International development worker job description

If you asked 10 people what they thought was the role of an international development worker you would likely get a variety of different answers. The simple reason is that an international developer worker could be based in the UK, overseas, paid or voluntary. When you also consider they could be helping with any international issues it really does broaden the actual job description. So, let’s take a look at the basics of a paid working role within the international development sector.

Job description for international development workers

International developer workers (often referred to as international aid workers) can be employed via an array of different body such as:-

  • Charities
  • International aid agencies
  • Volunteer groups
  • Non-governmental organisations

Many philanthropists such as Bill Gates (of Microsoft fame) have set up their own charities and international aid organisations to assist with an array of different issues. While the list is endless, some of the sectors which seem to attract international development workers include:-

  • Healthcare
  • Sanitation
  • Agriculture
  • Education
  • Construction
  • Housing
  • Human rights
  • Natural disaster relief

It is no exaggeration to say that you could be sent to any area of the world when involved in any of the above sectors. Even though the international development sector is often associated with volunteer work, and there are many volunteers around the world, it is the paid workers that offer long-term continuity. That in no way diminishes the role of volunteers but many will volunteer for specific projects or a specific time span and then return to for example the workplace or further education.

Specific roles for international development workers

As previously mentioned, it is impossible to cover every area of international development in one article. We have covered the different types of international development groups and the various sectors upon which they seem to focus. So, when looking to match your particular skills with paid roles within the international development sector what can you expect to find?

While individuals may have specific roles within a particular organisation there can often be an element of assisting different sectors or different groups as and when required. The broad-spectrum of work is effectively endless but includes the likes of:-

  • Hands-on assistance on the ground
  • Planning projects
  • Fundraising initiatives
  • Project management
  • Evaluating reports
  • Linking up with other organisations
  • Communicating with governments around the world
  • Deciding where to focus resources

In reality these individual roles are just the tip of the iceberg but do give you an idea of the types of paid employment positions available in the international aid/development sector.

Salary and benefits for international development workers

In this particular instance we will focus on paid roles as opposed to voluntary work which we will cover at a later stage. Interestingly, in light of Brexit there are grave concerns about the degree of funding which may be available in the short, medium and longer term if the UK does finally leave the European Union. However, as things stand at the moment there are two main categories when it comes to paid working roles with UK-based international development agencies.

  1. Back-office and administrative work
  2. Overseas project roles incorporating management and operational responsibilities

While it is difficult to give a specific remuneration figure for these particular roles, an individual relatively new to the sector and based in the UK might expect to earn between £17,000 and £25,000 per annum. Those with more experience, or perhaps more relevant knowledge from the business arena, should receive higher remuneration which might be anywhere from £25,000 up to £45,000 per annum.

The situation for those posted overseas is slightly different with salaries ranging from £17,000 to £50,000 per annum. This will be dependent upon the particular role and experience of the individual. However, there may be additional benefits in the shape of supplementary housing, travel allowances and medical insurance.

Working hours for international development workers

Even international development agencies still need to abide by employment laws in the UK which also offer protection when it comes to accidents and injuries in the workplace. Employees based in the UK will not always have a predictable working pattern, although in general working hours should not exceed 40 hours per week. As a means of mitigating potential employment liabilities going forward, the majority of workers will be employed on fixed term contracts. These tend to vary in length from six months up to 3 years on more – depending upon requirements and specific tasks.

It is also common for many workers in this particular sector to relocate a number of times during their career. There will obviously be financial and logistical assistance as and when required but frequent travel tends to go hand in hand with an international development worker’s life.

Finding a role in international development

The stereotypical path towards a role within the international development sector will incorporate a degree of voluntary work to gain experience and degree standard education covering a relevant subject matter. This is why many university graduates will take a year out of their studies to volunteer with international development agencies. When they return to university, and hopefully pass their degrees, then the mix of academic and practical experience will go a long way. Some of the more common degrees associated with work in the international development sector include:-

  • Nursing
  • Medical qualifications
  • Economics
  • Sociology
  • Languages
  • Marketing
  • International studies
  • International development

Once you have the experience and academic qualifications you may be lucky enough to find a suitable paid position. However, the majority of new international development workers will enter internships and graduate development programmes. The degree of training will vary enormously from body to body as greater focus tends to be on the task in hand and immediate action required.

To Conclude –

While many international development positions are filled by volunteers, there is a very strong backbone of paid employees. This is not a role for the fainthearted; ambitions and genuine passion to assist others in the UK or overseas is a firm requirement. That said, for those who wish to help in for example disaster zones or Third World countries there is the opportunity to travel to areas of the world many people can only dream of.