studying development diploma

Studying Development VS Studying Economics

A reader wrote me a question about choosing a major. Specifically, she was concerned about how studying development vs studying economics would have an effect on her future. She said:

“As my main focus is the sustainable (economic) development in emerging countries in public sectors, I am confused and wonder if I’d better choose International Economic Policy whose name contains “ECONOMIC” which may largely increase my job opportunity, as the notion INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT is not popular in China.”

There are a lot of misconceptions around the word “development.”

This can be both a good thing and a bad thing.

Regardless of whether you are attending Sciences Po, LSE, King’s College or another school, this word brings to mind a plethora of questions.

If you are looking at Sciences Po specifically, see my post: What is the difference between the different PSIA programs at Sciences Po?
For example – Exactly what does it mean?

Economic development is about learning to effect (hopefully improve) financial situations within a country. It’s about allocating resources to pay for scarce public goods and services. It’s about GDP.

However, “international development” is a much broader field, as it also looks at things like human development — including human rights, for example.

A degree in development can be very versatile.

Personally I was glad to study International Development precisely because people don’t always clearly understand what that means, which ultimately suggests that my career options are still quite broad. Are you developing people? economies? businesses? marketing strategies? translation programs? new types of bread yeast?

In this sense, development can lead you to more potential jobs than economic studies. But if you plan to work in economics specifically, an employer might be much happier to see the word economic on your resume.

Studying development is also sometimes poorly regarded.

It’s true that in some circles the word “development” can bring to mind negative feelings about Western dominance and cultural imposition. This may, for example, be the case in China. Identifying the best ways to implement development without an ethnocentric viewpoint is, in fact, a major focus of development studies, and a good reason to study this field at an academic level.

If you are going to be applying to jobs that specifically claim to work within the arena of international development, they will probably be quite pleased to know that you have studied — and thought about — ethical and ethnocentric dilemmas in the field. However, jobs that do not specialize in this area may be less sure what your degree was really all about.

How is development seen in your country or by your potential future employers?

Ultimately, the question of how your country or potential employer will see your degree title is quite difficult to judge. After all, once you have 2 more years of studies under your belt, you might not even want to apply for the same jobs that you once did.

Plus, depending on the hiring personnel’s personal experience with economics and development, they are likely to view your resume differently.

In the long run, though, either degree should set you up for a future career in economic and/or development work. And once you have significant work experience, well, the exact title of your degree will be considerably less important. So, rather than worrying about the title of your degree, focus on what classes interest you.

If you are looking at Sciences Po specifically, see my post: What is the difference between the different PSIA programs at Sciences Po?

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