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Careers & Outcomes

Academics / Departments & Programs / Global Development Studies / Careers & Outcomes

Graduate School

Some Calvin students go straight to graduate school for M.A. or PhD degrees in a variety of development-related fields. Recent graduates have attended the following universities: Arcadia, Emory, Fordham, Johns Hopkins, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and the School of International Training. Talk to your advisor about preparing for graduate study after Calvin.


Find a NGO to work for.

See what else GDS alumni are doing.

Find a job in global development

Studying global development at Calvin will prepare you to enter many development-related fields, such as:

  • Economic development
  • International conservation
  • Import-export business
  • Urban planning
  • International relations
  • Humanitarian relief
  • Peace and reconciliation work
  • Government diplomacy
  • Community development
  • International law
  • Environmental planning

Good Advice for Everyone

If you feel called to global service, you'll find many opportunities at Calvin to cultivate your interests and prepare for a career, no matter your area of specialty.

  • While you’re in college

    Study abroad: There is no substitute for international experience. Immerse yourself in other societies through Calvin’s many study abroad programs, five of which are in developing countries. Or take advantage of Calvin’s many January interim courses that travel to developing countries.

    Take a double major or a major/minor: There is no rule for the precise package of courses you should take. Talk with your advisor and the key contact people listed in this booklet to get a better idea of what set of courses would be best for you.

    Learn a foreign language, or two: Development professionals always emphasize the importance of learning languages. Language learning builds communication skills and cross cultural sensitivity. You can take language classes right here at Calvin, or you can immerse yourself in foreign languages through study abroad programs.

    Do internships: Internships are a great way to test your sense of calling and to gain experience and credibility. Many jobs in international development require 2-3 years of experience in the field and internships are a great way to start. There are many ways to find internships, but two excellent options at Calvin are locating an internship via the Career Service Center, which gives you local non-profit experience, and the semester abroad internship program with World Renew.

    Nurture and build your faith: Faith keeps you connected with God and focused on your purpose in life. Explore, challenge and intentionally build your faith every day of your life.

    Get involved in extra-curricular activities: Join student organizations that deal with global development. Attend lectures by guest speakers and special showings of videos and movies. Volunteer for and/or attend the annual Faith and International Development Conference.

    Get to know your professors: Your professors have a wealth of expertise in international development, so get to know them. Yes, they are busy, but they are genuinely interested in you and really want to help you on your academic and vocational journey.

    Volunteer in the community: Volunteering with local organizations or locally based global development organizations can help you gain valuable job skills and learn more about what you love doing and feel called to pursue. Learn about many of these opportunities through Calvin’s Career Service Center.

  • After college

    Get more experience: Reach out for all those incredible international experiences available through government programs like the Peace Corps, or through development organizations, churches and even businesses. The more international and general work experience you have, the easier it will be to get a good development job later on.

    Go to graduate school: Getting a Master’s degree will give you specialized and advanced skills in a particular area of development. A year or two of experience in the field may help you develop a clear idea of the program that best fits your gifts, interests and sense of calling.

Expand your studies

Talk to your faculty advisor about combining global development studies with the following areas of study:

  • Business

    Poverty alleviation is a vital part of international development and business is critical to the generation of jobs and income. Business is about understanding needs of people and producing goods and services that meet those needs in a sustainable way. Goods and services, jobs and income are all basic components of a healthy society.

    People need jobs to provide for their families, to be constructive members of their community and, in general, to experience their God-given dignity as responsible stewards. Growing businesses liberate the poor from economic dependency and allow individuals and communities the financial freedom needed to improve other areas of their lives, like education and health care. Whether micro, small, medium or large multinational enterprises, businesses play a central role in the development of people, communities and nations across the globe.

    Doug Seebeck, executive director of Partners Worldwide, says that “colleges with programs in both business and IDS are on the cutting edge. Students who study both are uniquely positioned to apply business skills in developing contexts sensitively and constructively.” In addition to the importance of for-profit businesses, business skills are also greatly needed to help not-for-profit organizations run efficiently.

    Vocational Possibilities

    • Business promotion
    • Microenterprise and microfinance
    • Banking and finance
    • Business consulting
    • Management of development organizations
    • Import/export business

    Making the Most of Your College Years

    • Read about, learn about and join the Business as Missions (BAM) movement
    • Volunteer with local organizations that bring you into contact with poor people
    • Get involved in volunteer and leadership activities with student organizations
    • Attend annual Partners Worldwide conferences

    Key contact

    Peter Snyder, Business

  • Economics

    Economics continues to be one of the main disciplines in international development; it is a vital part of understanding how to alleviate poverty in developing nations. Students who study both IDS and economics at Calvin will come to understand how much God cares about economic issues and the well being of people across the globe. Economic justice, stewardship of resources, treatment of the poor and attitudes toward wealth are topics the bible takes up time and time again.

    Among the vital issues that need constant attention are the role that international markets can and should play in developing nations, the pros and cons of globalization and how to navigate international trade and financial markets without falling victim to their dangers.

    Development economists work to understand how to structure government and international policies so that the world’s economies can grow sustainably and justly, ensuring that everyone is able to enjoy the goods and services our economies produce.

