Development studies is a multidisciplinary social sciences field covering topics like economics, politics, anthropology, and sociology. It focuses on the world’s most pressing issues – such as poverty, public health, and climate change – and how to make the world a better, safer place to live. Many universities offer master’s degrees in development studies, though there are a few bachelor’s programs in development studies, as well. Once you’ve earned a degree, what kinds of jobs are available? Here are fifteen examples:
Humanitarian aid worker
Average salary: $39,000 (ZipRecruiter)
Humanitarian aid workers deploy anywhere in the world, often without much notice, to assist communities facing various hardships. Their work includes providing food, water, shelter, and medical services. Aid workers may also have backgrounds in engineering and technology. Most organizations want an aid worker with a degree in development, international studies, or other related fields, as well as experience. Humanitarian aid workers can work within four stages: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. No matter what stage an aid worker focuses on, they need excellent time management skills, great organization, emotional resilience, and excellent problem-solving skills.
Average salary: $64,103 (ZipRecruiter)
With a development studies degree, academic researchers may study poverty, gender equality, international relations, economics, sociology, and more. Researchers are often employed by universities, but advocacy and humanitarian organizations need academic researchers, too. Their qualifications and responsibilities include understanding methodologies, recognizing patterns in data, and analyzing/interpreting data. Most universities/organizations want researchers with at least a master’s degree, though a doctorate can help you stand out from other candidates.
Average salary: $55,334 (Salary.com)
Lecturers in development, who usually have at least a master’s degree, design curriculum, teach classes, and tutor students. They also conduct research, manage research budgets, and publish papers. Because development studies is such a broad field encompassing many disciplines, lecturers tend to focus on one area of development such as gender, anthropology, public health, economics, and so on. Many universities prefer candidates with doctorate degrees, as well as 3-5 years of teaching experience.
International Humanitarian and Development Careers
Learn about the career paths open to you after studying international developmentExplore more
Average salary: $41,480 (PayScale)
A development studies background gives a person knowledge of international politics, developing countries, gender, and other related topics. Publishers wanting to release content on these topics will look for journalists with this type of knowledge and experience. Journalists conduct research (including interviews), fact-check information, and write compelling copy. Most journalists have bachelor’s degrees in journalism or communication.
Average salary: $86,828 (Glassdoor)
Development consultants help an organization or company improve its programs and projects. This is accomplished by analyzing their current practices, providing insight on improving policies and strategies, and helping them design effective development programs. In addition to a development studies degree, you’ll most likely need education and experience in a specialized field. As an example, if you want to consult with an organization working in agriculture, you’ll need to understand the agriculture industry. As with all consultant careers, there’s a wide salary range that depends on factors like your area of expertise, where you live, and how much experience you have.
Operations development manager
Average salary: $104,534 (Zippia)
Operations development managers oversee an organization’s development projects. They work closely with development teams to ensure smooth, effective workflows and strong daily operations. Responsibilities can include goal-setting, budgeting and scheduling, researching and assessing strategies and programs, and designing effective work plans. Operations development managers can be found working in fields like healthcare, manufacturing, technology, and hospitality. As a leadership role, the position requires excellent communication, team-building skills, and negotiation skills. You’ll typically need at least a bachelor’s degree, though a master’s will open up more opportunities.
Average salary: $58,148 (ZipRecruiter)
International diplomats are tasked with representing and protecting the interests of the country they serve. That includes promoting information, friendly relations, treaties and conventions, agreements, and more. They often work at embassies and travel frequently with their roles changing every 3-4 years. The art of diplomacy plays an important role in development, peace, and strengthening ties between countries. There are a few kinds of diplomats: political officers, trade officers, and consular officers. All types must have excellent organizational and leadership skills, as well as excellent communication. Most diplomats are expected to learn at least one foreign language during their career.
Average salary: $66,665 (Salary.com)
Immigrant consultants work with people wanting to become permanent residents in a country. The immigration process is always complex, so consultants help people in a variety of ways. This can include providing advice on work permits and visas, helping with immigration applications, collecting documents, and translating documents. Most organizations will want candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree in law, international relations, development studies, or something similar. Government agencies and NGOs typically hire immigrant consultants.
