Skip to Content | Skip to Search | Skip to Navigation

International Development

Employers | Online Resources & Networking

Careers in International Development

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 Paths

College graduates who are interested in exploring the field may seek entry-level positions in a NGO with a development mission or in a development consulting firm. Such a position will likely involve administrative support (backstopping) in the US headquarters. Opportunities for international travel and experience are likely to be very limited. Graduates with a strong commitment to a career in development are well-advised to consider enrolling in the Peace Corps or to seek other extensive overseas experience in a developing country for at least two years before entering graduate school. International experience will provide context for graduate study and for discussion with prospective employers upon graduation. 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. The field is characterized by fluidity and high travel demands. 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.

Qualifications Necessary to Enter the Field

A graduate degree is essential to pursue a career in international development. A master’s program with a strong applied curriculum is valuable. Sound training in economics and public administration, including policy monitoring and evaluation may be broadly applied. Also given the interdisciplinary nature of the field, joint degrees or consecutive training in related disciplines, (i.e. law and economics or health and economic) are strong credentials.

In addition to graduate training, employers seek fluency in at least two languages. As mentioned above, experience in one or more developing countries is important. Graduate students are advised to expand their international experience during the summer between the first and second year of their program through an internship. UN agencies, multi-lateral development banks, government agencies and NGOs all offer such opportunities.

Potential Employers

Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs):

United States Government:

Development Consulting Firms:

Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs):

Foundations, Policy Institutes:

Online Resources

  • TOP RESOURCE - Peace & Collaborative Development Network'sGuide to Careers in International Affairs - Includes a Review of Top Job Sites
  • Seven Tips for Working in International Development (article)
  • ASPA - - The American Society for Public Administration lists public administration jobs and internships in the public, non-profit and private sectors searchable by state.
  • Avue Central - - Avue Central is a federal employment service to find and apply for federal jobs and internships.
  • AWID - - The Association for Women's Rights in Development is an international organization committed to achieving gender equality, sustainable development and women's human rights. The website features job listings around the world in these fields.
  • Directory of Development Orgs - - Online directory of development organizations which contains over 47,500 listings by country and is a reference for development practitioners, researchers, donor employees, and policymakers.
  • Development Net - - is a gateway to job listings in international development, environment, information technology for development, relief and reconstruction, and consultancy assignments.
  • FPA - - The Foreign Policy Association provides job and internship listings on its website and in a weekly email newsletter from industries such as development, health, environment, education, humanitarian relief and more.
  • Idealist - - is a project of Action without Borders and contains job and internship listings in economic development, social services, human rights, environment and more. Users can search for jobs by country, state and city.
  • InterAction - - InterAction is an alliance of international development and humanitarian nongovernmental organizations.
  • ICEW - - International Career Employment Weekly identifies international development jobs and internships in all sectors of the market around the world.
  • The Microfinance Gateway - Source of information and global jobs and internships in microfinance
  • - is run by the Community Career Center, an on-line gathering place for non-profit employers and management personnel; the site allows users to search for non-profit jobs and internships regionally in the US and internationally.
  • OneWorld - - OneWorld International Foundation offers job and internship listings at non-profit and international organizations dedicated to harnessing the democratic potential of the Internet to promote human rights and sustainable development.
  • Peace and Collaborative Development
  • Philanthropy Jobs - Lists US based non-profit jobs in fields such as economic development, education, healthcare and social services.
  • US Dept Of State - - Website for the US Department of State lists the categories of State department employees and how to apply for these positions.
  • USAID - - features a list of vacancies and internships at the organization.