International Development and Humanitarian Aid

International development work encompasses a wide range of jobs, some of which are suitable for generalists whilst others will require specialist knowledge/qualifications and training.

Working in International Development

International development supports developing communities to address inequalities to better long terms prospects across economic, environmental, social, health, education and political governance.

Career options are varied and include fundraising, administration, counselling, consultancy, engineering, policy, education, human rights advocacy, legal and media. Roles can be field based or working at head office /regional offices.

Working in Humanitarian Aid

Humanitarian aid involves providing assistance during human-made and natural disasters and emergencies. The type of emergency and it's location dictates the demand for front-line workers.

Working in the field can be challenging physically and emotionally and may include a lack of communications. In addition working in hostile environments can raise safety and security issues. There is a need for cultural sensitivity, effective communication and the ability to adapt to working within the traditions of a particular country/region.

Working in Human Rights

Work in this sector can range from law, charities, NGOs and civil liberty groups such as Amnesty International, Liberty, Human Rights Watch and Reprieve to name a few. Roles and opportunities can include policy, research, campaigns and lobbying, law and advocacy and may overlap with Humanitarian Aid and International Development and International Relations careers.

Routes in

This area of work is very broad and competitive. Opportunities can vary at a regional, national or international level. Normally entrants to this sector will have to build their own career path. Advertised or specific graduate opportunities can be scarce and internships can be unpaid or low paid.

Many different organisations are involved in International Development and Humanitarian Aid, including Government Aid agencies such as the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), International organisations such as the UN and Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and charities. Some organisations in the sector will be involved with specific areas for example human rights, refugees, development finance, trade, healthcare, environment etc.

To better understand what opportunities are available, look at the different types of organisations operating under the banner of international development as well as the charities and not for profit sectors.

You will need to research and gain the experience, skills and knowledge needed in the area of development work you wish to enter. The personal qualities, relevant skills and previous experience required will vary depending on the requirements of individual job vacancies. If you do not know what role would suit your experiences and skillset, take a look at some of our I don't know what I want to do careers resources to help you to map out potential careers and roles.

Building experience

Gaining relevant experience will only enhance your future prospects in this sector. This could be done in the following ways:

  • Internship opportunities may be available with the larger international NGOs, but these are dependent on funding and will not be open every year. These are very competitive but can offer a chance to gain valuable experience, sometimes overseas, and to get to know the sector better.
  • Attend careers events and fairs, ‘Meet the Professionals’ networking events or participate in online workshops or virtual internships.
  • Undertake volunteering or take up a position of responsibility such as being a Student Society Committee member, Treasurer etc which can help develop leadership, problem-solving, campaigning, communication and fundraising skills.
  • Complete Ethical Grand Challenges such as sustainability, social justice and workplace ethics to better understand the complexities of these societal challenges.
  • Optimise your networks or connections by joining relevant student societies, join relevant professional networks and attending events or conferences.
  • Connect with professionals and peers on LinkedIn and research graduate destinations.
  • Undertake short online courses or University College for Interdisciplinary Learning (UCIL) credit bearing modules.
  • Help academic supervisors or staff with event management organisation, research support or participate in sector specific conferences.

Some organisations and opportunities may require further training and qualifications such as a relevant masters. If you have a postgraduate qualification or would like to undertake further study see below.

Options for graduates with more experience

You may have prior experience and/or previous qualifications and are looking to develop your career even further. To help you to plan your career progression effectively:

  • Explore different career roles and progression routes linked to your studies and aspirations e.g. consultancy
  • Book a careers appointment if you would like to discuss your ideas further and seek clarification before you start the job seeking process.
  • If you are already working at present or have been sponsored to undertake your studies, consider speaking to your supervisor and or employer to discuss career progression pathways, during appraisals or performance reviews.
  • Attend University careers events and fairs, professional events and conferences and ‘Meet the Professionals’ events to connect with alumni and industry professionals.
  • Use LinkedIn to research graduate alumni destinations. This can help you to seek out meaningful connections with alumni who have more experience in the sector you would like to either move into or progress in. This can be a great way to find career mentors.
  • Complete Ethical Grand Challenges comprising of sustainability, social justice and workplace ethics.
  • Undertake short online courses or UCIL credit bearing modules
  • Consider applying for any other professional qualifications or applying for positions of responsibility which might help develop your leadership, communication, negotiation and problem-solving skills as well as financial acumen, such as becoming a Trustee, Board Member of an organisation or School Governor etc.

Postgraduate study and further qualifications

Further qualifications are available at many universities in this country and globally, offering a wide range of courses covering general and specific subjects within International Development. Our section on postgraduate study includes information on how to search for courses.
The University of Manchester offer a range of courses in international development:
  • The Global Development Institute (GDI) The largest dedicated development research and teaching institute in Europe. GDI is committed to addressing global poverty and inequality.
  • The Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI) Has a range of study and research opportunities in the fields of humanitarianism, conflict responses, global health, international disaster management and peacebuilding.
  • Centre for Digital Development University of Manchester multidisciplinary centre researching the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in socio-economic development. They offer taught master’s study and postgraduate research.

Vacancies and further information

  • Bond Database of jobs in international development that can be filtered by salary but not job level.
  • Devnet Jobs Global job opportunities but has more experienced hire roles than entry level positions.
  • Devex Database of jobs including voluntary, internships and entry level positions across the globe.
  • ELDIS Job vacancies and information about different development sectors including country profiles and development resource guides.
  • Idealist Jobs, internships and volunteering opportunities as well as careers advice articles.
  • Impact Pool Recruitment agency that advertises internships and jobs opportunities across the social impact sector including positions in the UN, Unicef etc. Note: some internships are not paid.
  • ReliefWeb Worldwide job vacancies, which can be searched by level of experience. Includes sector news and updates.
  • Environment jobs Global portal for environmental, sustainability and ethical jobs which can filtered by job entry level.
  • WSE International development jobs lists individual charity websites where jobs maybe listed and international development consultancies.