The United Nations (UN) is an international organization that works to maintain peace and security, promote human rights, and foster cooperation among nations. Working at the UN can be a rewarding and fulfilling career choice for anyone who wants to make a positive difference in the world.
But how do you get a job at the UN? What are the requirements, opportunities, and benefits of working for this prestigious organization? And what are the best tips and resources to prepare for the application process?
In this guide, we will answer these questions and more. We will provide you with an overview of the following topics:
- Why work at the UN?
- Types of opportunities at the UN
- Eligibility criteria
- Special focus: JPO Programme
- The application process
- Pro tip: crafting a winning resume
- Beware of scams
- The UN’s commitment to diversity and inclusion
- Preparing for UN examinations
- Career growth and development
- Additional ways to get involved
Why Work at the UN?
There are many reasons why working at the UN can be an attractive and meaningful career option. Here are some of the main benefits of working at the UN:
- You can work on diverse and impactful projects that address global issues such as peace and security, human rights, humanitarian assistance, development, etc.
- You can work with talented and passionate professionals from different backgrounds and cultures who share your commitment to the UN’s values and goals.
- You can work in different duty stations across the globe, from New York to Nairobi, from Geneva to Bangkok, from Beirut to Bogota.
- You can receive a competitive salary and benefits package that is set by reference to the highest paying national civil service and supplemented by a post adjustment that varies according to the cost of living and exchange rate of your duty station.
- You can access various training and knowledge management programmes that can enhance your skills and knowledge and prepare you for your current or future roles.
- You can network with other professionals from different fields and disciplines who can support you and guide you throughout your career.
Types of Opportunities at the UN
The UN offers different types of opportunities for people who want to work for the organization. These include:
- Staff positions, which are regular positions that are subject to international recruitment. They are classified into two categories: Professional and higher categories (P and D), which require an advanced university degree and relevant work experience; and General Service and related categories (G, TC, S, PIA, LT), which are locally recruited based on specific skills or support functions.
- Volunteer roles, which are opportunities for people who want to contribute their time and skills to the UN’s work on a voluntary basis. They are not staff positions and do not entail any financial compensation or benefits from the UN. There are two main types of volunteer roles at the UN: UN Volunteers (UNV) and Online Volunteers.
- Internships, which are opportunities for students and recent graduates who want to gain practical experience in the UN’s work. They are not staff positions and do not entail any financial compensation or benefits from the UN. Internships are usually available for a period of two to six months in various UN entities and offices around the world.
- Specialized roles, which are opportunities for professionals who have specific skills or qualifications that are required by certain UN entities or programmes. They are not staff positions and may have different eligibility criteria, application procedures, and benefits from regular staff positions. Some examples of specialized roles at the UN are: Junior Professional Officers (JPOs), Language professionals, Military personnel, Civilian police personnel.
To be eligible for a job at the UN, you need to meet certain minimum requirements that vary depending on the type of opportunity you are applying for. These include:
- Educational qualifications: For staff positions in the Professional and higher categories, you need to have an advanced university degree (master’s degree or equivalent) in a field related to the work of the UN. For staff positions in the General Service and related categories, you need to have a high school diploma or equivalent. For volunteer roles, you need to have at least a secondary education and relevant work experience. For internships, you need to be enrolled in or have completed a graduate or postgraduate degree programme (second university degree or higher) in a field related to the work of the UN. For specialized roles, you need to have specific skills or qualifications that are required by the respective UN entity or programme.
- Age restrictions: There is no age limit for applying for a job at the UN. However, some opportunities may have specific age requirements. For example, for JPOs, you need to be between 25 and 32 years old; for online volunteers, you need to be at least 18 years old; for internships, you need to be at least 20 years old.
- Language requirements: The official languages of the UN are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. You need to have excellent command of one of these languages and working knowledge of another. For some positions, fluency in another official language or a local language may be required or desirable.
- Nationality considerations: The UN strives to achieve a balanced representation of staff members from different countries and regions. Therefore, your nationality may affect your eligibility and competitiveness for certain positions. For example, some positions may be reserved for nationals of specific countries that are underrepresented in the UN; some positions may be restricted for nationals of countries that are subject to UN sanctions or embargoes; some positions may be open only to nationals of countries that participate in certain UN programmes or funds.
Special Focus: JPO Programme
One of the most popular and competitive opportunities at the UN is the JPO Programme, which is a programme that allows young professionals from participating countries to serve as staff members in various UN entities for a period of two to four years. It is sponsored by their governments, which cover their salaries and benefits.
