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Five top jobs in international aid and development – and how to get them

When people think of working for a better world, a job in international aid and development can easily spring to mind.

Working in distant places with organisations like Oxfam or the Red Cross, helping some of the most vulnerable people around the world is a career many people have imagined at some point – which is why jobs in international aid and development are some of the most popular on EthicalJobs.com.au.

But if you’re passionate about helping to end global poverty and improve the lives of people in the developing world, there are thousands of different ways you can make a difference without necessarily packing all your things and heading off to dig wells in rural Africa.

Here are five of the top jobs in international aid and development that you may never have considered, and some tips for how to land them.

1. Project Manager / Coordinator

This is one of the more common roles you’ll see in the international aid and development category on EthicalJobs.com.au – that’s because every international aid program or project needs someone skilled to coordinate it and keep it running effectively.

International development organisations based in Australia usually need Project Officers or Project Managers to coordinate the implementation of their aid programs in each developing country they work in, collaborating with locals on the ground.

This role involves design, monitoring, and evaluation of projects running in one or more countries, which means you’ll need great project management skills like developing plans and timelines, communicating with and reporting to stakeholders, problem solving, logistics and great time management.

How to get there:

If you haven’t got project management skills already then getting a project management qualification will be essential. Some experience with administration or financial management, including budget planning, will be useful too.

And a bachelors or masters degree in community development or international development will likely be needed too if you’re gong to beat the competition and land a sought-after project management role with an international aid organisation.

Check out all the project management jobs on the site right now.

2. Fundraiser

We’ve written before about how most not-for-profit organisations are on the hunt for a great fundraiser because they rely on donations for some or all of their work.

International aid and development organisations are no exception, employing fundraisers of all sorts from face-to-face fundraisers to digital fundraisers to major gift / philanthropy managers.

Fundraisers often get to be the face of international development, whether that’s talking to people in the street about the organisation’s work, writing emails to supporters about the impact their dollars will have, or organising iconic fundraising events like the World Vision 40 Hour Famine or the Oxfam Trailwalker.

How to get there?

Unlike some other professions, fundraising isn’t generally something you need to study first, then do. Because fundraising is such a diverse role, fundraisers can and do come from a huge variety of backgrounds.

To be a face-to-face fundraiser you probably don’t need any experience or qualifications at all. Whereas becoming a major gift manager would usually require a few years of experience in sales, business development or relationship development. And to be an effective digital fundraiser you’ll need experience in marketing, technology and database management.

Check out all the fundraising jobs on the site right now.

3. Volunteer manager

Speaking of iconic events like the World Vision 40 Hour Famine or the Oxfam Trailwalker, most fundraising events like this are organised by volunteers – but not without support from dedicated professionals.

Volunteers are the lifeblood for may not-for-profit organisations, but for volunteers to be effective, they usually need great volunteer managers.

A volunteer manager coordinates the work of volunteers, and are responsible for everything from recruiting and onboarding new volunteers through to training, ongoing scheduling and coordination of the work that volunteers do. Plus some of the trickier aspects like managing performance and resolving disputes.

As a volunteer manager you’ve got to love working with people of all sorts – volunteers can be young or old, and come from a huge variety of backgrounds.

How to get there?

Volunteer management is another role where it’s unlikely you’ll find a formal qualification. Instead you’ll probably get into a volunteer manager role in one of two ways:

First, you might start out as a volunteer on a project and really impress the existing volunteer manager. If you can show them you have the people skills and the long-term dedication to the organisation or cause, you might eventually be invited to manage other volunteers.

A more direct way would be getting a degree in social work, community development, human resources or community services and getting a few years of experience in the workforce.

But developing great people skills, being a good listener and being a good communicator are the core skills that will serve you well in this role.

Check out all the volunteer manager jobs on the site right now.

4. Finance Officer / Accountant

When you think of finance and accounting, your mind may not go straight to international aid. But finance officers and accountants are essential to keep international aid programs running effectively. They ensure that project finances are managed effectively and that donor funds are used correctly. Accountants make sure the funds get to where they are needed the most and don’t get wasted or mis-spent along the way

A good finance officer or accountant not only pays the bills and balances the books, they provide advice and support to aid organisations on a range of financial, procurement and reporting matters. Given the essential nature of much international aid work, they’re also involved in life and death decisions like which funding gets allocated to alleviating which needs or crises.

How to get there?

To become an accountant, you’ll need an accounting degree and to be really good with numbers. An added complexity for accountants in the international development sector is working across multiple currencies and understanding and complying with financial rules set out by the Australian government or the United Nations.

Check out all the not-for-profit finance jobs on the site right now.

5. International volunteer roles

If you’re passionate about working overseas, the Australian Volunteers Program allows skilled volunteers with all kinds of skillsets to work on a fixed-term contract with a local non-government or government organisation in developing countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

The program is funded by the Australian Government to build capacity in 26 countries, and placements are usually for one or two years.

How to get there?

Use the skills you already have and check out the volunteer positions advertised by Australian Volunteers Program. They have a wide range of roles – from horticulture trainers to medical workers to website designers – for local organisations across the region.

You’ll need to have the right motivation and as Samy Mounir, Volunteer Services Manager at the Australian Volunteers Program says, “Keep an open mind and apply even if your qualifications or experience only partially match the assignment description!”


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