Become a Foreign Aid Worker: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a foreign aid worker. Research the job description and training requirements and find out how to start a career in this profession.

Should I Become a Foreign Aid Worker?

Foreign aid workers are employed abroad to provide assistance to the underserved and displaced. These workers travel extensively, allowing them to meet and help a wide variety of people. Depending on the area they are assigned to, foreign aid workers could deal with dangers from disease or violence. Obtaining a position in this field requires focused motivation, education and international experience. Prospective candidates must also meet specific requirements for the job. Review the requirements necessary for this career in the following table:

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; advanced positions require a graduate degree
Degree Fields Education, agriculture and technology or specialized fields
Experience Some positions require extensive volunteer and/or work experience
Key Skills Languages, leadership, organization and planning, patience, self-sufficiency
Additional Requirements Experience working abroad, ability to pass a background check
Salary $30,000-50,000 is the average range of entry-level salaries

Sources: Peace Corps, USAID.gov.

Step 1: Identify Motivation

Foreign aid workers are needed on every continent in nearly every field. Work can include disaster response, embassy work, unmet need fulfillment or other tasks. Prospective aid workers must determine what area of focus motivates them and where they would like to be placed. Individuals can select a country where they know or are interested in learning the language, have a cultural interest or wish to find work in the future.

Step 2: Earn an Education

Educational requirements for foreign aid workers vary depending on the desired field of focus. Those wishing to teach abroad, for example, can seek a degree in education. Students who want to study social science, economics and information technology might find job opportunities with non-profits and international aid organizations. Other degree options could include agronomy, engineering and business. Prospective foreign aid workers might consider pursuing a bachelor's degree or higher in their field. A degree in international affairs offers a diverse background and can benefit students intending to work with government organizations.

Step 3: Work or Study Abroad

Many work abroad and study abroad programs are available to university students. Positions can be paid or unpaid and in a variety of fields and locations. Some students may choose to participate in independent programs or find international work on their own. International programs allow students to experience cultural immersion and prepare them for foreign aid work. International internships with the U.S. Department of State provide first-hand experience with foreign aid and affairs. Students benefit from working in the region where they plan to seek future employment.

Step 4: Volunteer with an International Organization

Prospective foreign aid workers can consider volunteer work, which can help them make connections in their field and gain experience. Many international non-profits seek volunteers and place them in communities where they have an established presence. This allows prospective aid workers to gain language, community building and diplomatic experience with the guidance of seasoned individuals.

Step 5: Meet Basic Requirements

Foreign aid workers must meet basic medical and age requirements. Many organizations, including the U.S. State Department, also require a background check. Candidates with foreign language skills, experience or advanced education could have an advantage over competitors.

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