• Doing Good
Career Advice

Public, Private or Non-Profit? How to Boost a Development Career

By Stella Ngumuta17 March 2008

A member of the U.S. Agency for International Development's disaster response team waits for humanitarian relief supplies to arrive in Haiti. Overseas unpaid summer internships and fellowships are helpful in gaining experience working for USAID and other U.S. government agencies. Photo by: Chris Lussie / USAID / CC BY-SA

If you asked a group of students interested in working in international development what their greatest dilemma was it would be impossible to pinpoint only one. One of the biggest concerns, however, is the decision on whether to work in the private, non-profit, or public sector.

Many have questioned whether it is really possible to “do good”— the motto of international development – and take home a decent salary and benefit package. Furthermore, the challenges associated with securing a job in the development field and the realities of making ends meet do not always factor into the dream of finding a job that captures one’s passion, interests and career goals.

Graduating students share these concerns with many entry-level professionals, mid-career development specialists and career-changers. While consultations with friends, professors, alumnae networks, and career advisers are essential, the advice of professionals in the field are invaluable.

“It is more about where you can take the skills you think you have and apply them into something that you really care or are passionate about,” said Matthew Clark, director of global strategic accounts at Microsoft Corp. “That can be in a whole lot of different areas, and all leading in some shape or form to the betterment of social and economic development.”

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About the author

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Stella Ngumuta

Stella Ngumuta holds a Bachelor of Law from the University of Nairobi and a master's in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Boston. She has worked in the private and public sectors in Kenya, Somalia and Sierra Leone. Stella became a Devex fellow in June 2007 and after a stint in Washington, D.C., relocated to Nairobi, where she eventually became associate protection officer at the HIAS Refugee Trust of Kenya in Nairobi. She is fluent in English and Swahili, and speaks basic French.


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