NGOs / International Development

Work in this sector is diverse and encompasses areas including: conflict; disaster preparedness; economics; education; environment; forced migration; gender equality; governance; healthcare; human rights; infrastructure; livelihoods; and security.

One of the first roles that may spring to mind when you think about working in international development is the International Aid or Development Worker. These roles implement projects out 'in the field,' responding to emergency situations in affected countries. As well as these practitioner roles however, in this sector many also work in:

  • Policy or Advisory roles: these often involve research and evaluation of an organisations programmes, and developing policy recommendations from these evaluations;
  • Advocacy and Outreach: roles that raise awareness about their organisations and causes, or raise funds for these causes, such as campaigning, fundraising, lobbying and communications;
  • Support roles: typical business functions that support the wider running of the organisation, such as administration, human resources, finance, logistics and IT.

First roles in this sector are often ‘stepping stones’ and many begin in roles for which they are, on paper, ‘over-qualified.’ Generally, organisations recruit as and when they have vacancies. Most recruiters are looking for:

  • Skills: the ability to relate to and communicate with a range of people; problem-solving; ability to operate effectively under pressure; relationship building and teamwork; people and project management; ability to motivate others; drive and determination; cross-cultural sensitivity; self-awareness and organisational awareness; patience and a willingness to adopt a long-term view; quick learning and flexibility; operational decision-making skills; willingness to live and travel in basic conditions (for field-based roles); language skills
  • Academics: typically a good undergraduate degree (typically 2.1 or better) or, very often a master’s degree. Good written English
  • Relevant work experience - gained through volunteering, internships or paid work
  • Fit - will you fit into the department and the organisation to which you are applying?
  • Passion and commitment - are you committed to the cause?

Find out more 

Devex Career Centre

Devex is a social enterprise and media platform for people working in global development. Their Career Center has a range of tips and advice for getting into the sector.

ODI Fellowships

The ODI is Britain’s leading independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues and offers fellowships to work for two years in the public sectors of developing countries (covering Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific).

Fellows are assigned to government ministries where they work as economists or planning officers. Applicants should have either an economics or related degree and have completed/be completing a postgraduate qualification

Young professionals programmes with International Organisations

The UN has one (you must be a national of a participating country), as do: the World Bank; Islamic Development Bank; Asia Development Bank; UNESCOThe UN; and The Commonwealth.

Competition for the YPP schemes is high and you would always be recommended to have a back-up plan. Think about the area in which you would like to specialise and look into gaining experience that will be relevant when applying to an international organisation in the future.

Many people who work for NGOs or international organisations establish themselves in a professional area first, before taking this experience into working for an NGO. Some areas valued by NGOs and international organisations include agriculture, forestry and fisheries, anthropology, economy roles, education, specialist engineers, environment, financial analytics, law, procurement, PR, public health, HR, IT, accounting, and administration. One tip is to build your career in one of these areas and then look to apply for a YPP or an experienced position with a development/ international organisation.

Finding internships and jobs in international organisations

  • Here is a useful list of organisations offering internships
  • Look up the vacancy websites of Development consultancies and relevant think tanks associated with the causes in which you are interested and experienced
  • Impactpool is a platform advertising job vacancies in the European Union, United Nations and International Organisations
  • Job hunting resource from Bond
  • Global Careers Fair run a range of virtual events on careers in the international public sector and international organisations


Professional Services