Careers in Economic Development

THERE ARE MANY OPPORTUNITIES to work in the field of economic development. It is a "romantic" field, in that it often involves international travel to exotic locales. It is also a career fraught with difficulties and a few dangers (mainly, your intestines will never be the same!). Most UR students have started in international development from the bottom -- that is, as field workers with the Peace Corps or other volunteer groups. The work is difficult but rewarding, and students return with a broadened real-world perspective. It will change your life -- how could it help but? Many companies and graduate schools look very favorably on this two year experience.

For an example of a UR grad who has a PEACE CORPS JOB, click here.

ALTERNATIVELY, THE HIGH-BROW APPROACH to development is to work for a major multinational bank or consulting company engaged in research or management projects in developing countries. Examples of the former include the WORLD BANK, which is the major lender in developing countries. The pay and benefits are great, and you will stay in all the swank hotels. However, it is tough to get a job there. You will usually need at least an M.A., Ph.D., or M.B.A. to get hired. I have consulted for the World Bank and I never felt right about staying in the five-star hotels for $200/night when my mission was to help poor people! It seemed a little hypocritical. There are other development banks (the Latin American, African, Asian, etc., which also do similar activities to the World Bank). One of the highest level jobs would be with the International Monetary Fund, which helps countries with balance of payments problems.

JULIE NENON WORKED IN DEVELOPMENT for a consulting company for many years before heading off to graduate school. The company carries out development research projects for the U.S. Agency for International Development and other funding agencies. So, you don't need to work for AID directly to get some of that aid money. However, as you are probably aware, aid money is drying up. This doesn't mean you should give up; au contraire, keep up your search more intensely!

A FORMER STUDENT who prefers to work independently has started his own Richmond-based development program. THE HIGHLAND SUPPORT PROJECT provides assistance for integral development in the indigenous communities in the mountainous regions of Guatemala. It is a volunteer-based group, and needs your help! All it takes is energy and imagination.

GRADUATE SCHOOL is one route to getting into the development game. By getting a Masters or Ph.D. in Economics you are eligible for more of the "high-brow" development jobs, which, by the way are very important: e.g., advising on exchange rates, fiscal policies, agricultural policies, and so on. Any of the economics faculty can assist you here. You may also be interested in specialized international programs (like Thunderbird, SAIS, or South Carolina) in which you would earn a masters. in business, management, or interdisciplinary studies.

FINALLY, THERE ARE SOME DOMESTIC options for people interested in helping others. You've probably heard about Habitat for Humanity, VISTA, and other groups. You may not have heard about The Jesuit Volunteer Corps, which offers a superb opportunity for service with a spiritual foundation.

YOUR TASK NOW is to head over to Career Counseling and get a start sifting through all your options. If I can help, please let me know.