International Development Management

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Description of the Field

The field of international development focuses on activities related to development assistance—providing capital, training and technical assistance to governments, small businesses and cooperatives, nonprofits/NGOs, communities, voluntary and self-help groups, and individuals—to support economic growth, political development, public service, and ultimately improve quality of life.

The range of activities involved in international development management is vast, including training, both children and adults; supporting health services; managing infrastructure projects; managing contracts and administering grants and loans; and facilitating economic development. The work is carried out through technical and financial assistance programs and projects, including teams of technical and management experts on short-term consulting assignments, on-site field workers who provide technical, analytical, and managerial support in national, regional and/or central offices, and home office policy management, and technical support (e.g. in Washington, New York, or Geneva).

Experience is critical to landing a job in development. Most employers agree with the rule that overseas development experience or an internship with a local development organization will provide a chance to acquire valuable technical skills and knowledge about the field. Courses specific to international development should supplement a degree in public policy or public administration.

Typical Entry Level Positions and Salaries

For a graduate with overseas experience (on a paid or volunteer basis), and/or technical skills in fields such as computers, environmental analysis, farming, grant writing, lending, nursing or teaching, a starting position might be as assistant program officer, program evaluator in the home office, assistant project director or consultant in the field. Salaries range from the lower $30,000s to lower $40,000s, depending on level of experience and the organization.

A graduate with weak technical skills and little or no professional and/or overseas experience might start as a research assistant or project assistant in the home office or as a volunteer supporting professionals in the field. Another possibility is to travel to developing countries and approach those agencies or NGOs working there. This is a great way to gain invaluable in-country experience, but is very risky. These positions are essentially apprenticeships, with salaries determined by the local market and economic situation. Typically, the positions pay in the low to mid $30,000 range and are subject to exchange rate fluctuations.

The World Bank, African and Asian Development Bank and other international organizations typically hire researchers for analysis and evaluation of projects and multinational managerial and technical personnel for implementation of contracted projects. These positions usually require several years of experience in the field and an advanced degree. Some universities also consult on development projects like the Consortium for International Development. Other institutions have a partial focus on development, including research institutions such as the Brookings Institution, foundations such as Ford and the Center for Global Development (CGD), and organizations such as the Council on Foreign Affairs and the Institute for Public Administration. Most will start their careers in a private consulting firm or international NGO, often implementing government or donor programs and projects.

Recommended Qualifications to Enter the Field

  • Overseas development experience is essential
  • Experience on cross-cultural training/adult training
  • Strong presentation skills
  • Foreign language proficiency helps
  • Flexibility & ability to work with limited resources
  • Strong analytical and research ability
  • Clear and concise writing style appropriate for technical and/or non-technical audiences
  • Academic focus on such areas as political development, environment, agriculture, health or economics with technical skills helpful

Some Suggested Skills to Acquire in class or internships

  • Advanced Internet Research
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Cross-Cultural Communication
  • Grant Proposal Writing
  • Nonprofit Management
  • Micro Enterprise Lending
  • Post-Conflict Reconstruction
  • Program and U.S. Contract Management

Sample Group of Employers

Employers in development can be divided into several general, though overlapping, categories:

International Development/Human Rights

ActionAid USA
The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Alta Gracia
Atlas Corps
The Bretton Woods Committee
Cardno Emerging Markets
The Clinton Global Initiative
Counterpart International
The Connect U.S. Fund
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
The Eurasia Foundation (EF)
The German Marshall Fund (GMF)
Global Impact
Global Knowledge Initiative
Global Leadership Network
Human Rights Campaign
International Executive Service Corps (IESC)
Inter-American Dialogue
The International Council on Clean Transportation
International Economic Development Council (IEDC)
IREX -- International Education Organization
J Street
Management Systems International
Office of Human Rights
Open Society Foundations (OSF)
Population Action International (PAI)
Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights
Save the Children
Sister Cities International
SNV -- Dutch International Development Organization
Society for International Development
Weidemann Associates, Inc.
Winrock International

International Organizations

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) –
International Monetary Fund (IMF) –
UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) –
Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) –
International Labour Organization (ILO) –
International Organization for Migration (IOM) –
Organization of American States (OAS) -
UN Development Programme (UNDP) –
UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) –
UN Environmental Program (UNEP) –
UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) –
UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) –
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) –
World Health Organization (WHO) –
World Bank Group, The–