The JPO Programme aims to provide young professionals with valuable work experience and exposure to the UN’s work while enhancing the capacity and diversity of the UN’s workforce. It also serves as a potential entry point for a long-term career in the UN.
To be eligible for the JPO Programme, you need to meet the following criteria:
- You must be a national of one of the participating countries. The list of participating countries may change every year depending on their contributions and agreements with the UN.
- You must be between 25 and 32 years old at the time of application.
- You must have an advanced university degree (master’s degree or equivalent) in a field related to the work of the UN.
- You must have at least two years of relevant work experience.
- You must be fluent in English or French and have knowledge of another official UN language.
To apply for the JPO Programme, you need to follow these steps:
- Check the list of available JPO positions on this page. The list is updated regularly depending on the needs and requests of the UN entities.
- Choose one or more positions that match your qualifications and interests. You can apply for up to three positions per year.
- Prepare your application documents, which include your CV, motivation letter, and copies of your diplomas and certificates.
- Submit your application through the online system before the deadline indicated on each position description. You can also track the status of your application through the system.
- Wait for the outcome of your application. If you are shortlisted, you will be contacted for an interview. If you are selected, you will receive an offer letter from the UN entity that hired you.
The Application Process
The application process for a job at the UN may vary depending on the type of opportunity you are applying for. However, there are some common steps and tips that can help you prepare and succeed in your application. Here are some of them:
- Searching for job openings: The first step is to search for job openings that match your qualifications, interests, and preferences. You can use different sources and tools to find job openings at the UN, such as the UN Careers Portal, Inspira, the websites of the respective UN entities or programmes that offer volunteer roles or specialized roles at the UN, or other platforms or networks that advertise or facilitate job opportunities at the UN, such as Impactpool, Devex, LinkedIn, etc.
- Creating a profile: The second step is to create a profile that showcases your personal information, education, work experience, language skills, and other relevant details. You can use your profile to apply for multiple job openings at the UN without having to fill in the same information every time. You can create a profile on different platforms depending on the type of opportunity you are applying for, such as Inspira, the UNV website, or the JPO Service Centre.
- Preparing your application documents: The third step is to prepare your application documents that demonstrate your suitability and interest for the job opening you are applying for. Depending on the type of opportunity you are applying for, you may need to submit different documents, such as your CV or resume, your motivation letter or cover letter, your diplomas and certificates, or your references or recommendations.
- Participating in the interview process: The fourth step is to participate in the interview process that evaluates your suitability and interest for the job opening you are applying for. Depending on the type of opportunity you are applying for, you may need to undergo one or more interviews, such as a screening interview, a competency-based interview, a technical interview, or a panel interview.
Pro Tip: Crafting a Winning Resume
One of the most important documents that you need to prepare for your application is your resume, which is a summary of your education, work experience, skills, achievements, etc. Your resume is the first impression that you make on the potential employer and the main tool that showcases your suitability and interest for the job opening.
Therefore, you need to craft a winning resume that can stand out from the crowd and catch the attention of the hiring manager. Here are some key elements that you should include in your resume and some common mistakes that you should avoid:
Key elements to include
- Your contact information: You should provide your name, email address, phone number, and LinkedIn profile (if applicable) at the top of your resume. You should use a professional email address that reflects your name and identity. You should also include your nationality and date of birth if they are relevant to the job opening.
- Your summary statement: You should write a brief introduction that summarizes your main qualifications and objectives for applying for the job opening. You should highlight your relevant skills, achievements, and interests that match the requirements and expectations of the position. You should also include a keyword or phrase that indicates the job title or field that you are applying for.
- Your education: You should list your academic credentials or professional qualifications that prove your educational background or specialized skills. You should include the name and location of the institution, the degree or certificate obtained, the field of study or specialization, and the dates of attendance or completion. You should also mention any honors, awards, or scholarships that you received.
- Your work experience: You should list your previous or current roles that demonstrate your relevant work experience and competencies. You should include the name and location of the employer, the job title or position, and the dates of employment. You should also describe your main duties and responsibilities, as well as your achievements and results, using bullet points and action verbs.
- Your skills: You should list your technical or soft skills that are relevant to the job opening and show your proficiency or level of expertise. You should include your language skills, computer skills, communication skills, leadership skills, etc. You should also mention any certificates, licenses, or memberships that you have.
- Your interests: You should list your hobbies, passions, or activities that reflect your personality and values. You should include your volunteer work, extracurricular activities, sports, arts, etc. You should also mention how they relate to the work of the UN or the job opening.