    Moreover, other development issues, including migration, agriculture and food provision, urbanization, financial crises, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and so much more are laced with economics and we need economists who understand these relationships. There are few issues that don’t cry out for economic understanding and wise policy making.

    Vocational Possibilities

    • Market development
    • Micro, small or medium enterprise promotion
    • Issue analysis and advocacy
    • International trade
    • Government policy
    • Development economist

    Making the Most of Your College Years

    • Join the economics club
    • Take math courses, essential for graduate study in economics
    • Do an internship in Washington DC with a government agency

    Key contacts

    • Adel Abadeer, Economics
    • Sung Soo Lim (, Economics
  • Environmental Science and Environmental Studies

    The days are gone when we can overuse the earth’s resources while ignoring the impact on the environment. While it’s true that we need to improve our economies, develop new businesses, and spread health care, especially among the poorest, it’s also true that we need to be intentional about caring for creation.

    At Calvin you have the choice of studying either Environmental Science or Environmental Studies. Environmental Science focuses on the environmental aspects of physics, chemistry, biology and geology; it prepares you to work in the environmental field as a natural scientist. Environmental Studies makes you aware of the many ways in which people change their natural environments and of the policy, institutional and behavioral changes needed to control, reverse and manage these changes.

    Questions about wise interaction with our physical and living environments are both global (climate change, overfishing, desertification) and local (irrigation, forest management, agriculture). Environmental issues at both levels need the attention of skilled experts in the fields of environmental science and policy.

    By combining IDS with environmental science/studies, you’ll learn how to make stewardly decisions about managing God’s creation and be well prepared to address environmental issues facing developing countries. You’ll also gain insights into the interactions between rich and poor countries and how high income countries must change to allow everyone to flourish as God intended.

    Vocational Possibilities

    • International conservation
    • Agriculture
    • Environmental specialist for government aid agencies
    • Environmental planning for development organizations
    • Water and sanitation planning
    • Sustainable energy development
    • Urban planning

    Making the Most of Your College Years

    • Participate in the Thailand semester program or one of the Creation Care Studies programs in New Zealand or Belize
    • Volunteer for local environmental organizations, like the West Michigan Environmental Action Council
    • Become a member of a national/international environmental group, like the Sierra Club or Nature Conservancy

    Key contacts

  • Geography

    Geography is the study of the earth’s landscapes, peoples, places and environments. Geography is unique in bridging the social sciences (human geography) with the natural sciences (physical geography). While focusing especially on spatial relationships, geography takes into account the interaction of social, political, economic and environmental factors that characterize a particular place or region and its people.

    Geography provides an ideal framework for relating other fields of knowledge. People working in the field of development have often received geographic training, which they use to analyze problems and questions like the ways in which...

    • The distribution of malaria correlates with elevation, temperature, and precipitation
    • Soil erosion and environmental degradation affect agricultural productivity
    • Ethnic and religious distributions influence the political character of a particular region
    • Patterns of globalization affect the economies and the environments of local populations

    One particularly powerful skill offered in geography is Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which allows international development practitioners to make computer-based maps that help visualize and analyze key development issues. These include health and disease, conflict and disaster mitigation, food security and agriculture, environmental sustainability, housing quality, regional water use, sanitation and much more.

    Vocational Possibilities

    • Community development
    • Natural resource management
    • Humanitarian relief
    • Cartographer and map analysis
    • Forestry and reforestation
    • Water and sanitation hydrology
    • Urban or regional planning

    Making the Most of Your College Years

    • Take field-based methods courses in Geography and Geology
    • Volunteer for environmental sustainability projects at Calvin University and in Grand Rapids
    • Learn about your own place and its history, people, resources, climate, etc.
    • Take regional geography courses or a minor in a world region such as Africa, Latin America, or Asia

    Key contacts

  • Political Science

    Governments and organizations that are well structured, well managed, and justice oriented are a necessary foundation for authentic, broad-based human development. Achieving good governance both domestically and internationally requires not only competent, wise and virtuous leaders, but also the participation of courageous citizens who are willing to get involved, voice their concerns, and invest themselves in the common good.

    Political science, as the study of government functioning, power distribution and decision making, is one of the main ways to understand international development. A good background in politics and government helps development-oriented students understand how decisions are – and should be – made at all levels of society.

    Combining the study of political science with international development will enhance your understanding of the role that power, policies and governing structures play in local, state, and international levels of society. This combination will empower you with knowledge and skills to promote the development of your own community or one far from home.

    Vocational Possibilities

    • Diplomacy and foreign service for the government
    • Public policy and/or public administration
    • International law and human rights
    • Conflict transformation and peace building
    • Civil society promotion
    • Diplomatic or technical service for international organizations like the United Nations

    Making the Most of Your College Years

    • Keep yourself updated on national and international events
    • Get involved in local political organizations
    • Participate in student government
    • Take the Model U.N. Class
    • Gain experience in research methods and writing

    Key contacts

  • Public Health

    Almost 1 billion people in the world don’t have enough food. Many of them are children, whose hunger often leads to death from a related illness. Malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other diseases run rampant in poor areas of world. If sick, hungry people had money, they could buy the food and medicine they need to get healthy, but, because they’re sick and undernourished they can’t work to make the money they need. It’s a vicious circle.