Human rights lawyer
Average salary: $60,556 (ZipRecruiter)
If you become a human rights lawyer, your job is to advocate for survivors of abuse, human rights violations, and oppression. Responsibilities include drafting legal documents, conducting interviews with clients, researching human rights cases, negotiating settlements, and arguing in court. You might represent individuals, the families of victims, or groups of people. Human rights lawyers work for a variety of organizations, including nonprofits. How does law relate to development? According to a blog on the World Economic Forum website, “deep legal knowledge and deft legal reasoning are certainly part of the skill set needed to eradicate poverty and promote development.” Development needs people from every field, including human rights law.
Average salary: $50,106 (ZipRecruiter)
Advocacy is an important part of international development. By advocating for short and long-term changes to laws and policies, organizations and activists create systemic change, solve problems, and improve society. For those wanting to focus on social justice and human rights, advocacy is a good field to consider working in. Many organizations have advocacy departments where officers focus on various development projects and humanitarian initiatives. Advocacy officers need excellent communication and team-building skills, as well as an ability to maintain strong relationships within and outside the organization. Responsibilities include identifying areas of need, organizing and hosting meetings, developing advocacy campaigns, talking to the media, and working closely with program directors. Most organizations prefer master’s degrees with a specialization in the area they work in, i.e. an organization focused on public health will want an advocacy officer with an educational background/experience in public health.
Monitoring and evaluation officer
Average salary: $60,073 (Glassdoor)
Monitoring and Evaluation is a process that assesses how well projects are doing. It includes collecting data, monitoring a program’s key indicators, and evaluating how well it met its objectives. Governments, NGOs, and other organizations all use M&E to monitor the impact of a project and improve strategies and processes in the future. M&E officers are tasked with responsibilities like developing an M&E plan, monitoring project activities, recommending improvements, reporting on progress, and working closely with the Project Manager. According to the World Bank, M&E programs and systems are useful for raising awareness about the efficiency of programs and policies, empowering citizens, and increasing government transparency. This leads to better development results.
Average salary (for foreign policy advisor): $83,292 (ZipRecruiter)
Policy officers often have backgrounds in development studies, especially when working on policies that relate to developing countries. Government agencies, international institutions, and NGOs hire policy officers for a variety of tasks, including researching, drafting policies, evaluating policy proposals, tracking policies, and writing briefs. They often focus on low to middle-income countries and countries affected by disasters or conflict. Organizations look for candidates with excellent communication skills, analytical and data-collecting skills, and expertise in a particular area.
Average salary: $68,680 (Indeed)
Environmental specialists study the effects of a population on the environment. That includes identifying problems (like pollution), observing how a population impacts the environment over time, supervising field examinations, and examining test samples from the water, air, and soil. They work in labs and offices, while some can also be found in the field collecting data and recording observations. Many environmental specialists work for the government, though some can be consultants. As issues like pollution and climate change become more serious around the world, environmental specialists are essential to development.
Average salary: $64,917 (Glassdoor)
Financial analysts work within the economic field. Responsibilities include tracking an organization’s financial performance, conducting research on companies, stocks, and industries, and analyzing data with models and software. They also distill their analyses through presentations and reports. Financial analysts can work in development in a few ways, including with an agency like USAID. In a job description with this agency, the financial analyst is responsible for managing the performance of various types of host countries and implementing assessments like audits and reviews.
Average salary: $92,643 (Indeed)
Statisticians work with numbers and data. They collect this information in a few ways, including through surveys, questionnaires, polls, and more. The data is organized and then analyzed by the statistician, who can identify patterns, build models, and release detailed reports. Most statisticians have at least a bachelor’s degree in statistics, math, or a related field. With a master’s in development studies, they are well-equipped to work with organizations researching topics like poverty, disease, healthcare, climate modeling, and more. According to former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “Statistics are a vital tool for economic and social development, including our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”