Common mistakes to avoid
- Providing too much or too little information: You should provide enough information to showcase your qualifications and interest for the job opening, but not too much information that may overwhelm or bore the reader. You should also avoid providing irrelevant or outdated information that may not add value to your application. You should aim for a concise resume that is no more than two pages long.
- Using a generic or unoriginal resume: You should tailor your resume to the specific job opening you are applying for and highlight your relevant qualifications and competencies. You should also use keywords and phrases that are related to the job opening and show your understanding of the UN’s work and values. You should avoid using a generic or unoriginal resume that may not reflect your uniqueness or suitability for the position.
- Making errors or inconsistencies: You should proofread your resume carefully and check for any spelling, grammar, punctuation, or formatting errors. You should also ensure that your resume is consistent in terms of style, tone, layout, font, etc. You should avoid making errors or inconsistencies that may undermine your credibility or professionalism.
- Lying or exaggerating: You should be honest and accurate in presenting your information and achievements on your resume. You should avoid lying or exaggerating about anything that may not be true or verifiable. You should be prepared to provide evidence or references to support your statements if requested.
Beware of Scams
Unfortunately, there are some people who try to take advantage of the popularity and reputation of the UN and scam people who are looking for a job at the UN. They may use fake websites, emails, phone calls, or documents to offer fake job opportunities, solicit personal or financial information, or request fees or payments from potential applicants.
These scams are not affiliated with or endorsed by the UN and they do not represent the UN’s values or principles. They are illegal and fraudulent activities that can harm your privacy, security, and finances.
Therefore, you need to be aware and vigilant of these scams and protect yourself from becoming a victim. Here are some tips on how to identify and avoid these scams:
- Check the source and authenticity of the information or offer. You should only use the official channels and platforms for finding and applying for job opportunities at the UN, such as the ones mentioned in this article. You should also verify the identity and contact details of the person or organization that is offering you a job or requesting information or payment from you. You should be suspicious of any email address that does not end with “@un.org” or any website that does not have a “.org” domain name.
- Do not provide any personal or financial information or documents that are not required or requested by the official application process. You should never share your password, bank account, credit card, passport, ID card, or other sensitive information or documents with anyone who claims to be from the UN or a partner organization. You should also never send any money or fees to anyone who claims to be able to secure you a job at the UN or provide you with any services or benefits related to your application.
- Do not accept any offer or contract that is not consistent with the official terms and conditions of employment at the UN. You should always read and understand the details and implications of any offer or contract that you receive before accepting it. You should also compare it with the official information and guidelines provided by the UN Careers Portal or the respective UN entity or programme that you applied for. You should be wary of any offer or contract that is too good to be true, such as a high salary, a short notice period, a remote work arrangement, etc.
- Report any suspicious or fraudulent activity to the relevant authorities and entities. If you encounter or experience any scam or fraud related to your job application at the UN, you should immediately report it to your local police and to the UN entity or programme that you applied for. You should also inform your bank or credit card company if you have made any payment or transaction that may be compromised by the scam. You should also alert your friends and family if you have shared any information or documents that may be used by the scammers.
The UN’s Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion
The UN is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in its workforce and workplace. The UN believes that diversity and inclusion are essential for achieving its goals and values, as well as for enhancing its performance and innovation. The UN also recognizes that diversity and inclusion are human rights and fundamental principles of the UN Charter.
Therefore, the UN strives to ensure that its staff members reflect the diversity of the world’s peoples, cultures, languages, and perspectives. The UN also strives to ensure that its staff members are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness, regardless of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or any other status.
Here are some of the policies and initiatives that the UN has implemented or supported to foster diversity and inclusion in its workforce and workplace:
- Policies for applicants with disabilities: The UN welcomes and encourages applicants with disabilities to apply for job opportunities at the UN. The UN is committed to providing reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities throughout the application and selection process. Reasonable accommodation is any change or adjustment to the application or selection process that enables an applicant with a disability to participate equally and effectively.
- Gender equality initiatives: The UN is committed to achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls in its workforce and workplace. The UN believes that gender equality and women’s empowerment are not only human rights and moral imperatives, but also strategic objectives for advancing peace, development, and human dignity. Therefore, the UN has adopted various policies and measures to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in its workforce and workplace.
- Training and knowledge management programmes: The UN offers a wide range of training and knowledge management programmes that can enhance your skills and knowledge and prepare you for your current or future roles. These programmes cover various topics and areas related to diversity and inclusion, such as cultural awareness, intercultural communication, unconscious bias, harassment prevention, etc.
