How to get started in International Development

With over 700 million people in the world living in abject poverty, the need to improve people's way of life presents endless opportunities.

With over 700 million people in the world living in abject poverty, the need to improve people’s way of life presents endless opportunities. A massive population in developing countries struggles to get proper healthcare, food, education, and infrastructure. Children and women in developing countries are the most vulnerable victims of violence, sexual abuse, and child labor. Deriving solutions to these issues is the heart of International Development.

What is International Development?

International Development focuses on improving the lives of people in economically disadvantaged regions by providing the support they need to achieve equitable lives. Governments struggle to provide employment, quality health care, better infrastructure and housing, education, and food in developing countries. The poor living standards and unemployment among young people result in social vices like violence, robbery, and rape.

International Development seeks to remediate these issues by supporting developing economies to stability. International Development organizations range from charities, government departments, and various United Nations bodies like the UNICEF, UNIDO, and World Health Organization.

Jobs in International Development

Careers in International Development are diverse. From research to technical support, it all boils down to your area of specialization, experience, and qualifications. With a rise in the number of professionals competing for the roles, your qualifications will give you more opportunities. Depending on your interests, you can choose areas like gender, food security, education, governance, human rights, environment, health, and much more.

However, the real task is getting started. Below are tips to help you start a career in International Development.

Be Clear On What You Want

This is the first step towards building a career in International Development. Are you looking to work within your country or overseas? What specific area in International Development do you want to work in? This can be gender, human rights, forced immigration, etc. Once you have a clear idea of what you want to do, you can narrow down the skills required. Research various International Development organizations and the skills required. Narrowing your interests and skills will give you an advantage when applying for jobs.

Education Requirements

While most voluntary jobs might not require educational qualifications, such opportunities are slowly diminishing since the local staff is taking up those roles. With in-demand professions like engineering and other technical roles, you will need basic educational qualifications and experience. This can be a degree or a certificate from a recognized institution in specific fields. Also, there are senior management positions that might require master’s degrees.

Does your current education background fit the jobs? If not, you might look for short courses to add to your CV. However, be sure to add experience, as education is not everything.

Placements and Internships

As discussed earlier, experience triumphs education. You will need to look out for placement and internships within the International Development organizations even when they are not paying or are offering little pay. This is a crucial way to gain much-needed experience.

You can also be a volunteer in these organizations. Volunteering experience on your CV is essential as it demonstrates your interest in the career and willingness to learn. Having a great combination of academic qualifications, experience, and volunteering puts you at an advantage when there are job openings.


Developing professional contacts and interacting with key players in International Development will help you learn, build meaningful relationships and expose your skillset. Be ready to attend various International Development organization charities, meetings, events and ask questions. Networking is a great way to get ahead of the rest of people when opportunities come by.

Consider Alternatives

While most people are focused on NGOs, you can consider alternatives like government departments overseas. This is also a great way to build on your CV and have the right experience.

Be Flexible

Sometimes getting the exact desired positions can be difficult. Grabbing the available opportunities might be the door you need to your dream job. Being flexible allows you to discover and learn different roles. In most cases, careers take people in different ways before arriving at the desired career choice.

Invest in Core Skills

Invest in core skills that come in handy in most International Development jobs. This can be problem-solving skills, negotiation skills, cultural skills, financial implementation, and sound projects. Such skills will give you an upper hand when applying for the job.


There are endless opportunities in International Development. Although the careers are highly competitive, you stand a better chance with a proper skill set and experience. Since you will mostly work in unfamiliar surroundings, you will need to brace yourself for change. Despite the demands, you will find it worthwhile because service to humanity is fulfilling and rewarding.


Be your own champion!

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