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5 tips for becoming an international aid or development worker

Maasai women crossing the savannah

Are you interested in helping communities thrive? If you’re passionate about an equal world or are looking to find ways to reduce global poverty, a career in international aid and development could be for you.

What do international aid and development workers do?

It is important to understand the difference between aid and development workers. International aid professionals respond to emergency situations as a result of conflict or natural disasters, while development professionals work to set up long-term, sustainable solutions for developing communities.

You could work for a non-government organisation (NGO) – such as Oxfam, Red Cross or Save the Children – a government department working in diplomacy and foreign affairs (DFAT), a United Nations agency (UNDP), multilateral organisation (Asia Development Bank) or a global philanthropic foundation.

A career as an international aid or development worker can be both challenging and rewarding. To help you along the way, we’ve compiled five tips for you to kick start your journey into becoming an international aid or development professional.

1. Learn a foreign language

Like any job, language skills can be a significant competitive advantage that sets you apart from your peers. The ability to speak another language is more desirable among workplaces as the world has become more interconnected.

For a career in international aid or development, additional language skills are practically mandatory when working on international projects or negotiating with communities and governments. Understanding a local language can help you communicate with a local population and gain a clearer perspective on different cultures.

At Murdoch, you could further your language skills by combining your international aid and development degree with a major or minor in Indonesian or Japanese.

2. Volunteer or find relevant work experience

Gaining hands-on experience through volunteering within a local NGO here in Australia can give you a taste of what it’s like to support development programs. You’ll learn new skills such as teamwork, time management and communication whilst making a positive impact on people and communities.

Organisations like Red Cross, Oxfam, DFAT, ACFID, RDI Network, Development Studies Association of Australia (DSAA) or other local volunteering opportunities are great places to gain experience working in international development and aid and help build up your resume.

Studying your international aid and development degree at Murdoch gives you the opportunity to work on volunteering projects which will count towards your academic credit. You’ll also learn from academics with industry experience and international development contacts, giving you the opportunity to work with organisations on real projects.

3. Find your passion and build on it

It is important to identify which area suits you and to develop your skills to meet the demands needed in your chosen field. The best way to start is to understand where your passions lie and what interests you the most.

International aid or development spans across multiple areas. You could find a passion within food security, gender and rural livelihoods, Indigenous social enterprise or sustainability. At Murdoch, you can take a double minor in gender studies or Indonesian with the international aid and development degree.

Besides work experience or volunteer work, there are also opportunities to explore your interests within the entrepreneurial space as part of Launchpad, our on-campus entrepreneurial hub. Read more about how Murdoch students Muhammed, Habib, Abhishek and Mamun developed their start-up idea to help remote communities with limited medical supplies.

4. Network and make connections

You’ve probably heard about the importance of networks when it comes to searching for jobs. Networking can help you strengthen relationships with new and existing connections, gain access to job opportunities and build confidence.

In any competitive industry, it is important to make valuable connections with people who may be able to help you find work in future. The key to networking and connections with people is to ask questions!

When meeting likeminded professionals, consider asking about their career path, internships they may have undertaken, and if they did any additional training to get where they are now.

5. Keep learning!

The key to success in any field is to continually learn new skills and work to improve on what you already know. This will also help you increase your engagement in the field whilst giving you the motivation to explore new opportunities.

The demands and needs of international aid and development work are always changing. Having the adaptability and interest to learn new things will help you understand and respond to situations as best you can.

How to become an international aid or development worker

A career in international aid or development usually requires a bachelor’s degree. Studying an international aid and development degree at Murdoch will prepare you for the real world upon graduating, as you’ll learn about international politics, community work, international aid and development in practice and sustainable communities. With Murdoch’s culturally rich student population, you will also have the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world. You might even have the chance to work with local and international organisations on real projects during your studies.

Ready to make a difference in the world? Find out more about a degree in international aid and development at Murdoch.
Posted on:

4 Mar 2021

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