Preparing for UN Examinations
Some job opportunities at the UN may require you to take one or more examinations as part of the selection process. These examinations are designed to assess your knowledge, skills, and abilities for the position you are applying for. They may also serve as a screening or ranking tool to narrow down the pool of candidates.
There are different types of examinations that you may encounter in your job application at the UN, such as:
- The Young Professionals Programme (YPP) examination
- The Language Competitive Examination (LCE)
- The National Competitive Examination (NCE)
- The Global General Service Test (GGST)
- The Standardized Pre-Selection Test (SPT)
To prepare for these examinations, you need to study and practice well in advance. Here are some resources and tips that can help you prepare for these examinations:
- The online courses and webinars offered by the UN Careers Portal or the respective UN entity or programme that offer the examinations
- The books and courses recommended by the UN Careers Portal or the respective UN entity or programme that offer the examinations
- The practice tests or mock exams offered by various platforms or networks that facilitate job opportunities at the UN
Career Growth and Development
Working at the UN can be a rewarding and fulfilling career choice that offers you various opportunities for growth and development. The UN is committed to supporting and enhancing the professional and personal development of its staff members and helping them achieve their career aspirations and potential.
Here are some of the programmes and resources that the UN provides or facilitates for its staff members to foster their career growth and development:
- Career mobility programmes, which are programmes that enable staff members to move to different positions, locations, or functions within the UN system. These programmes include the managed reassignment programme, the inter-agency mobility programme, the geographical mobility policy, etc.
- Career development services, which are services that provide staff members with career guidance and support throughout their career journey. These services include career counselling, coaching, mentoring, assessment, feedback, etc.
- Career development resources, which are resources that provide staff members with career information and tools that can help them plan and manage their career development. These resources include the Career Development Portal, the Career Development Toolkit, the Career Development Webinars, etc.
Additional Ways to Get Involved
Working at the UN is not the only way to get involved and contribute to the UN’s work. There are many other ways that you can support and participate in the UN’s activities and initiatives, such as:
- Affiliating your NGO with the UN: If you are a member or a leader of a non-governmental organization (NGO) that shares the UN’s values and goals, you can apply for consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Consultative status is a formal recognition that allows NGOs to access and engage with the UN and its bodies, agencies, and programmes.
- Donating to the UN: If you want to support the UN’s work financially, you can make a donation to the UN or its funds, programmes, or agencies. You can choose from a variety of causes and projects that match your interests and preferences. You can also receive updates and reports on how your donation is used and what impact it has.
- Advocating for the UN: If you want to raise awareness and mobilize support for the UN’s work, you can become an advocate for the UN or its issues. You can use your voice, platform, or network to spread the word and inspire others to join or support the UN. You can also join campaigns or movements that promote the UN’s values and goals.
- Learning about the UN: If you want to learn more about the UN’s work and history, you can access various educational resources and opportunities that are available for different audiences and levels. You can read books, articles, or reports that provide information and insights on various topics and issues related to the UN. You can also watch videos, podcasts, or webinars that feature interviews, stories, or tips from current or former staff members, interns, volunteers, or candidates who have worked or applied for jobs at the UN. You can also visit museums, exhibits, or events that showcase the UN’s achievements and challenges.
For more information on how to get involved with the UN in other ways, please see this page.
In this concise guide, we have provided you with an overview of how to get a job at the UN, covering various topics such as why work at the UN, types of opportunities at the UN, eligibility criteria, special focus: JPO Programme, the application process, pro tip: crafting a winning resume, beware of scams, the UN’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, preparing for UN examinations, career growth and development, additional ways to get involved.
We hope that this guide has given you useful information and insights on how to pursue your dream of working at the UN. We also hope that this guide has inspired you to take action and apply for the job opportunities that match your qualifications and interests.
Working at the UN can be a challenging and rewarding career choice that offers you various benefits and opportunities. You can work on diverse and impactful projects that address global issues and make a positive difference in the world. You can also work with talented and passionate professionals from different backgrounds and cultures who share your commitment to the UN’s values and goals.
If you are interested in working at the UN, we encourage you to visit the official websites and platforms that we have mentioned in this guide and explore the available job openings. You can also follow the tips and advice that we have shared in this guide and prepare yourself well for the application process.
We wish you all the best in your job search and career journey at the UN!
Here are some additional resources that you can use to learn more about working at the UN and prepare for your job application:
- The UN Careers Portal
- The UN Careers YouTube Channel
- The UN Careers Facebook Page
- The UN Careers Twitter Account