successful humanitarian projects that service beneficiaries when disaster strikes.

Course 3

Cross-cutting Themes and Future Directions

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Course 3 addresses important trends and cross-cutting issues that must be considered in all humanitarian operations. A cross-cutting issue is an issue that is of relevance to all areas of concern meaning that these need to be kept at the forefront of how humanitarians think in the field. The cross-cutting issues that we will examine in Course 3 include gender, disability, environment, protection, HIV/AIDS and DRR (disaster risk reduction).

Trends in humanitarian technology including the innovations that change and impact the way humanitarians do their work through crowd-sourcing and GPS-mapping to name a few will also be covered in this cutting edge Course.

Humanitarians must work in incredibly insecure environments and as such security must play an important part in training and preparation for deployment. Course 3 covers security in the field – both pre-departure and on-site and includes risk assessments, what to do in specific situations and how to come home safe. Finally Course 3 offers a portrait of the emerging trends in humanitarianism touching on demographic shifts, climate change, the global burden of disease and the changing nature of conflict.

Course 4

Case Study

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Students will have the opportunity to apply the knowledge and core competencies they have acquired in an online simulated humanitarian emergency. They will become familiar with the technical sectors as they respond to the simulated natural disaster. Students will apply their skills in a rapid needs assessment, summarizing their findings and will produce deliverables for funding agencies.

This course is about how to practice what you have learned in the other courses of this program and, if you have been in the field already then it will give you the chance to apply the knowledge and skills you have gained in humanitarian action. Course 4 starts in the early hours of a complex emergency and guides you through an initial assessment of the affected population. You will encounter the UN Cluster system and issues pertaining to logistics and leadership. Each technical sector: nutrition, food, livelihoods, shelter, health, water and sanitation and the cross-cutting issues will be addressed in the context of the emergency.

Course 4 will help you to understand the fundamentals of response, familiarize you with some of the common tools of assessment, as well as understand how critical your information is towards directing the necessary resources including funding so as to help those most affected by crises.