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News & Features - July 2015

Trends in International Development Jobs

Wednesday 22nd July 2015




INTernational development There are currently over 5,096 charities classed as international within the UK, giving great potential to create a flourishing career in international development. However getting your first job in international development and moving up in this extremely competitive sector can prove to be a challenge.

TPP Not for Profit handles all kinds of charity job, at all levels from Assistant to Director. We recruit for temporary, contract and permanent international development jobs. This article will cover current trends for different kinds of role in NGOs.

Senior Appointments

While funding for NGOs has dropped, there is an assumption that not for profit organisations can work much more effectively in partnership with businesses. This means that international development organisations are becoming increasingly eager to work with the private sector. Businesses can offer experience, skills and distribution networks which can help NGOs increase the impact of their work, as well as possibly funding specific projects.

This means there is now an increasing demand for charity leaders who can build and develop relationships with these private sector companies, as well as with other civil society organisations. These senior charity jobs require a proven track record of finding and developing opportunities for collaboration and putting together the right incentive package for relationship building.

There is also more pressure on NGOs to accurately monitor and evaluate the impact that their projects has, to justify their share of the shrinking pool of funding from both government and private sector organisations. This has made senior professionals who have a demonstrably strong grasp of M&E increasingly in demand.

There is also an expectation that senior NGO staff will have at least a good understanding, if not direct experience, of both the fundraising and service delivery sides of an organisation. This is essential to make sure both areas are working in partnership to deliver the NGO’s aims. Employees working in international development seeking to move up the career ladder should ensure that they have enough diversity in their career portfolio to demonstrate this essential ability to straddle different divisions.

Projects and Programmes

Programmes and project jobs have proved consistently popular, making competition for them extremely fierce. Employers are able to be picky and will usually insist that shortlisted candidates have exactly the right experience AND qualifications for a role. A master’s degree and long periods of unpaid volunteering in the field are now a common requirement for international development first timers.

If candidates want to make themselves stand out from other jobseekers, they need to put heavy emphasis on any specialist skills when applying for jobs, whether in a particular sector (eg politics, child nutrition, micro-finance) or regional specialisation (language skills, regional work experience, or area studies). Evidence to support administration, budgeting and analysis skills is also vital as you will need to be able to manage both people and paperwork.

Projects and programmes roles are increasingly field based – at least 30-40% of your time is likely to be spent abroad. Even when looking for your first job, it’s worth considering how working in this type of role will affect your personal life, especially if you stay there for the long term.


There has been a dramatic overall decline in statutory funding from big international donors like the EC or DFID, which has had a huge impact on the sector, particularly in smaller organisations which are often the most heavily reliant on grants. Only 24% of the income for NGOs in the UK now comes from statutory sources. This means that organisations with good access to unrestricted funds (like the Red Cross) and more sources of potential income can be much more flexible and are better able to weather changes in funding.

These changes have led to an increased demand for fundraisers who are able to tap into private sector sources (eg corporate, major donor or individual giving specialists). Competition for the best fundraisers in these fields has become much fiercer and those with a proven record of success can expect increasingly attractive compensation packages, as organisations vie with each other to recruit them.

Another continuing trend within international development fundraising jobs is for organisations to decentralise resources, as the largest donors delegate responsibility for decision making on funding to the regions directly affected. International development organisations have increased their local fundraising activity, both with staff relocated from the UK and local employees. Staff recruited locally is always the preferred option, but they do not always have the high level of specific skills required, particularly for the more senior roles.

Local fundraisers are also better situated to take advantage of the developing world’s growing markets, particularly in areas like India or South Africa. NGOs are increasingly looking to raise funds from within these markets, as they have a better understanding of the organisations’ aims and ultimately a vested interest in helping to support them. A good example of a local fundraising campaign is Kenyans for Kenya from the Kenyan Red Cross.

Increasing collaboration between NGOs is also having an effect on recruitment. The largest donors like to fund comprehensive projects that can make a bigger impact, so two or more organisations with complimentary missions are often encouraged to team up on projects. A silo mentality is increasingly unproductive and willingness to collaborate is usually a big advantage when applying for funding. Experience of working directly on a collaborative project is therefore extremely desirable at the moment, and candidates with this experience can command better packages.


For most administration or office support jobs within international development, the skill set of a candidate is more important than their experience in the sector. For example, a Fundraising Assistant might need experience of using the relevant database and dealing with supporters, but not necessarily of working within an NGO. However, having relevant volunteering experience on your CV is always a good ways to demonstrate your understanding of an organisation’s aims and could definitely make you stand out.

As NGOs seek to build a more diverse range of income streams to cope with cuts in statutory funding, they may decide to explore supporting their charitable activity with a profit-making trading arm. This can create new job opportunities, eg in logistics, and could be a way for jobseekers to enter the international development sector, particularly if they have transferable skills from the commercial world.


The previously mentioned trend for NGOs to employ locally-based staff also affects finance jobs, as most accountants and junior finance staff are now recruited from the relevant region. However, Finance Managers and other senior staff usually continue to be based in the organisation’s headquarters in the UK.

Finance Manager roles in international development organisations are not significantly different from those in other national charities, but previous experience of working in an NGO is definitely an advantage and expertise in dealing with multiple currencies is an essential requirement.


Competition for marketing and communications jobs within NGOs is very strong, particularly within the best-known organisations. Jobseekers need to find ways to make themselves stand out from the crowd. Although work experience within an international development organisation is always an advantage, what most organisations require is a specific skill set with evidence of proven previous success.

In the charity sector as a whole, specialist roles working with social media and new technologies are becoming increasingly common, and having successful previous experience in these areas can make you much more attractive to employers, especially in international development as social media is experiencing a surge of growth in emerging markets.


In order to carry out their educational objectives, NGOs are always on the lookout for qualified teachers with experience of working overseas. The most preferred qualification is an International Baccalaureate Diploma, but candidates looking for education jobs also need to be able to demonstrate competence in delivering teaching in developing countries.

Junior teachers are most often recruited from the local region, but head teachers are still often sent over from the UK. They usually work for a year or two entirely overseas, during which time they are encouraged to train up local employees to take over once their term is up.


Healthcare is one of the largest sources of jobs within the international development sector. Most NGOs are on the constantly search for Health Officers or Country Health Directors who are able to travel abroad, and have a medical or clinical background. Ideally they should also have previous experience of working for in healthcare jobs in international development abroad.

Over the last couple of years, there has been a huge increase in the demand for qualified healthcare professionals to go to countries that have experienced natural disasters. Lack of local supplies and skills has hindered emergency relief, and staff have had to be recruited from the UK.

TPP is a specialist recruiter for the charity sector. All of TPP’s consultants have expert knowledge of how recruitment in international development is changing and a proven track record of recruiting to NGOs. Whether you are looking to employ highly skilled and experienced staff, or to make your next move within international development, we can help.

You can contact us on 020 7198 6000 or info@tpp.co.uk or visit our website to search our currently available roles.

TPP Not for Profit


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