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International Development: Sector Overview

a guide to careers in international development, human rights and international organisations

International Development

Sector Overview

What jobs are available and how to get them


Inside Jobs

Inside info about what working for a particular employer is like, from people actually working there:

Private Sector

Consulting firms provide expertise and support to projects co-ordinated by larger international bodies such as the World Bank, UNDP, DFID etc. Depending on its size, a firm may be focused on specific areas or be very broad in scope. They will look for expertise in such areas as engineering, economics, IT or energy. International experience, language skills and relevant private sector experience may also be important. Internships in such organisations are rare:

Sector Overview

  • Around 80% of development aid comes directly from governments. The remaining 20% comes from agencies, charities and/or NGOs
  • The UK is the world’s fourth largest international development donor, behind America, Germany and France.
  • The UK’s expenditure on international development was £7,767m in 2009/10, and the DFID aid programme accounted for £6,629m (85%) of this
  • Global humanitarian aid spending reached a record high in 2013
  • The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted in 2000, represent a concerted effort by the world's leaders to help overcome poverty and promote equality and sustainability by 2015
  • They are at the heart of the UK government's development policies and its relationships with multilateral agencies

Main Areas of work

International Organisations

  • This includes UN Institutions and other multilateral organisations, such as the World Bank, IMF, OECD
  • These play a front line role in the world's response to socio-economic, humanitarian and security issues
  • Many of them offer internship opportunities. However, they are often aimed at postgraduates with considerable experience already and are generally unpaid



  • Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are private bodies with their own social and/or political objectives, generally operating on a not-for-profit basis
  • They might be campaigning or operational (or a combination of both). Many will undertake practical, hands-on projects in the field. Others will concentrate on campaigns to influence public opinion and government policy
  • Volunteering and internships are common ways to gain experience, make contacts and start to build your career

Maps of World Mortality Rates

Alumni Careers Network

Use our Alumni Careers Network to find Sussex graduates working in areas you are interested in. Find out more about what working in that sector is really like, get direct advice and find out if it's right for you!

Job Roles and Opportunities

Admin roles

  • Office-based work for an NGO or organisation is a good first role in the sector
  • Learn more about how an organisation works and be in a better position when other jobs are advertised


  • Essential and valued role for NGOs
  • Develop research, communication, negotiation and financial skills

Relief work

  • Important as organisations need to respond quickly
  • Specific skills and experience are generally required
  • Technical skills, such as medical, engineering or logistics. But also finance, HR & housing