International development studies is often associated with economic, social, and political development in a particular region or country.[i] The work itself can be broad in scope, ranging from disaster relief to microfinance to global education. People who choose to do this kind of work seek to address social injustices around the world and provide sustainable solutions that help those in need.
There is an increased need for skilled and knowledgeable international development professionals, but it can be a challenge to enter the field and build a sustainable career within it. Getting a master’s in international development will help you gain the knowledge and skills to succeed, whether you are considering a career change or seeking a higher level position in the industry.
The International Development Studies Job Market
If you’re looking to do international work, you don’t necessarily have to be a doctor or have a degree in environmental sustainability. There is increasing demand for “integrators”, or people with broad-based knowledge in a variety of areas who can collaborate across sectors. Previous work experience in an office setting and having skills like project management, grant writing, financial management, and international leadership can make you a highly desirable candidate.[ii] You can also learn these skills and put them into practice by enrolling in a master’s in international development program.
Administrative international development jobs usually available at the home office include: marketing, public relations, data analysis, accounting, information technology, strategy, innovation, procurement, operations, and development.[iii] In contrast, specialists often work in the field and possess expertise in infrastructure, healthcare, energy production, judicial reform, sanitation, or food distribution. Specialist positions are usually tied to a specific project funded by a governmental agency (e.g., U.S. Agency for International Development).[iv] Other potential employers include: local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), nonprofits, consulting firms, trade offices, and organizations that specialize in international relief and development, social entrepreneurship, sustainability, and international business.
Why Pursue a Master’s in International Development?
Since competition for international development jobs is high, the right educational background and work experience can make you stand out to potential employers. A recent survey conducted by Devex, in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development and Population Services International, found that 79 percent of international development professionals believe future workers will need a post-graduate degree to be successful. It also showed the most in-demand degree for future hires is a master’s in international development or international relations.[v]
The right graduate program can provide you with the leadership skills, advanced training, and networking opportunities to further your career in international development. Look for a program that combines theory with hands-on experience; not only will it give you the opportunity to put what you learn into practice, but it will also make you a more attractive job candidate.
The online Master of Arts in International Development at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota is designed to give you the practical knowledge and skills needed to work in this highly competitive industry. Degree students have the opportunity to do a field project to put theory into practice. Saint Mary’s offers real-world applied learning with the flexibility of an online learning platform.