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Make the world a more equitable place for everyone, and work across highly rewarding and diverse careers

Prevent, protect and prevail. With a degree in BA (Hons) International Development, you’ll unlock the world’s knowledge and cultivate communities of change. You’ll work to ensure every person, everywhere, has an equal chance to reach their full potential.

Dr Ben Garner, Course Leader in International Development Studies, explores what a degree in International Development involves, the skills you’ll develop while you study and the enormously fulfilling careers waiting for you as a graduate.

What is an International Development degree?

Also known as global development, international development is about looking at real-world issues like poverty, environmental sustainability and workers rights. And campaigning on land ownership, living standards and inequality.

Everything you strive for will have an impact on humanity, at both a local and international scale.

When you study a degree in International Development, you’ll explore economics, human geography and international relations, to learn how to influence and engage governments and societies. You’ll use your compassion for helping others to research important global issues.

Work placements during your degree

You may also go on a work placement with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), such as Amnesty International UK or Save the Children, to volunteer and build your employability skills. Find your cause, then transcend national boundaries to address the major global challenges of our time.

Combining the issues you care about

It’s also possible to combine an International Development degree with other subjects. If you prefer the sociological or communicative side of development, choose to study a degree in BA (Hons) International Development and Languages or BA (Hons) International Development with Sociology, and create your pathway to peace and prosperity.

Why study an International Development degree?

To make a real impact

We live in a world where 1 in 9 people globally go to bed hungry, 263 million children don’t have access to education and 736 million people live in extreme poverty.

However, there’s a huge and increasing demand to establish innovative and meaningful ways to rebalance these inequalities.

Things may seem bleak, but over the past 50 years, more progress has been made in reducing poverty and improving public health and education than any other time in history. Foreign aid programmes, which include tackling global diseases, providing humanitarian assistance and reducing the impact of climate change, are helping meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Studying global development at uni gives you the tools to join the institutions realising these goals, and help change lives around the world.

Make yourself highly employable

You’ll graduate with skills that embrace your changemaking potential, such as persuasive argument, problem-solving and analysis. Your global knowledge will help you understand the plights of developing nations, and how NGOs and bodies like the World Bank operate.

During your studies, you may choose to get practical experience through volunteering or placements. Our students have worked with organisations like the British Council, Otra Cosa Network and GlobalGiving, adding to their employability skills.

This on-the-job experience, combined with your heightened socio-political awareness and competency skills, will help you break into truly diverse and rewarding sectors of development, including economics, human rights, languages, social policy and health-related programmes.

For my placement year, I spent time in London at a digital crowdfunding charity, GlobalGiving, where I coordinated a volunteering programme. My role allowed me to implement knowledge gained from the course and gain skills including communications, project management and digital marketing. I was appointed to visit some of GlobalGiving's non-profit project partners in Uganda and furthered my understanding of programme implementation through local organisations.

Rebecca Rees, International Development student

What can I do with a degree in International Development?

At the centre of international development is working to improve the lives of disadvantaged people, making it one of the most rewarding and worthwhile career paths. You’ll work for organisations that build vibrant and inclusive societies, grounded in the respect for human rights, changing and saving lives.

As a graduate, vast opportunities await you – in job roles that come in all shapes and sizes, and at different types of organisations, including:

Charities and non-governmental organisations NGOs

NGOs and charities make up the largest sub-sectors of global development. They’re similar and often used interchangeably. NGOs like the United Nations have a broader and international presence than charities like Oxfam and Save the Children. What unites them is the big impact they make on people around the world.


Philanthropy and social wellbeing will be at the heart of what you do. Lead fundraising projects to deliver bursaries and humanitarian relief. Put together bids for grants to support people in the developing world. Or help media and marketing teams to build awareness of your charity’s goals and how others can help. 


NGOs are dedicated to protecting human, social, environmental and advocacy rights, and improving communities worldwide. Working on development projects, public policy and fundraising initiatives, you’ll have the option of both office and field work, with opportunities to work locally and abroad.

Government aid agencies

Aid agencies bring economic development and greater opportunities both domestically and internationally.

Between 2015-2019, the UK’s foreign aid programme supported 14.3 million children to receive better education, reached 32.6 million with humanitarian assistance and delivered nutrition packages to 50.6 million children.

From managing budgets to establishing policy, and working with consulting firms across nations, you’ll implement programmes that help the world’s most vulnerable people.

Think tanks

At a think tank, you’ll look ahead to help reform and influence government policies and perspectives. You’ll use the persuasive reasoning skills that you’ve mastered during your studies to push for change using evidence-based ideas, at organisations like Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Fraser Institute and Bruegel.

Social enterprises

Represent the best of business and work for a company that enriches communities. In the UK, more than 100,000 social enterprises now contribute £60 billion to the UK economy and employ over 2 million people.

Your day-to-day responsibilities will depend on where you work and your role, but the private sector is increasingly involved in delivering global development programmes. They reinvest profits into communities and collaborate with established NGOs and international organisations like Unicef, the World Health Organisation and Amnesty International.

Student smiling on Southsea beach

You can combine an International Development degree with other subjects, like BA (Hons) International Development and Languages and BA (Hons) International Development with Sociology.

What jobs can I get with a degree in International Development?

Whether you choose to work for charities, NGOs, international organisations or private enterprises, it’s wise to think as broadly as possible when planning your future role in global development.

That’s because opportunities are diverse, dynamic and plentiful. You’ll graduate with skills in community development, fundraising, campaigning and advocacy and public affairs. You’ll also have opportunities to live and work abroad, which is another major draw of global development and humanitarian work.

You could follow Portsmouth graduates into roles such as fundraising coordinator, human rights advocate, media and digital content lead, social researcher, community development practitioner and sustainable sourcing specialist.

Roles for International Development graduates

Here are more roles you can thrive in – some more directly associated with international development than others – but all of them in your reach:

  • Activist
  • Community Development Practitioner
  • Event Manager
  • Foreign Correspondent
  • Foreign Service Officer
  • Fundraiser
  • Government Administrator
  • Health Policy Planner
  • Historical Researcher
  • Human Rights Advocate
  • Institutional Researcher
  • Interpreter 
  • Journalist
  • Labour Relations Specialist
  • Labour Union Representative
  • Legislative Aide
  • Lobbyist
  • Media and Digital Content Lead
  • NGO Director
  • Non-profit Administrator
  • Policy Researcher
  • Programme management
  • Population Studies Analyst
  • Public Affairs Consultant
  • Public Policy Analyst
  • Speech Writer
  • Social Researcher
  • Sustainable sourcing specialist

The exciting thing is, a degree in International Development gives you skills to work almost anywhere. So pick and choose your role, then get ready to help people all over the world.

Dr Ben Garner is the Course Leader for BA International Development and BA International Development and Languages. His research explores the role of culture within the political economy of development, leading to work on subjects including the relationship between culture and trade liberalisation, the work of international organisations such as UNESCO, the World Bank and WTO, and the political economy of knowledge and creativity.