Saturday, 1 December 2012

Getting into an International Development Career

Do you want a career in International Development?

Careers in International Development are difficult to get into, especially if your degree is not in a related sector.  Due to the high number of people wanting to work in this field, the international development sector is extremely competitive. We have put together some basic tips on how to enter the international development sector.

Why do you want to go into an International Development career? 

Firstly, think about why you want to go into this line of work. People sometimes go into international development for the wrong (and often selfish) reasons. If you want to be seen to be a 'do-gooder', this may not be the career for you! Often, in international development, you have to make tough decisions that don't always present you in a positive light. But you need to make decisions based on political, cultural, economic and social factors. You know that sometimes decisions made won't benefit everyone, but may be the best in the longrun. You also have to be prepared to work within governmental or NGO's guidelines.  If you want to see things in the bigger picture and take on challenging goals in new environments, this career may be for you!

Develop a Long Term Mindset

Move from the short term to the long term mind-set - it is important to see the bigger picture of development including political and economic constraints. You will need to show that you look at long term solutions such as working with organisations and governments, rather than just giving handouts.You will develop a long-term mindset through further study and experience outlined below.

Postgraduate Study

Unfortunately, an undergraduate degree is just not enough these days, especially with the amount of competition to go into the international development sector. There are many MA degrees out there that can help you to move into the international development field. Some of the best International Relations courses that we have found at Leeds University. Manchester University have some highly regarded courses, such as the MA in South Asian Studies.  There are also many excellent Postgraduate Courses at SOAS relating to International development, as well as country specific courses and language courses.


Being interested is not enough in the field of International Development. If you are serious about going into this sector, you should consider volunteering with an NGO, social enterprise or government agency.

Work in a Developing Country

Demonstrate that you have worked in a developing country – Do you have the skills to work in international development long term? You can only really show this if you have completed an international development project abroad. There are many popular organisations out there that facilitate programmes and projects in developing countries. Kigali Crafts provides some great opportunities in Rwanda. We also recommend GVN for worldwide opportunities.  There are also some great opportunities with ICS on the Restless Development projects suitable for young people wanting to work in a developing country.

Learn a language

One language is often not enough! The UN, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and DFID, as well as many large companies and NGO’s usually require English, another European language (such as French or Spanish) and an international language related to your area (Such as Hindi or Swahili).

Whats your story?

Are you looking to go into an international development career?  Or maybe you work in the sector and want to share with us how you got into this career?  We want to hear your story, so do comment on our blog.

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