Development Officer: Job Description and Education Requirements

Sep 15, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a development officer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about education requirements, job duties and key skills to find out if this is the career for you.

Development officers work to provide the grease that makes the wheels of an organization or school turn smoothly. Strong communication skills of all sorts, along with at least a bachelor's degree, are prime requirements for most positions.

Essential Information

A development officer is a fundraiser for a college, university or private organization. The job relies heavily on making and communicating with contacts to convey the vision of a school, department or organization in order to solicit donations. Development officers typically have at least a bachelor's degree, though a master's degree may be needed for some positions,

Required Education Bachelor's degree; master's may be preferred by some employers
Key Skills Strong written and verbal communication skills
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 8% for public relations and fundraising managers
Median Annual Salary (2018)** $52,807

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

Job Description for Development Officers

Development officers - sometimes known as fundraisers - are charged with helping support an organization's financial well being by soliciting and securing donations. Commonly known as 'gifts,' the money comes from donors that have been sought out by the fundraiser. After making contact, a development officer must convey the goals of their organization while explaining how a donor's contribution can help further the mission. Development officers sometimes host or attend events in order to woo funding sources, meaning they must also be willing to work long nights and weekends.

The scope of a development officer's job may be specialized if they work for a college or a university--for instance, soliciting donations for a college's engineering or mathematics department. However, fundraisers working for a smaller, private group generally handle development for every part of the organization.

In order to best present a university's or organization's ideals, a development officer must meet with students and other members of their respective departments to best determine how to serve their needs. In many cases, a fundraiser may set up meetings between a student, teacher or administrator and a potential donor to help secure funding.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that public relations and fundraising managers could expect job growth of 8% from 2018-2028, while PR specialists were expected to see a 6% increase in job openings over that same decade. Public relations and fundraising managers earned a median salary of $114,800 as of May 2018, according to the BLS, while specialists made a median salary of $60,000. August 2016 reports from indicate that the median salary of development specialists specifically is $52,807.

Education Requirements

In many instances, a bachelor's degree is all that is required to become a development officer; however, some employers prefer that a job applicant have a master's degree. While there is no degree specifically tailored toward a career as a fundraiser or development officer, a master's degree in education could be helpful for anyone preparing to work at a university. Other useful degrees may touch upon business, finance and public relations.

Other Relevant Skills

Because a development officer is often seen as the face of an organization, it is imperative that this individual has strong written and verbal communication skills as well as an ability to relate well with other people. Many times, employers prefer applicants who have experience with a particular discipline. As an example, a development officer charged with soliciting donations for a business school should have experience in a business or corporate setting.

Public relations, communication, journalism, business and finance are some of the recommended areas in which to earn your bachelor's or master's degree for a career as a development officer. Among your fortes should be strong written and oral communication skills, as well as an affable, agreeable personality and presentation. Employment opportunities for development officers are projected to increase at about the same rate as the national average for all occupations through 2028.

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