What Economic Crisis? US Aid Agencies Go on Hiring Spree

If you're looking for a development job, now is the time. U.S. aid agencies are on a hiring spree, notwithstanding the economic woes.“We have never hired like this before," said Tom Davis, chief of outreach and marketing at the U.S. Agency for International Development, during the panel discussion at Devex's March 20 career fair for mid- to senior-level professionals in Washington.USAID’s Development Leadership Initiative plans to double the number of foreign service officers by 2012 at all experience levels. The agency also hopes to fill health- and finance-related and contracting officer positions, mostly through its junior officer program. The "foreign service limited appointment" is another attractive USAID employment route. Positions under this scheme become available when a specific skill set is needed, largely in hardship posts like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan. For independent contractors, USAID mainly recruits retired FSOs but also hires personal services contractors though these are for highly specialized positions, Davis said. The State Department is also ramping up its recruitment of FSOs as diplomacy takes a bigger role in American foreign policy under the Obama administration."We are hiring. We are hiring. We are hiring," said Luis E. Arreaga, director of the State Department’s Office of Recruitment, Examination and Employment. "In order to wield smart power, we need smart people."Candidates with critically needed foreign language skills such as Arabic or background in management and economics are in high demand for FSO positions. Applicants must first pass a written exam and then a day-long oral test or interview.The Millennium Challenge Corp. is currently looking for experts in agricultural development, health economics, environmental and social assessment and policy reform at all different experience levels, said Sherri G. Kraham, acting vice president for policy and international relations at MCC. MCC's small size – the staff only numbers more than 300 – denotes that there will be a limited number of new hires as compared to the agency's larger counterparts. Its hiring process is similar to the private sector:  Internal and external candidates are considered for job openings and will need not go through an exam unlike FSO candidates. MCC also has many opportunities for promotion and offers a merit-based pay structure. Many nonprofit and international development companies are also hiring. More than 35 of them joined the Devex career fair, including the Asia Foundation, Chemonics, Emerging Markets Group, Population Services International, Pact, BroadReach Healthcare and UNICEF.

About the author

  • Oliver Subasinghe

    Oliver joined Devex in late 2008 as an international development correspondent and researcher. He previously served as a microfinance fellow for Kiva in Kenya and Uganda. During his tenure, he worked with Kiva’s field partners to improve their operations and governance. Oliver holds a master's in business from the College of William & Mary.