Bilateral or Governmental Agencies

US African Development Foundation –
Inter-American Foundation –
International Republican Institute (IRI) –
National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) –
Peace Corps –
U.S. Department of State –
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) –
U.S. Department for Agriculture (USDA), Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) –
U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) –

Private Voluntary Organizations

Academy for Educational Development (AED) –
Africare –
Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas –
The Asia Foundation –
Carter Center –
Catholic Relief Services –
Counterpart –
Food First –
Habitat for Humanity –
Heifer Project International –
International Executive Service Corps –
International Voluntary Services –
International Youth Foundation –
Land O’ Lakes –
Microfinance International Corp. –
Mercy Corps –
Oxfam America –
Pact –
Partners of the Americas –
Save the Children –
Technoserve –
United Methodist Committee on Relief –
Urban Institute –
Winrock International –
Women’s World Banking –
World Learning –

For-Profit Development Consulting Firms

ABT Associates –
Arthur D. Little –
Associates in Rural Development –
Chemonics International, Inc. –
Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI) –
John Snow, Inc. –
Management Sciences for Health –
Management Systems International (MSI) –
RTI International –
Sibley International –

Resources for More Information

Career Resources


  • Alternatives to the Peace Corps: A Directory of Third World & U.S. Volunteer Opportunities, edited by Becky Buell, Victoria Clarke and Susan Leone
  • International Environmental Jobs Bulletins – Listing of publications with international vacancies at all levels
  • “Monday Developments” – Lists international employment opportunities as well as seminars, conferences, meetings and workshops on international development issues, published by InterAction.
  • “Working for Change: Making a Career in International Public Service” – written by Drs. Derick W. and Jennifer M. Brinkerhoff. Explores career paths in international public service, focusing on development management positions, and uses real-life success stories to illustrate. Includes extensive list of organizations and resources.

Networks and Groups

  • OneWorld – - Where the good guys gang up. Good place for jobs/internships.
  • Devex - – International Development. Business. Careers. News. What to do: Sign up for their job list serve. Browse what people are hiring for. Types of jobs/functions/skills needed/types of organizations.
  • Society for International Development – – Professional Network. Join or just sign up for list serve.
  • International Society for Third Sector Research - - The International Society for Third-Sector Research is an international and multidisciplinary scholarly association to promote research and teaching about the Third, Voluntary, or Nonprofit Sector.
  • CIVICUS - - Promoting a worldwide community of informed, inspired, committed citizens who are actively engaged in confronting the challenges facing humanity.
  • InterAction – - The largest alliance of U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) who focus on disaster relief and sustainable development programs.
  • Young Professionals Non-Profit Association -

USG International Players

  • USAID – (largest foreign assistance budget)
  • DRL – - The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor headed by Assistant Secretary Michael H. Posner, leads the U.S. efforts to promote democracy, protect human rights and international religious freedom, and advance labor rights globally.
  • PRM - - The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) is one of the State Department's "functional," as opposed to "geographic" bureaus. This indicates a Bureau that focuses on a particular issue wherever it arises around the world. As described in our mission statement, our focus is refugees, other migrants, and conflict victims. Our goal is to protect these people, who are often living in quite dangerous conditions.
  • National Endowment for Democracy - - Created by Congress – NED is another USG player that works worldwide. What to do: Sign up for their newsletter. Or follow on FB or Twitter. Go to events and network. Right now I’ve found quite a few open internships in their employment section.
  • USDA FAS - - The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) links U.S. agriculture to the world to enhance export opportunities and global food security. In addition to its Washington, D.C. staff, FAS has a global network of 98 offices in 75 countries covering 156 countries. These offices are staffed by agricultural attachés and locally hired staff who are the eyes, ears, and voice for U.S. agriculture around the world. FAS staff identify problems, provide practical solutions, and work to advance opportunities for U.S. agriculture and support U.S. foreign policy around the globe.
  • NDI – - The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.
  • IRI – - A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, IRI advances freedom and democracy worldwide by developing political parties, civic institutions, open elections, democratic governance and the rule of law.

List Serves and Events