    Helping people and communities get healthy and stay healthy is a huge part of international development. Healthy communities require curative and preventative health services, but they also need nutritious food, clean water and sanitation systems to prevent infection and disease. The field of public health thus branches into the arenas of agricultural production, diet and local environmental conditions in addition to the more strictly medical arenas.

    Students with a sense of calling in global public health can combine studies in IDS with a health care related course of study, like nursing or pre-med, or they can prepare for other areas of public health, like nutrition, sanitation or agriculture by obtaining a strong concentration in the sciences, especially biology.

    Vocational Possibilities

    • Doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant
    • Public health management
    • Lab technician
    • Agricultural research and training
    • Community development
    • HIV/AIDS specialist
    • Nutrition and health education

    Making the Most of Your College Years

    • Join the International Health and Development Club
    • Intern at a local development organization in a health related area
    • Volunteer at local food banks or non-profit health centers

    Key contact

    David Dornbos, Biology

  • Social Work

    Development isn’t only about economics or politics; it is also about the importance of social relationships. Poverty, violence, discrimination and oppression all arise when social systems and the relationships within them become dysfunctional. Social workers get involved at all levels of society to restore and improve human relationships, with the ultimate goal of building a good, just and inclusive society. Where people are left out, social work finds ways to bring them in, whether that involves working with individuals, groups of people or governments.

    In the international arena, social work knowledge and skills are especially useful in community development, where individual self-esteem and working together cooperatively are so essential. Social work is an integral part of the development field because of its strong focus on enhancing the lives of people from all social and economic circles.

    By studying and gaining expertise in social work, you will develop the knowledge, skills and empathy needed to help address some of society’s most pressing human needs. You will learn that helping people is not about pity, charity or fixing other people’s problems, but about recognizing the inherent dignity of every person, partnering with communities, building on strengths and pursuing justice.

    Vocational Possibilities

    • Community development
    • Refugee support and resettlement
    • Working with people who have been trafficked
    • People with disabilities
    • Gender awareness teaching
    • Humanitarian relief
    • Capacity building in development organizations
    • Conflict reconciliation and peace building

    Making the Most of Your College Years

    • Volunteer in a local community development organization
    • Volunteer for organizations working with immigrants and/or refugees
    • Get connected with a national or international advocacy organization
    • Participate in a social work oriented international interim

    Key contact

    Joe Kuilema, Social Work

  • Sociology

    At the center of all development efforts are individuals who are also part of larger social groups. Sociology is the discipline that most intentionally studies how people actually live together and organize their lives in group and community relationships. Sociology and its close companion anthropology (the comparative study of cultural systems) have a deep appreciation of people’s cultures and life ways, which will help you understand why human relationships are sometimes harmonious, and why at other times they become socially dysfunctional due to familial breakdown, HIV/AIDS, corruption, gender discrimination, urban sprawl /decay, ethnic violence and even warfare. A culturally sensitive sociological understanding is vital for successful development efforts.

    The combination of Sociology with IDS gives you insight into the factors behind pressing social problems and grants you unique ideas and tools that can help overcome them. You will learn why socio-cultural identities are so important to human well-being, how these identities are formed and malformed and how people are motivated to cooperate with others to work for social improvements.

    Sociological/anthropological understanding thus brings you into the hearts of the people and their communities and helps you grow in the cross-cultural sensitivity you need to work successfully with people from other cultures.

    Vocational Possibilities

    • Community development
    • Technical advising for development organizations in areas of cultural and social dynamics
    • Conflict mediation
    • Gender relationships
    • Human rights advocacy
    • National and international social policy

    Making the Most of Your College Years

    • Volunteer for a local community organization
    • Become a member or affiliate of an international development organization
    • Take sociology courses of special interest to IDS students, like Soc. 255 - Social Research Methods, Soc. 153 - Intro. to Cultural Anthropology, and Soc. 303 - Anthropology of Religion

    Key contact

    Todd VandenBerg, Sociology/anthropology

Endless possibilities

There are a lot more combinations! Almost every discipline has something beneficial to contribute to international development, so don’t feel like you have to fit into one of these boxes when it comes to planning your course of study at Calvin.

Some of you may be passionate about effective communication and the written word, leading you to study English or communications. Development organizations need effective communicators and top quality writers.

Philosophy is excellent preparation for a career in law, which could make you an expert one day on human rights or international law.

Psychology is valuable because of the way it can help you work with victims of abuse, natural disasters, sex trafficking and war.

Engineering skills too are useful because of the contributions they make toward better buildings, roads, water systems and environmental conservation.

You may also minor in a language or in Asian, African or Latin American Studies. Regional and language studies can help you integrate more easily into particular cultural settings and get to work more quickly.

These are only small samples of the endless possibilities that exist in international development. So use your creativity to imagine the unique ways in which you can enter into the exciting field of international development. If you would like to explore a combination not mentioned here, be sure to speak with the director of the IDS program.

Take the next step:


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