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Questions and Answers
Kym asks on September 6, 2010:
I’ve got a huge passion for becoming a development worker, and I have volunteered last summer with Free the Children trip to Kenya.
Right now the problem is trying to figure out what education route I should take. All of the people that I’ve met from Free the Children have taken International Development, and some have gone back for their masters. My question is, is ID the best route to take? I’ve also been looking at a double major so I can have a bit more knowledge. What would you suggest my second major be?
Usually any Social or Political Science is fine but, International Development is really one of the best majors to take because it is general enough to allow you to get into any aspect of development but, specific enough to give you some sort of background in the development profession. Most places now want a Master’s Degree (e.g. UN etc.) and having a Master’s can put you a cut above a lot of the competition. It would be good for you to do a Master’s that offers some type of work placement (e.g. in Canada, Carleton’s MPA has a co-op programs, NPSIA has an internship or the option to study or work abroad in a developing country, which is even better).
In terms of a double major, International Development and Politics or Economics is good. But, if you are interested in a specific aspect of development (e.g. rural development, health or education etc.) you might want to do that as your other subject.
Thanks so much for the advice, I really appreciate it. I think a double major in IDS and History, or IDS and Political Science is what I’m looking at right now. The schools I’m interested in all offer some sort of volunteer abroad and/or study abroad, which is great. I am also looking into volunteering this year with Katimavik or another volunteer organization.
Thanks for the help, you’ve definitely settled my mind a bit. I know that this is my life passion, but it is frustrating since there’s not too many people in my life that work in this field to ask for advice. It’s not the run of the mill career or lifestyle but I’m more than ready for it!
Haymond asks on July 8, 2010:
I’m thinking about becoming a develop worker. Mainly because of my desire to try and contribute to ending poverty. But how much of this job really tackle this problem? Also I’m doing a degree in psychology, is this relevant in becoming a development worker? Will i need to do a master in international development?
Ben Coleman answers:
Development work can be frustrating, but it can also be very rewarding. There are jobs that take you to the forefront of problems – where you are faced with real poverty, and on the other end of the spectrum are jobs with donors, where you will often only deal with relatively rich governments, organizations and other donors.
Psychology does not strike me as something particularly suited to a career in development, but any degree (especially social science) is useful, and wouldn’t preclude you.
You certainly don’t need to do a masters to enter international development, but there are some jobs that may be off-limits if you don’t have one. As with a lot of careers, some choose to take masters degrees later.
Hope this helps and good luck in your decisions.
Thank you for your reply, it has been helpful. However i do have some more questions. What are these jobs that take you to the forefront of real poverty? And any advice into getting these kind of jobs?
Ben Coleman answers:
I’m talking about development jobs focusing on grassroots issues. Most often this is an area NGOs concentrate on.
The best piece of advice I can give you, without knowing much about your background, is to do voluntary work in whichever field or with whichever organization you are interested in. Competition for jobs is plentiful, but also, budgets are small and NGOs are also often ill-equipped and under-resourced, meaning the great idea or benefit you think you will bring to the organization is likely to fall by the wayside, unless you are willing to take on the task yourself, without burdening the NGO with financial or resource (including time) outlays. Until organizations see relevant work experience they will be reluctant to take you seriously.
By volunteering you open doors, by gaining relevant experience, and making contacts. It also allows you to see whether you are interested in doing this for the long haul, and it should allow you to work for whichever organization you want – most will be happy to take on a volunteer. There are also more established volunteer organizations, e.g. Peace Corps, VSO, but these usually involve a selection procedure. The benefit of these specialist volunteer organizations is that they offer a structured environment, and training.
Paying to volunteer is probably the easiest way to find a position overseas, but I would recommend looking into volunteering locally and then trying to get a position overseas after proving your worth. That way you can avoid the often extortionate fees associated with paid voluntary positions.
Right now I have my B.Com (marketing specialist) and have had some good opportunities to use that in the developmental field. I’m trying to work towards project mgt./crisis mgt. (because of my university background) and was not sure what would get a better response from “the real world”.
- Is an MBA useful in the development world?
- Is the Project Management Professional certificate useful?
- Should i just be “normal” and get a masters in International-something…?
Bella Dacosta answers:
To answer your questions:
- An MBA is useful in the developing world especially since Corporate Social Responsibility Projects are getting more popular and Cooperation with the Private Sector as implementing partners is becoming more common. The whole fair trade side of things is taking off as well. Most Development Organizations, (e.g. CIDA) want you to have a Bachelors and some e.g. the UN ask for a Masters. Usually they require “a University degree from a recognized University or an acceptable combination of education, training, and/or experience related to the duties of the position to be filled”. You should also check out the New Development Officer (NDO) program.
- If you want to work in Humanitarian Assistance or conflict/post conflict areas I think a crisis management course would be very useful. You should weigh the costs and benefits though (i.e. amount of time and money spent doing that vs. getting on-the-ground experience).
- It really is up to you and what you want to focus on. I did an undergraduate degree in Politics and International Development and it didn’t get me anywhere. But, doing my Master’s in Public Admin. with a focus in International Development was good (what I would HIGHLY recommend is that if you are going to do more school - make sure you get some sort of cooperant position or internship with it - that is what will get your foot in the door, and give you the experience you need to get hired, and make contacts).
The other option is to try and get into a development agency as a consultant by applying for contracts online or by getting in as a term employee.
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