Careers Service Occupations

Development

Development

About

Working in development is a popular option with many graduates. There are a wide range of jobs available, from support staff based in the UK to overseas field work.

Increasingly, organisations are looking to recruit staff to be based in the UK with specific skills and qualifications such as finance, logistics, management, fundraising, engineering and IT to help support their overseas work. For most people this is the most realistic way of entering development work.

For overseas work, development organisations prefer to recruit from the local area or from countries with similar social, economic and cultural values to the people they are trying to help. Opportunities do exist overseas but they require specific skills, experience and evidence of commitment.

Careers advice

Industry news

In addition to developing skills and experience, you need to keep up to date with current issues in international development. Use government and major international aid agency websites, sector magazines, newspapers and books to help with this research. 

The following sites contain sector news:

Professional bodies

These represent people working in the sector, providing training and networking opportunities. They often provide careers support for students and graduates.

They also provide development for people already working in the sector. Follow them on LinkedIn, or visit their websites for news, contacts, work experience and vacancies.

The main professional associations for this sector include:

Find professional bodies outside of the UK on GoinGlobal by selecting ‘Professional and Personal Networking’ on each of the individual country guides. 

Government agencies

Making contacts

Making contacts is essential for success in this sector. The Guardian emphasises this in the article: An insiders guide to getting a job in international development

Many jobs in this field are gained through networking and speculative applications. 

You could start with: 

Events

Recruitment fairs, open days, talks and other sector events give valuable insights and the opportunity to make useful contacts. 

For more events for this sector see our full list of Careers Service events and external events

Related sectors 

You may also be interested in:

For more options see our other Sector-specific Information pages

Roles & Skills

Competition for vacancies in this sector is fierce, so it's important that you research the different roles available to help you develop the relevant skills and experience needed before making an application.

Opportunities exist in within government departments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), charities and emergency aid organisations. 

The Guardian highlights the need to understand the specific area you want to work in the article How to break into international development

The following job profiles include descriptions of typical duties, entry requirements and case studies.

Charity fundraiser 

Charity officer

Economist 

International aid/development worker

Logistics and distribution manager

Town planner

Volunteer co-ordinator/organiser

Other roles

Above are just some of the roles available within development. People working within this sector also work in a wide range of fields including:

  • Administration (eg events coordinator, human resources)
  • Communications (eg communications officer, marketing, information officer) 
  • Education (eg teaching, education advisor)
  • Healthcare (eg family planning, HIV prevention)
  • Management (eg project management, account manager, procurement)
  • Technical (eg water sanitation, land surveyor)

See our other Sector-specific Information pages for role information for these career areas.

Skills employers look for 

Skills required vary according to the specific role but skills most employers in this sector look for include:

  • communication, relationship building and interpersonal skills and cross-cultural sensitivity
  • problem-solving and the ability to operate effectively under pressure
  • project and people management abilities with the drive and determination to achieve results, initiate action and motivate others
  • the ability to manage workload, prioritise tasks and delegate when necessary
  • self-awareness and organisational awareness

Gaining Experience

Gaining work experience with an international development organisation can greatly improve your chances of getting a job. It shows your commitment and motivation and it can also help you build up a valuable network of contacts.

Voluntary work with development agencies is extremely popular and competition is fierce.

Many charities and development organisations don’t offer experience in developing countries, but have opportunities in their UK offices including fundraising, administration, finance and IT roles. All of these roles are vital to these organisations and will still demonstrate your commitment to development work and look good on your CV.

Some charities, development organisations and an increasing number of commercial companies offer work experience in developing countries. It is extremely important that you research the organisation and what the placement will involve.

PEPY Tours' tips  for the responsible traveller includes advice to help you choose a responsible placement.

Opportunities in this sector can often be advertised as volunteering, unpaid, or expenses only. Eligible students can apply for a Career Insights Bursary and receive a bursary of up to £500 to help with costs related to undertaking unpaid experience.

Professional bodies and research councils also advertise opportunities. See About for a list of organisations.

