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Want to Change the World? Learn How to Drive Global Growth with a Career in International Development


International development is an expansive sector with a huge variety of exciting jobs. Put simply, it’s centered on the practice of empowering people in economically disadvantaged areas around the world to improve their quality of life.

Individuals and organizations who work in this field aim to implement long-term, sustainable solutions to problems by collaborating with developing countries. Graduates can go on to work in organizations that deal with governance, healthcare, education, infrastructure, economics, human rights, conflict, forced migration, security, the environment and many other areas.

Significant changes are currently influencing the field of international development. In the words of Manuel Muñiz, Dean of the IE School of Global and Public Affairs, “In recent years, we have witnessed a growing questioning of the international architecture built since the end of WWII. This process has taken the form of a deep political convulsion, with a return to nationalist politics around the world as well as the increasing questioning of multilateralism, international law, and human rights.” Amidst this global upheaval, it is more necessary than ever to have professionals trained in international development who are working toward positive change.

The Master in International Development, jointly designed and implemented by the IE School of Global and Public Affairs and the prestigious United Nations System Staff College (UNSCC), provides world-class training in the field of sustainable development. The degree will not only expand on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but will also train individuals to understand the complex world around them and have a positive impact on the societies they inhabit.


What kinds of organizations can graduates work for?


Here are just a few examples of the types of organizations that are looking to hire skilled international development graduates:

Governmental organizations

Each country has its own national program devoted to international development, which works to strategize and implement the policies of the national government. Some examples include the US Department of State, US Agency for International Development and UK Department of International Development.

Intergovernmental organizations and multilateral agencies

These organizations provide policy advice, financing, and technical assistance to developing countries. For instance, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

These organizations may focus on one concern in particular, from agriculture and water sanitation to education and HIV/AIDS. Some examples are Oxfam, World Vision, Save the Children, Islamic Relief, Christian Aid and WaterAid.

Academic organizations/research institutes

These groups conduct research, study development and international issues, and write reports on these topics. Their findings often form the basis of discussions around the world. This category includes the Center for Global Development, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the Royal Institute of International Affairs.


These consultancies provide the knowledge and expertise to help their clients decide how to implement a project or invest in a country. Some notable examples are DAI, KPMG and McKinsey.



What topic areas can graduates focus on?


Democracy and governance: This area deals with developing infrastructure and governance.


Health: This involves the development of medical and social solutions for sanitation, water, and population issues.


Education and women’s empowerment: These focus on improving access to education and women’s rights around the world.


Sustainability: This is an increasingly important field that affects a wide range of sectors, from natural resource management and climate change mitigation to water and agriculture.


Economic development: Topics in this area range from microfinance to trade and investment.


Agriculture: This field addresses the issues surrounding sustainability, traditional practices, and GMOs.


What kinds of careers can graduates pursue?

There is a huge variety of jobs for those interested in pursuing a career in international development. Roles generally fall into the following categories:

 Policy/advisory: Professionals involved with the research, evaluation and development of policy recommendations.

Practitioner: A project manager or team member involved with the implementation of policy in the field.

Advocacy/outreach: Individuals who deal with fundraising, media, press and communications, lobbying and campaigning.

Support: Assisting with the implementation of solutions using logistical, IT, HR and financial expertise.


An international development graduate might go on to become the Project Management Specialist for the Bureau of Asia, a Health Science Specialist for the Bureau for Global Health, a Field Project Coordinator in the Congo or a Senior Associate in Growth Strategy and Development in Hong Kong—among many other possibilities!

Whatever path you decide to take in international development, you’ll have the chance to embark on a meaningful career that will allow you to drive change around the world. This will often mean spending time in developing countries—unfamiliar environments with their own unique cultures and history. Being adaptable and open, as well as resilient and humble, are key to developing a successful career in this field.