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International Development is about helping to empower people to improve their health and wellbeing and eradicate extreme poverty. Organisations working in this sector are involved in long-term sustainable solutions, or provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief, or both. As well as front line work, international development needs staff in a range of support functions, so you should investigate the different roles, and explore your own skills and motivation for applying to this sector.
Find out about international development
Research the sector and keep up with current issues by reading:
- Investigate the range of organisations involved in development work including:
- Government organisations such as FCDO
- Intergovernmental/multi-lateral organisations such as the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Health Organisation (WHO), World Food Programme (WFP);
- NGOs such as Oxfam, Christian Aid, Save the Children, World Vision, Water Aid, Islamic Relief, CAFOD, ICRC
- Academic/research institutes such as Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs)
- Private sector consultants such as Crown Agents, Cargill, Palladium, Mott MacDonald
- Investigate the range of functions in these organisations:
- specialist and technical functions
- campaigning and communications
- fundraising, admin and HR
- Find more information and advice from:
- British Overseas NGOs for Development (BOND), the UK’s broadest network of NGOs working in international development
- World Service Enquiry provides independent information and career advice (charges apply) to people who want to volunteer or work in international development
- Development Studies Association offers student membership
- UN careers website for lots of profiles, and careers e-library for jobs in range of areas including economics, law, information management, human rights, logistics, aviation specialists, cartography. The UN is a family of 30+ organisations, with separate mandates and recruitment practices; specialists may find a role in specific organisations eg public health workers in UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO. UN areas of work are informed by 17 sustainable development goals agreed in 2015 for the next 15 years.
What skills do I need?
A career in this sector is likely to require specialist skills or technical knowledge, as well as soft skills and personal qualities:
Subject specific skills may include:
- medical, public health
- finance / economics
- environmental technology
- project management
Personal skills include:
- cultural awareness
- a readiness to learn
In addition you are likely to need relevant experience, and should be prepared to build up practical experience after your degree.
To secure a job in international development, you will need relevant experience, gained through volunteering and/or paid work. You should start building your experience as early as possible (see the @ York section for further suggestions) - as well as helping with skills development, this will demonstrate your commitment and motivation.
The following may help with volunteering projects and internships:
International development is a competitive sector with few entry-level opportunities; many applicants have a postgraduate qualification as well as experience in the field, and it can be helpful to get experience in the business or private sector before looking for a job in international development. An administrative job in an NGO's head office could allow you to get a good understanding of the organisation, as well as skills such as fundraising or communications. You may find you need to be flexible and make some sideways moves before getting your ideal job.
Jobs in international development
What can I do at York?
Here are some suggestions for things you can do at York to increase your understanding and experience before applying for work in this sector:
- Use York profiles and mentors to find out about graduates working in the sector (search charity and voluntary) - you can ask questions and even request a mentor
- Join the International Development society
- Get involved in other societies to develop your skills in organisation, events organisation, writing, campaigning and budget management
- Volunteer in a school or community project
- Learn a language – language skills are important, especially French, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic, and demonstrate your commitment to intercultural work. Check Languages for All to see what courses are available
- Consider taking the Transcultural communication module offered by the Centre for Lifelong Learning
- Take the opportunities university offers to get to know students from other countries and cultures.
More resources: networks, podcasts and blogs
Networks and accounts to follow
Find out more about the sector from these multimedia resources.
Connect with York graduates on York Profiles and Mentors
Find the full list of graduate profiles on York Profiles and Mentors
Social media accounts
- Blood and milk - opinion, advice and resources from an international development professional