Voluntary opportunities

In the North East

The following organisations have offices and voluntary opportunities in the North East:

  • COCO - volunteering opportunities including marketing and communications, data and finance, and project research
  • Shared Interest - opportunities include translation, data entry, administration, ambassadors and community support
  • Traidcraft - fundraising and events opportunities
  • Oxfam Finance Office - volunteer finance assistant roles 
  • Team Kenya - volunteering opportunities including social media marketing and administration of fundraising events
  • Go Volunteer - search for volunteering locally

UK & worldwide

  • Search for vacancies on My Career
  • United Nations Volunteers - volunteering opportunities for graduates with over two years relevant work experience
  • British Red Cross - 8-12 week voluntary internships
  • UNICEF - offers internships in its New York headquarters and country offices
  • UNICEF UK - offers voluntary opportunities in the UK
  • VSO - run the International Citizen Service programme for people aged 18-35, offering three months’ funded work experience in a developing country
  • MBAs Without Borders - not-for-profit programme which matches experienced  MBA graduates with volunteer assignments in emerging markets around the world
  • University of Sussex Careers Service lists organisations and NGOs providing internships and volunteering opportunities and directories for speculative applications
  • Oxfam - office, shop and events-based opportunities are available in the UK
  • UN Volunteers - online volunteering opportunities, online sustainable human development volunteering through the United Nations
  • W4MP - offers opportunities in a range of roles working for government agencies, charities, pressure groups and think tanks

Finding organisations

Not all jobs are advertised. You could also approach organisations or find work through networking in the industry.

Find organisations that interest you and get in touch, always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for. Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills.

Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen.

Try the following sites to find companies to approach:

In the North East

UK and worldwide

Newcastle University Alumni

Other ways to gain experience 

  • finding a part-time job, eg fundraising, admin, IT or finance. A background in these fields can offer an alternative entry point into development. See our Part-time Jobs section for vacancies
  • joining student societies is another way you can gain relevant work experience.  Newcastle University Students' Union has several societies that campaign and fundraise for humanitarian causes, see their website for a list of societies you could join
  • studying a second language can also help. Languages such as French, Spanish and Portuguese are often requested and knowledge of Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Swahili or other African and Asian languages may be advantageous, depending on the region
  • entering competitions, eg Amnesty International Media Awards includes a student award for students who have had a human rights article published (or a radio/TV piece broadcast) in a recognised student media outlet

Finding Jobs

Competition is strong, especially for entry-level positions. Use the following resources to find advertised vacancies and also research employers for speculative applications.

Professional bodies and research councils also advertise opportunities. See About for a list of organisations.

Vacancy sites 

Graduate schemes and entry level jobs

For more vacancy sources, see the finding jobs sections of Charities and Voluntary Organisations and Government, Politics and Policy.

Find jobs and additional vacancy source websites outside of the UK on GoinGlobal.

Finding organisations

Not all jobs are advertised. You could also approach organisations or find work through networking in the industry.

Find organisations that interest you and get in touch, always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for. Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills.

Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen.

Try the following sites to find companies to approach:

In the North East

UK and worldwide

Newcastle University Alumni

Study & Training

When deciding whether to do a postgraduate qualification, you need to do your research. View job vacancies for the area of development you want to specialise in and see what qualifications and experience employers are looking for.

There are many development courses available but depending on the role, an employer may look for applicants with a more specialised postgraduate qualification, eg logistics, engineering, PGCE. 

A Master's in Development will still, however, demonstrate your interest in this sector and provide you with further relevant knowledge and skills. Some development courses also include practical experience and the opportunity to build up a network of contacts.  

If you decide to take a postgraduate qualification, you could investigate doing your dissertation/research with a development organisation, as this could help you to establish a strong working relationship.

Most vacancies in this sector require relevant field experience so you might want to consider whether it would be more beneficial for you to gain experience before or after further study.

For further information on postgraduate study and funding, see our further study section.

Additionally, the Development Studies Association offers study groups where you can link up with members who care about the same development topics as you. 

Researching development courses 

  • RedR - international NGO that runs a range of courses
  • BOND - runs training and events