Int'l Development Consulting: Can Any Parents Shed Some Light?

<p>I will be beginning my first year at Georgetown this Fall as an International Health major. So far, I'm loving the idea behind it. One required internship with WHO/USAID, another with with a community-based organization and a semester of studying abroad. I also plan to go for a certificate in African Studies-Hopefully Swahili first semester!</p>

<p>However, as I come to find, most graduates end up as entry-level consultants and/or backstopping. A close family member of mine was a Project Manager for USAID and traveled overseas several times a month, which is eventually what I'd like to do but it takes years to work your way up to the top. I'm not so sure I'd like that so I"m keeping my options open by taking pre-med courses. If being pre-med doesn't work out I won't be devastated but being a doctor in a third world country or just being influential just excites me. Ideas of doing a stint in the Peace Corps, going to medical school or going to grad school for an MPH are floating around in my head too.</p>

<p>I guess what I'm asking for is any advice or insight in my career aspirations. Consultants of all types I'm all ears ;)</p>

<p>CNYHoya, I’m not a consultant myself but I live in an underdeveloped country that is awash with governmental and non-governmental organizations many of which focus on public health. Humanitarian work of any type is personally rewarding and can be fascinating; however, it is notoriously poorly paid. If this is a deterrent to you then you might think about a private sector job involved in corporate social responsibility, a well funded private foundation like the Ford Foundation or an international organization like the UN.</p>

<p>If the money’s not as important to you as the responsibility or influence, then I’d say don’t worry you’ll find plenty of both, especially if you are willing to travel to places that are dangerous and/or devastated by disease or misfortune. In the field, young and relatively inexperienced people are often given enormous responsibility and can affect great good. If, on the other hand, you’re thinking about a desk job with WHO in Geneva then you’re probably right; it will take a long time to work your way up the pecking order.</p>

<p>I would say as a general statement that people at the top levels of governmental agencies and NGO’s are a very well educated bunch, either MDs, MAs, or PhDs. So the first advice I’d give you is to plan on an advanced degree. A stint in the Peace Corps first before heading to graduate school is a common route, but really any on-site experience is valuable.</p>

<p>The second point that I’ve noticed is that there is a definite overlapping network among the government agencies, the NGO’s, the foundations and the contractors. They all seem to know each other and have worked together in different permutations. Connections are VERY important. </p>

<p>Georgetown is an excellent place to start building those connections. Your program’s emphasis on internships is exactly the right way to meet people who will help you in the future. Keep in touch with people whom you meet, go out of your way to meet people who wield influence, ask a lot of questions about how they got to where they are. Especially within the US government (State or USAID) the route to the top jobs is part meritocracy, part whom you know. Government appointments are usually for three years and it seems that immediately upon arrival in country the first thing they do is start lobbying for their next assignment. It’s a complex and intensely political system.</p>

<p>Good luck to you. I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourself at Georgetown.</p>

<p>Thanks for a great post momrath :) However, when you say "awash" when speaking about the NGOs and what not, I'm feeling the sense that their work is ineffective or cumbersome. Am I wrong?</p>

However, when you say "awash" when speaking about the NGOs and what not, I'm feeling the sense that their work is ineffective or cumbersome.


No, I didn't mean that at all. Most of the agencies, foundations and NGOs provide truly beneficial help to people in need. The workers are for the most part very smart and very dedicated people. I just meant that there are a WHOLE LOT of career choices in the general field of public health and humanitarian work.</p>


<p>Many who are involved in providing medical help to poor countries are attached to institutions in the US. For example, Paul Farmer is at the Harvard Medical School and belongs to Partners for Health which is a network of physicians and hospitals. I know of another doctor who is also at the HMS and works with hospitals in Southeast Asia in the field of HIV/AIDs. Still others are part of Doctors Without Borders. There are people who have degrees in public health (as opposed to MDs) also involved in overseas consulting work. They work to help provide clean water and institute measures to curb pollution, etc...</p>

<p>In humanitarian work, the Ford Foundation has been active for many years, as Momrath notes. The Gates Foundation is a newcomer but extremely dynamic. There are others such as Oxfam, Save the Children, American Friends Service Committee, International Rescue Committee, CARE and many others that provide services, including medical services. Operation Smile sends teams of doctors to poorer countries to repair cleft palates and harelips (I believe it has been running lots of ads lately). </p>

<p>There are indeed lots of opportunities in this field.</p>

<p>I am an international development consultant.</p>

<p>Avenues for employment are (1) NGOs which are often less well paid (2) employment with one of the many subcontractors for USAID and other government's international aid funds (DfID in the UK, HEKS in Switz, Danida in Denmark) or (3) direct work with the World Bank, USAID etc. Options 2 and 3 are paid better. Many of the US subcontrators are in the DC area (DAI, Abt Associates, DevTech, ARD, etc). Someone mentiond Paul Farmer's PIH. They are superb and in Boston.</p>

<p>One can work full time or on a contract by contract basis. If you choose the contract basis you receive a higher daily rate but no benefits, and you are always hunting for the next contract, but if you are good that's no problem.</p>

<p>An advanced degree is an absolute requirement; masters or PhD. In the heatlh field an MD or MPH,MPA will get you going. Those without advanced degrees end up as project backstoppers. Still, starting out, you will do a lot of scut work just to learn the ropes. If you are good and hard working, you will progress rapidly.</p>