The future of international development
The world is changing and the international development landscape is changing with it.
In a 2014 DevEx survey on The Future of Global Development, nearly 1,000 senior development professionals from across six continents were asked for their expectations.
- new sources of funding from emerging donors such as oil-rich middle eastern countries and the private sector
- new alliances and partnerships between governments, philanthropists and the private sector
- a growing appetite for innovation
- a stronger lead from the developing countries themselves, rather than from external organisations or governments
All of this could have a significant impact on the types of employers and jobs available in the future – perhaps creating opportunities for innovative start-up companies or increasing the number and range of sustainability roles within large corporations.
Useful websites to find out more are:
- Eldis – up-to-date and relevant research on international development issues
- Bond – news, views, resources and jobs
- World Service Enquiry – information about careers in international development and aid.
Finding work experience
Relevant work experience is vital, and much of that will be obtained through unpaid volunteering, either during or immediately after your degree.
There are a number of approaches you could take:
- Some of the larger NGOs offer more formal volunteer internships, including Oxfam and the Red Cross.
Charity Job - search for volunteer internships
- There are a number of organisations that will help you to find overseas field experience, although most of these will involve some degree of self-funding. Take a look at:
International Citizen Service (ICS)
- Student or youth-led organisations offer an opportunity to explore and discuss development issues and to campaign for change. Examples include:
- If you have contacts through friends or family, you could travel to a particular country of interest and approach local NGOs once you get there.
- Look for work experience in a UK based NGOs head office. This will be helpful if you have an interest in policy jobs, and might lead to an overseas secondment if you make the most of this networking opportunity
- Search the jobs databases listed at the bottom of this page for volunteering opportunities and internships
- Register for the UN Volunteers online course and look for opportunities to use your skills.
Finding a job
This is a very competitive sector and unless you have a specific technical skill that is crucial to a particular project, you will need some relevant experience, ideally overseas prior to making applications.
See our work experience section for further advice.
In addition to practical experience, successful candidates often have either a social science or relevant vocational degree. It is possible to enter the profession without a masters qualification, but in some roles such as policy and research, it is likely to be a requirement.
International organisations such as the United Nations run a range of prestigious development-related programmes and internships.
Many of them include a masters or PhD in their entry requirements.
Most roles within research organisations and think tanks will require a masters or PhD qualification and some previous research experience.
Policy and research roles commonly require a masters or PhD-level qualification, ideally combined with practical experience.
It is essential that you are good with people. You are likely to change project team, employer, country, etc. regularly throughout your career and you must be able to adapt to your surroundings and communicate with those around you.
Self-sufficiency, problem solving and effective decision making are important, as is the ability to learn a new language.
Typical international development employers can be divided into five broad categories:
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
NGOs are the main entry route into the sector.
Don't just focus on the big names as they are inundated with applications, and successful candidates will often have two or three years' experience already.
Take the time to investigate the thousands of smaller organisations that may be recruiting.
Check out: BOND, NGO Voice, WANGO and RedR-UK.
These organisations are globally recognisable and offer prestigious opportunities to a small number of exceptional candidates – mainly those with masters or PhD qualifications and relevant work experience.
There may be some entry-level roles in their local or regional offices, but it can be difficult to move from there to the formal programmes.
Check out: United Nations Development Programme, International Development Assocation and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
National goverment agencies
Graduate schemes are likely to be open to nationals only – see their eligibility criteria.
Entry onto these programmes is highly competitive.
Check out: Department for International Development.
Research organisations and think tanks
Most roles will require a masters or PhD qualification and some previous research experience.
Check out: Institute of Development Studies, Overseas Development Institute and Development Studies Assocation.
Entry-level roles are likely to be at intern or volunteer level, as consultant roles will require significant experience in a specialist area.
Check out: Triple Pundit's list of consultancies