Development Studies

Development Studies students examine global poverty and inequality and how to address these, bringing knowledge and skills from related disciplines.

Development Studies students develop a multi-disciplinary skill set and gain strong skills in creative problem solving, research, and communication. They study inequalities between people and nations and the contemporary issues arising from cultural, economic and environmental changes. They explore the complex relationships between countries and the roles of government and non-government organisations.

Roles and career pathways

Development Studies can be completed as part of a Bachelor of Arts focussing more on issues around economics, politics, education and gender, or as part of a Bachelor of Science where areas of study may include climate change, agriculture and infrastructure. Many students study another subject alongside a Development Studies major such as Geography, Environmental Studies, Māori Studies, Pacific Studies, Tourism Management and International Relations or undertake a conjoint degree in Law which helps broaden their employment options.

Development Studies graduates work in a wide range of roles that tend to involve creative and critical thinking, research, problem solving and strong verbal and written communications skills. Graduates may work as community liaison officers, volunteer coordinators, development officers, refugee support coordinators, immigration advisers, project monitoring and evaluation advisers, environmental specialists, advocates or programme coordinators.

Government ministries employ graduates in policy, stakeholder relations, communications and research analyst or advisory roles. First roles for graduates with undergraduate degrees may be in an administration or coordination role before progressing to an adviser or senior adviser in a policy team.

Postgraduate study in Development Studies such as an Honours or Master’s degree is recommended for most intermediate to senior policy and research roles where specialised, in-depth analysis is important.

Where Development Studies graduates work

Development studies graduates work across the private and public sectors. They may work in non-profit and non-governmental global organisations, government departments and embassies.

Recent Development Studies graduates have worked in organisations such as:

Build relevant skills and experience

Part-time work and volunteering during study all help to increase your job prospects when you graduate. The WFHSS Internship course run by the Wellington Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences helps develop practical workplace experience. Programmes such as Wellington Plus and Wellington International Leadership Programme (WILP) offer opportunities to gain diverse volunteer and leadership experience. Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) runs the UniVol Programme, where students who are in their third or final year of study in Geography, Development Studies, Communications or a related area can apply to complete a 10-month community-based volunteer assignment in the Pacific.

VSA have temporarily put their deployment of volunteers on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions and uncertainties both within New Zealand and across the wider Pacific, and are continuing to recruit and build their pool of prospective volunteers. Other organisations' volunteering programmes are in a similar situation, but some have developed online alternatives.

Make career connections

Making connections with individuals and groups during your degree can help you learn more about career and networking opportunities. The Victoria Development Society is a student-led club concerned with issues of development, sustainability and equality. The New Zealand Institute of International Affairs also runs a programme of events, including a Careers Without Borders event in collaboration with Victoria University of Wellington. DevNet is another organisation for people interested in International Development and runs a two yearly conference. The Geography, Environment and Development Studies seminar series provides opportunities to learn and network with staff and students. The Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research based at Victoria University of Wellington offers resources and occasional events for students interested in culture and migration. Wellington Chamber of Commerce and Wellington Young Professionals also offer various events and opportunities for networking. The Alumni as Mentors programme for final-year students also helps enhance your connections and employability while studying.