International development aims to promote economic and human development in developing countries by addressing causes and effects of poverty and implementing long-term solutions to these problems. This is achieved by working with countries to help them create the capacity needed to provide sustainable solutions. For many organisations this often sits alongside responding to emergencies by providing, or funding, disaster relief and humanitarian aid (known as International Aid).

There are a wide range of employment opportunities in this sector. Jobs might involve working in policy development, governance, healthcare, education, disaster preparedness, infrastructure, human rights, security, conflict, the environment, donor relations or even delivering aid on the ground.

Types of roles

Advocacy – involves running campaigns and developing strategies to influence organisations and individuals to effect change and promote an organisation’s goals.

Communications –involves deciding how to present key messages and information to internal and external audiences.

Consultant – consultancy firms implement development projects on behalf of clients, such as aid donors and multilateral organisations. The work can range from preparing bid documents for tenders to developing policy and delivering projects on the ground for clients. Consultancy projects often span multiple regions and focus on diverse development areas, including economic growth, gender, governance, security and justice. Projects can be complex and situated in challenging environments.

Fundraising – work can range from putting together bids for grants from donor organisations, to marketing to individuals and event organisation. This function has a comparatively large number of vacancies compared to other roles. Found mainly in NGOs.

Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning – roles involve conducting research into programme effectiveness and impact. Mande is a good source of information.

Policy & research – roles involve researching development issues and formulating policies. Most often to be found in NGOs, government departments, multilaterals, think tanks and academia.

Technical specialists – such as medical professionals, engineers and accountants. Often to be found in humanitarian (emergency relief) work. Relief web is a good resource.

Corporate functions (HR, IT, Finance) – ensure organisations are governed efficiently. It is not unusual to gain experience of these roles in other sectors and then transfer across.

Types of organisations

NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) – make  up the largest sub sector. Organisations include: Oxfam, Save the Children, Christian Aid, CAFOD, Islamic Relief, World Vision, WaterAid and Tearfund.

Development Consultancies – bid for work from government donor agencies such as DFID (Department for International Development) and international organisations such as the World Bank. There are a mix of specialist consultancies, such as IMC and Dalberg, and large management consultancies such as PwC.

International Organisations – include multilateral organisations such as UNICEF, UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) and development banks such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Foundations – include  organisations such as The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. These are philanthropic organisations which donate bursaries, fund projects and, in some cases, deliver support on the ground.

Government Aid Agencies – such as USAID, DFID and GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zesammenarbeit). Work is often policy based, with consulting firms frequently used to implement and deliver projects.

Social Enterprises –typically small organisations run on private sector models but designed with a social purpose in mind.

Academia– many universities around the world teach and research international development. A PhD is required in most cases. Devstud is a useful resource.

Think Tanks – are small organisations involved in research and policy work. Entry is usually with a Master’s.

Entry routes

There are rarely any graduate training schemes available in this area so it is necessary to undertake a proactive and direct approach to job hunting. This means applying to advertised jobs on industry specific websites such as Devex, as well as networking with new or existing contacts in the sector. Networking is crucial! LinkedIn is a great place to start – you may find other Kent alumni working in the sector to connect with. Try to also engage with organisations that you’d like to work for. There is no guaranteed career structure in this sector so you’ll need to be prepared to carve out your own path and research opportunities.

Many entrants to the sector start off by volunteering or undertaking internships and then progressing to permanent positions. It’s a great idea to gain some work experience by volunteering during your time at university. You could also get involved in a student society or charity that focuses on development.

Further information

Listen to Kent alumni, working in multi-lateral organisations such as the UN, NATO and the European Commission, discuss how they have succeeded in their careers in international relations and development.

Resources and Job Sites

Bond – charity and NGO jobs

Charity People – advertise jobs with NGOs, charities and arts, health, education, public sector and social care organisations

Charityjob – Not-for-profit jobs in the UK

Devex – US site with global jobs and articles

Devnet – 100s of global development jobs

DOCON Directory of Consulting Firms – extensive country listing of consulting firms

Eldis – excellent resource with sector information and a job search – jobs in academia and research institutes, UK and global positions.

Net Impact – networking website for graduates interested in working in CSR and development.

The Guardian job website – regularly posts vacancies in this sector

UN jobs – UN careers portal