The main topics discussed in this thesis are supersymmetric low-energy effective theories and metastability conditions in generic non-renormalizable models with global and local supersymmetry. In the first part we discuss the conditions under which the low-energy expansion in space-time derivatives preserves supersymmetry implying that heavy multiplets can be more efficiently integrated out directly at the superfield level. These conditions translate into the requirements that also fermions and auxiliary fields should be small compared to the heavy mass scale. They apply not only to the matter sector, but also to the gravitational one if present, and imply in that case that the gravitino mass should be small. We finally give a simple prescription to integrate out heavy chiral and vector superfields consisting respectively in imposing stationarity of the superpotential and of the Kähler potential; the procedure holds in the same form both for global and local supersymmetry. In the second part we study general criteria for the existence of metastable vacua which break global supersymmetry in models with local gauge symmetries. In particular we present a strategy to define an absolute upper bound on the mass of the lightest scalar field which depends on the geometrical properties of the Kähler target manifold. This bound can be saturated by properly tuning the superpotential and its positivity therefore represents a necessary and sufficient condition for the existence of metastable vacua. It is derived by looking at the subspace of all those directions in field space for which an arbitrary supersymmetric mass term is not allowed and scalar masses are controlled by supersymmetry-breaking splitting effects. This subspace includes not only the direction of supersymmetry breaking, but also the directions of gauge symmetry breaking and the lightest scalar is in general a linear combination of fields spanning all these directions. Our purpose is to show that the largest value for the lightest mass is in general achieved when the lightest scalar is a combination of the Goldstone and the Goldstino partners. We conclude by computing the effects induced by the integration of heavy multiplets on the light masses. In particular we focus on the sGoldstino partners and we show that heavy chiral multiplets induce a negative level-repulsion effect that tends to compromise vacuum stability, whereas heavy vector multiplets in general induce a positive-definite contribution. Our results find application in the context of string-inspired supergravity models, where metastability conditions can be used to discriminate among different compactification scenarios and supersymmetric effective theories can be used to face the problem of moduli stabilization.