Discover different career opportunities with USAID. Photo by: Nguyen Thac Phuong / USAID

With a field presence in some 80 countries and programs in a further 20 countries, the U.S. Agency for International Development has approximately 9,000 employees worldwide.

The agency hires for a range of technical, managerial, and operational roles to further U.S. interests overseas while tackling global challenges, such as poverty, disease, and climate change, in low- and middle-income countries. USAID staff work with U.S. and foreign partners to provide assistance in the areas of global health, global stability, humanitarian assistance, innovation and partnerships, and women and girls’ empowerment.

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USAID’s workforce is made up of direct-hire and contract employees based in the U.S. and in field missions around the world. Staff fall under three major categories: civil service employees, foreign service officers, and foreign service nationals.

Devex takes a look at the different career opportunities with USAID.

Civil service

Civil, or general service employees as they are also known, serve mainly in Washington, D.C., and account for around 1,200 of the agency’s workforce. Staff in these positions perform governmental functions and serve as a link between the country’s strategic interests and programming.

Civil service employees are involved in:

• Providing policy oversight and operational support for overseas programming.
• Maintaining accountability for the annual foreign assistance funds.
• Developing strategies, policies, budgets, and programs in a range of development sectors and countries.
• Monitoring acquisition and assistance.
• Performing knowledge management.
• Collaborating with key stakeholders in other U.S. government agencies, the private and non-profit sectors, and other development agencies.

All civil service positions are posted and filled through an automated application system in the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's USAJOBS site. The agency is currently hiring a range of experts, including those with backgrounds in financial management, information technology, and data science.

Foreign service

Foreign service officers, of which there are approximately 1,800 from the U.S., serve mainly overseas. These officers apply their technical knowledge, program design, management, and evaluation expertise to promote the agency’s interests.

The work of foreign services officers includes:

• Collaborating with foreign governments, representatives, development agencies, and non-governmental partners to deliver U.S. foreign assistance.
• Developing, managing, and evaluating country and regional programs.
• Ensuring that programs meet the needs of partners cost-effectively.
• Responding to crises and humanitarian emergencies.
• Working in the areas of economic growth and trade; peace and security; education and health; democracy and governance; conflict mitigation.

Foreign service officers must be prepared to serve at one the more than 270 embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic missions worldwide. Some posts involve working in challenging or even dangerous situations where employees' families cannot accompany them. The agency looks to recruit junior professionals who want to make a long-term commitment to a career in the foreign service and international development.

Candidates for jobs in the foreign service should be:

• A citizen of the United States.
• At least 18 years old and no older than 60 years old on the first day as an FSO employee.
• Be in good health and able to pass a rigorous physical exam.
• Able to get security clearance.
• Willing to accept a posting at any USAID location.

Preferred candidates will also hold a graduate degree or a combination of a bachelor’s degree and relevant work experience in an LMIC or with economically deprived communities in the U.S.

Opportunities in the foreign service are posted on the federal government's job website and their vacancy announcements page. The agency currently has several vacancies around health, nutrition, financial management, education, agriculture, economy, engineering, environment, and stabilization and governance.

Foreign service nationals

USAID has around 6,000 foreign service nationals, also known as locally employed staff. These individuals are citizens of the host countries and provide consistency and support for the U.S. staff posted there as well as local language and cultural expertise.

Other employment opportunities with the agency involve working as a contractor or gaining hands-on experience as a fellow.

Personal Service Contractors

A personal services contractor is an individual who provides specialized expertise to the agency in Washington, or the field. While PSCs, generally, have an employer-employee relationship with the agency and appear to be a government employee, they are not legally regarded as so.

Fellowships

The agency runs fellowship programs across a number of technical areas, including global health, democracy promotion, science and technology, and gender equality and women’s empowerment. USAID Fellows generally spend one or two years working in Washington, or with the agency’s missions overseas.

Fellows provide technical assistance and are involved in writing research papers and developing evaluation strategies and methods. The program is designed for fellows to gain experience through on-the-job training, rotations, mentorship, and formal training opportunities.

Each fellowship program has its own requirements. Some, for example, require a foreign language. Generally, fellows must be able to demonstrate excellent analytical, oral, and written communication skills. They must also have cross-cultural skills and experience.

Update, Feb. 12, 2021: This article has been updated to clarify the types of civil service candidates currently sought by USAID.

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