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Advice Page: Further Education
This page is an excerpt from Dr. Eric James's article, "Further Education", which he has kindly shared with AWN. To learn more on this subject we recommend that you read the complete article on this subject by downloading the PDF attachment at the end of this page.
The purpose of this Advice page is to provide encouragement and guidance to aid, relief and development workers regarding further education. Rather than an exhaustive list of opportunities available, the article provides a start of what to consider and places to look.
This article discusses three important considerations when thinking about further education:
• Why pursue further education?
Because most aid workers have Master's Degrees, this page is geared toward continuing studies. Though the last section will look at what programs are available at the university level as well.
A First Consideration: Why?
There is simply too much to know and each year there are so many additions to the field that staying “current” is a challenge. In this way, further education is an inherent responsibility. An effective Aid Worker recognizes this and seeks opportunities to improve their own knowledge and that of fellow staff.
A Second Consideration: Who?
There are many ways to continue your education. Some of these include formal pre-packaged training courses, workshops, seminars and conferences, on-the-job training, visits and personal reading, listening and observation.
Each of these avenues has its own advantages and disadvantages be sure to fully research them before you start. Considering current position and future responsibilities is also important. Each level will require a different skill-set and body of knowledge.
A Third Consideration: What?
Throughout an Aid Worker’s career, a number of training courses, workshops and seminars may be available. A number of issues will need to be taken into account such as location, cost, course prerequisites and duration.
For conferences, a look out is usually needed to identify specific conferences as many are ad hoc although invitations may be extended to those with more experience and ability to speak authoritatively on specific issues.
Because of the area of further education for Aid Workers is continually evolving, it is worth checking different opportunities on websites such as:
To provide a sample of what training courses are currently available, the following is an abbreviated list of courses in several “sectoral” categories, the organization conducting the training and the relevant website ( For a complete list please download the attached PDF file):
Course Title: “Essentials of Humanitarian Practice” and “So you think you want to be an aid worker?”
Finance, Grants Management and Fundraising
Public Health and Medicine
Course Title: Medicine in Austere Environments
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion
Largely owing to its colonial legacy, Europe has developed a distinct academic discipline known as International Development (Development Studies). In the US, in contrast, there is generally not a separate field known as “international development” and thus such courses can be found in a number of other academic departments such as international relations, government, medicine and public health, disaster and emergency management, non-profit management and international education.
It is important to reflect on how a university education will help professional growth versus the time spent away from the field and the resources that go into paying for a degree. A number of Aid Workers have left school, learned a trade and began a life in relief. Later, they returned to university to earn a master’s degree, bypassing undergraduate study altogether.
To following is an abbreviated list of university degrees and programs offering education relevant to Aid Workers and the relevant website ( For a complete list please download the attached PDF file):
Degree/Program: MPA in Development Practice
Degree/Program: Master of Science in Forced Migration
Degree/Program: Master’s degrees in a number of sub-fields
Degree/Program: Master’s of Arts in Humanitarian Affairs
Degree/Program: Master of Advanced Studies in Humanitarian Logistics and Management
Since 1995, Eric has worked in more than a dozen countries and for a number of NGOs. He holds a PhD in International Development and lectured at the post-graduate level at the Institute of Development Policy and Management at the University of Manchester, UK. He is the author of a number of articles on humanitarianism as well as Managing Humanitarian Relief: An Operational Guide for NGOs (Practical Action 2008).