6 Youth-Focused Career Paths


Originally posted by Devex on March 10, 2015.

In March, Devex launched #YouthWill, an online conversation celebrating the importance of youth as agents of change in global development.

Engaging youth is essential to winning the battle against global poverty. Half of the world’s 6.3 billion people are under the age of 25, with 85 percent of young people living in developing countries. Issues like HIV, AIDS and unemployment disproportionately affect youth, creating enormous obstacles for progress in much of the world.

Youth programs have become a priority for many of the organizations funding global development work, creating more opportunity for professionals wanting to work on these issues.

There are many ways to get involved, from health care to access to finance. Here are six career paths in global development focused on working with youth.

1. Health

Various health issues impact youth in unique and significant ways, so youth-targeted health interventions is its own niche area. For example, you can work on creating access to contraceptives or developing sexual and reproductive health education programs aimed at reducing early pregnancy and preventing the spread of HIV among young people. Seventy-eight percent of the 11.8 million young people living with HIV or AIDS are in sub-Saharan Africa, so if you want to work on youth prevention programs, you’ll find a majority of the opportunities in this region.

Female genital mutilation is a practice directly impacting young women and their health. According to the World Health Organization, 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut, which is not only a human rights violation but can lead to health issues such as infection, infertility and complications in childbirth.

Promoting healthy behaviors in youth requires social marketers who understand how this demographic thinks, what motivates them and how to communicate with them in order to create behavioral change. Social and behavior change specialists who focus on youth will find many opportunities in the sector.

Here is an example of a job working on reproductive health for adolescents and youth, including the fight against early pregnancy and FGM.

2. Leadership and civic participation

We all know the cliché that children are our future, but in developing countries where youth can compose up to 30 percent of the population, empowering youth in their communities is critical to developing the next generation of leaders.

Youth are already active participants in their communities, engaging on social and civic issues they see impacting their lives and those around them. From designing youth leadership programs to creating a voting campaign, you can help shape future global leaders.

Here is an example of a job managing a global social media campaign that will mobilize young people around the world to advocate for the rights and needs of adolescents and youth in the post-2015 development agenda.

3. Education

Education undoubtedly takes center stage in many youth programs. Improving access and quality of learning, especially for girls, is key for improving the livelihoods of future generations. From developing traditional secondary school curriculum to creating incentive programs for girls to attend school, there are many ways to work at the intersection of education and youth.

Positions typically require at least a master’s degree, if not a doctorate, in education — though there are alternative learning programs, such as the use of sports to teach life skills that may not require a background in education.

Here is a list of jobs working on education and youth.

4. Financial services

Providing youth access to financial services and information is an important step in breaking the cycle of poverty.

Encouraging the next generation of entrepreneurs by providing access to loans or promoting good financial health habits by setting up savings programs aimed at youth are a couple of ways you can get involved.

Here is an internship opportunity to work on the Mastercard Foundation-funded YouthStart Program, created to spur innovation and delivery of financial services for youth in Africa and mainstream them into inclusive financial sectors.

5. Crisis and conflict

According to the United Nations, 1.5 billion people are living in conflict, 80 percent of them being women and children. Access to education is one of the most significant challenges impacting this group. Half of all children not in school are living in conflict or crisis situations.

In addition to working on education programs, you can also find positions in health, social and mental services that focus on serving youth embroiled in conflict or displaced from their home, all necessary to building peaceful future generations.

Here is an example of positions available for specialists in education for children and youth in crisis and conflict.

6.  Workforce development

Close to 75 million youth worldwide were unemployed in 2012, according to the World Economic Forum. Programs aimed at building employable skills so youth are able to find jobs are important to not only creating economic stability but also combatting terrorism and reducing conflict.

You can find positions in vocational education, career development and skills training, among others. Working with the private sector to align training with employer needs is a critical component, so you may also find opportunities in the corporate social responsibility space working on these issues.

High youth unemployment rates in the Middle East and North Africa means you’ll find many opportunities in this region.

Here is an example of a jobs skills development specialist position, which looks to expand economic opportunities for youth working in agriculture.

Because so many of these issues are intertwined, there is also a need for youth specialists who can work across multiple sectors and mainstream youth programming into larger initiatives; you don’t need to focus on one career path to work on youth empowerment.

To learn more about career opportunities working with youth, check out this list of current job openings on Devex.

Do you work with youth? What advice would you give to someone looking to forge a career path doing the same?