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Q8: What is the value of a PhD in ICT4D?
I have a bachelor’s, master’s, and ~10 years experience in digital marketing in health and education, all outside of development. I’m considering a Ph.D. in Information Systems to do research on topics related to ICT4D, but will it pay off in a digital development job?
Education Needs to be Paired with Experience
You may be surprised by the number of people who think that a degree in international development or technology-related field will magically open the door to a rewarding ICT4D career. Sadly, that rarely works.
You have to understand that your competition is someone who has:
- 3-4 years experience in development jobs,
- 2 years in the Peace Corps living in developing countries,
- A masters degree in technology or development.
Key for an employer is the the full mix of employment, exposure, and education. We want to know you’re familiar with development’s issues, the realities of developing countries, and a solid education.
Get Experience Before a PhD
Before spending years and thousands of dollars on a PhD, which in your case will just make you even more expensive with less relevant experience, I would strongly suggest you get experience in the digital development ecosystem.
You should be able to leverage your digital marketing experience to work on social and behavior change communication (SBCC), where we try to engage and motivate people to adopt healthier habits. For example, practicing safer sex, or quitting smoking, or the like.
You can do this with many population groups (Americans need this as much as Angolans) though its best to start thinking about areas of the world you want to work in and focusing on those communities from the start.
Consider a Volunteer Consulting Engagement
Sine you already have a career that showcases your ability, you may want to consider a volunteer consulting engagement to get experience. This is just like a real consulting agreement – you should have objectives, deliverables, and timelines – only you are trading your time for experience versus cash payment.
The international development field is already very familiar with the concept – see Peace Corps – only this way you don’t need to move overseas for two years. However, you will need to work hard, probably harder than you are now, to learn as you perform.
The upside? You’ll be the internal candidate at the next opening.