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Careers in development with a family

June 2, 2016

Q. Hi Nick,
I am wondering if it is possible to have a career in development if you have a family. I have two Yong kids and my husband is a pastor, but humanitarian work is my passion. It seems however, that most jobs are suited for singles, and definitely not safe for kids. Do you know anyone who has successfully made a career in development with a family?
Thank you!

A. Hi Rachelle,

Thanks for the question – the short answer is ‘yes’ it is possible to have a career in humanitarian or development work with a family. I want to do an interview with someone in this situation for the site soon, so watch out for that!

The longer answer is, as you’d expect, complicated. First, the good news. There are lots of (particularly development) positions that are ‘accompanied’, that is to say that spouses and families can come too, kids can go to school locally (either in local schools or in private international schools), and world class health care facilities are available. Many agencies have good family packages that cover relocation, health insurance, accommodation, and everything else that you would need to move your family around the world.

The bad news is that few of these kinds of positions are entry level. Most ‘humanitarian’ positions that deal with conflict or disasters are not accompanied, and many ‘development’ positions lower down the food chain are not either. It’s tough to get a first job that is accompanied.

My wife and I spent about five years following one another around the world looking for positions in the same place before we started getting ‘accompanied’ posts, and that’s hard if you have young kids.

You mention that your husband is a pastor – I wonder whether you might have an easier time approaching a religiously affiliated organization like World Vision (if that fits your faith tradition), since those orgs are sometimes more enthusiastic about family accommodations.

You don’t mention what your skill set is, but it’s going to be very important for you to build networks in humanitarian organizations, perhaps seeking jobs with organizations in the country you live right now as a stepping stone.

Good luck,


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