International Development Studies Careers


As an international development studies (IDS) student, you may be pursuing this degree based on a natural passion and interest in social, economic and political issues.


Maybe you have a career in mind after graduation, and maybe you don’t. Maybe you’d like to get a job relevant to your degree, but aren’t sure what career fields you can actually pursue.



More On What You Can Do with This Degree

Fortunately, in the pursuit of an IDS degree, you can develop a thorough understanding of critical international development issues; a knowledge base that is applicable to many careers that are relevant to this field of study. You will also gain a set of transferrable skills that are employable in a wide variety of industries.


Although this degree is not meant as professional training for specific careers, you have a wide variety of career options available to you because of the skills, knowledge and competencies it enables you to develop.


So, if you’d like to know more about what you can do with an IDS degree, read on below. This career guide contains detailed occupational information on occupations relevant to this degree. Included are job descriptions, expected salaries, educational requirements and other pertinent information related to these careers.



What an IDS Program Will Teach You

Broad Intellectual Goals

International development studies degree programs are intended to provide you with theoretical understanding and practical skills in areas such as intercultural communication, economic development and democratization.


IDS coursework has the broad goal of helping you understand the various causes behind vast socioeconomic disparities that exist between wealthy and poor countries, as well as what the implications of these disparities are.


Breadth of Knowledge

International development issues such as poverty, human rights, human security issues, civil war and economic growth are explored using an inter-disciplinary approach. Because of this, IDS must cover a broad range of coursework, such as sociology, political science, economics and biology, among others. 


Practical Applications

These degree programs are typically concerned with both the acquisition of theoretical knowledge, as well as its practical application within the context of global realties. In order to help you understand the practical applications of this knowledge base, many IDS programs involve off campus study, and may involve school-facilitated internships in developing nations.





Employable Skills You’ll Gain for Relevant Careers

As a result of pursuing an IDS degree, you'll likely have gained many employable skills that are specific to the subject matter. These skills will be highly applicable to careers in the realm of international development.


• Awareness of the political and social challenges of developing countries

• Awareness of the positions of developing countries within the global arena

• Knowledge of international development financing

• A thorough understanding of international and domestic factors affecting the success and sustainability of different paths to development



List of Careers Relevant to an IDS Degree

The employable skills you can gain as a result of your studies are directly relevant to the following careers (not a comprehensive list…there are many more out there!):


• Citizenship and Immigration Officer

• Community Involvement Animator

• Community Service Agency Worker

• Community Service Organization Manager

• Community Support Director

• Development Associate

• Diplomat

• Diversity Consultant

• Economic Development Officer

• Education Abroad Counselor

• Fundraiser

• Governmental Program Agent

• Human Rights Commission Development Officer

• Human Rights Officer

• Immigration Consultant

• International Aid and Development Project Officer

• International Aid Worker

• International Development Officer

• International Development Project Director

• Lawyer

• Lobbyist

• NGO Area Coordinator

• Non-Profit Administrator

• Non-Profit Foundation Manager

• Poverty Researcher

• Program Assistant for a Human Rights Organization

• Regional Development Manager

• Research Assistant

• United Nations Ambassador

• University Professor

• World Food Program Officer


Please Note: Some of the above listed careers may require education and training above and beyond the scope of an undergraduate degree. Click on careers you’re interested in to find out more about the specific education and training requirements.



Transferrable Skills

As graduate of an international development studies program, your capacity to learn and explore subjects is proven to be excellent. Because of this, you will make a competent employee in almost any industry, not just in careers where knowledge of the issues surrounding international development is mandatory.


For example, if you can compose an argumentative essay on ‘The lack of sustained growth of developing nations since the second world war’, you can certainly be taught to write a convincing marketing proposal.


• Written an verbal communications skills

• Qualitative researching abilities

• Time management skills

• Ability to operate within strict timelines

• Ability to think critically

• Ability to recognize quality information



Careers Indirectly Related to an IDS Degree

Not interested in a career that's in the field of IDS? Maybe you like the subject matter but want to explore what else is out there? That’s okay, the transferable skills you’ve gained as a result of your studies (listed above) can be applied to a wide variety of career fields, including (but not limited to):


• Administrative Officer

• Blogger

• Director of Volunteer Services

• Economist 

• English Teacher Abroad

• Entrepreneur

• Foreign Affairs Officer

• Foreign Trade Manager

• Grant Writer

• Intergovernmental Relations Coordinator

• International Trade Specialist

• Internship Coordinator

• Labour Market Analyst

• Labour Policy Analyst

• Media Coordinator

• Public Relations Specialist

• Tour Guide


Please Note: Some of the above listed careers may require education and training above and beyond the scope of an undergraduate degree. Click on careers you’re interested in to find out more about the specific education and training requirements.





Tips for Getting a Job

In order to increase your chances of finding a job after graduation, whether or not it's directly relevant to your degree, consider the following tips:


• Consider a graduate international development studies degree

• Increase your employable skill set with a double major

• Gain relevant career experience as a student (which can include volunteering)

• Don’t be scared to start in an entry-level job and work your way up



Working in International Development

If you are keen on working in the field of international development upon graduation, here are some things you should be aware of:


Becoming Specialized in an Area of IDS

Work in this broad field involves projects related to governance, healthcare, education, gender equality, disaster preparedness, infrastructure, economics, human and animal rights, forced migration, security, conflict and the environment.


Employers prefer to hire specialists in a chosen area, rather than employees who have a little bit of knowledge in many subjects. For this reason, a graduate degree is often a must (unless you have the equivalent in work experience…sometimes both are needed), as it demonstrates your expertise in a certain area.


You'll need a lot of experience

If you are considering a career in international development, regardless of what field you choose, it is important to keep in mind that most agencies are looking for a combination of qualifications and several years’ worth of relevant work experience.


Get experience volunteering

You will often need to have volunteer experience in an area that aligns with the paid work you are trying to get in international development.


For example, you may have your eyes on a job posting that required experience working for organizations that provide health-related education, advocacy or care. If you have plenty of volunteer experience in this area, and you also have a master’s degree in related subject matter, then you are likely an excellent candidate for the job!


Volunteering or working for a few years at local nonprofit organizations that serve high poverty areas, people with disabilities, youth, the elderly, abused women, women re-entering the work force, elections, or other areas that need volunteers, can be great way to gain volunteer experience.






How Much You Can Earn as a Graduate

You may be curious as to what salary you can earn when you first enter the work force upon graduation with a degree like this. The truth is, your salary could vary drastically, and is heavily dependent on the specific profession you enter, and on the following factors (not an inclusive list):


• Your level of education (such as if you went on to graduate studies)

• The industry in which you find work

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• Other work experience you may have accrued

• Other skills you may have


International Development Studies Graduate Salary Ontario: According to a salary survey in 2011 conducted by the Ontario Council of Universities, $38,407 CAD is the average salary earned by Humanities graduates (which include IDS graduates), 2 years after graduating from Ontario universities in 2008. Unfortunately, similar statistics for other Canadian provinces and the United States cannot be found from reputable sources.



Relevant Scholarships

Are you an international development studies student looking for help paying for school? Search our scholarships database for Canadian and American international development studies scholarships.


Success Tip: Apply for any and all scholarships for which you qualify, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships in Canada and the United States that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants.



Professional Associations

To find out more about careers that are relevant to this field of study, consult the following professional association websites. They offer career-related information, and many have job boards that advertise job openings.


Canadian Association of International Development Consultants

Hope International Development Agency

International Development Research Centre

US Agency for International Development

World Bank



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