International Development Field Guide

Overview

The goal of international development is to alleviate poverty among the citizens of developing countries. Strategies for improvement include investment in the economic, political and social arenas. Economic development ranges from the creation of sound macro-economic and fiscal policy to the fostering of small- medium enterprise to the introduction or expansion of microfinance. It also involves identifying and creating the necessary infrastructure, energy, transportation, and sanitation for economic growth. Political development focuses on the creation and fostering of good governance, including transparent financial systems, an independent judiciary and the active participation of civil society. Social development focuses on the improvement of health, education and the social safety net. Each of the areas is interrelated and interdependent. International development is literally a global topic and professionally a highly multidisciplinary field.

Career Opportunities

Candidates with a master’s degree may consider employment in government agencies of their home country, multilateral donor organizations, or with the implementing partners in the non-profit and private sectors. Foundations and policy institutes that conduct research and advocacy to influence development policy are also potential employers. A significant proportion of development professionals will work in at least two of the three sectors, public, private and not-for-profit over the course of their careers. Competition for positions in the leading IGOs is fierce, as these organizations seek and recruit qualified candidates world-wide. Selection may require choosing one among several hundred qualified applicants and commonly takes 6-9 months to complete.

Types of Jobs

  • Project or program manager
  • Policy and research
  • Field officer
  • Grants and fundraising
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Accounting
  • Administration

Qualifications + Skills

  • Quantitative analysis
  • Strong written and oral communication skills
  • Foreign language proficiency
  • Understanding of economics
  • Field-specific volunteer or internship experience
  • International experience

PRO TIP: Well-known organizations report that they can receive hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants for entry-level roles, while smaller organizations may only receive a few dozen, so your chances of standing out may be higher. Do your research and cast a wide net!

Sample Employers

  • Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs): African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, International Finance Corporation, International Monetary Fund, The World Bank, United Nations, UNICEF, World Food Programme
  • United States Government: Federal Reserve, Department of Energy, Department of State, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United States Treasury - International Division
  • Development Consulting Firms: Abt Associates, Inc., Chemonics, Development Alternatives, Inc., Environmental Resources Management, John Snow International, Inc., The Pragma Corporation
  • Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs): African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, International Finance Corporation, International Monetary Fund, The World Bank, United Nations, UNICEF, World Food Programme
  • United States Government: Federal Reserve, Department of Energy, Department of State, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United States Treasury - International Division
  • Development Consulting Firms: Abt Associates, Inc., Chemonics, Development Alternatives, Inc., Environmental Resources Management, John Snow International, Inc., The Pragma Corporation

Sample Maxwell Classes

  • Policy and Administration in Developing Countries
  • Economics of Development
  • Development Finance
  • Managing NGOs in Transitional and Developing Countries
  • Health and Development
  • Humanitarian Action: Challenges, Responses and Results
  • UN Organizations: Managing for Change

Resources

  • The Association for Women’s Rights in Development
  • DevNet
  • Devex
  • InterAction
  • OneWorld
  • Philanthropy Jobs
  • USAID

Related Career Guides

  • United Nations
  • Economic Development
  • Humanitarian Aid and Relief
>> Download a printable, PDF version of the International Development Career Field Guide.