United Nations

  • Do you have a passion for multilateral diplomacy?
  • Are you interested in inter-governmental organizations?
  • Do you enjoy living and working overseas?

If so, then you should consider a career in the UN system

Career Tracks

There are many ways to pursue a career at the UN. The UN system consists of everything from peacekeeping to development work to international civil aviation coordination. Do your research on what sort of career you would like to pursue at the UN before you begin your job search. Most university students begin a career at the UN in one of three ways:

  1. The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program contributes to peace and development through volunteerism – these are paid positions. Volunteers are placed in posts related to peacekeeping, development, refugees, etc. An application to become a UNV starts by talking to your career center, speaking with a UNV, and visiting the UNV website.
  2. The UN Headquarters Internship Program enables students to intern in the UN Secretariat in New York. If a student wishes to apply to a different office, then the student should contact that office directly. UN offices prefer graduate students.
  3. Passing the Young Professionals Programme (YPP) examination (formerly known as the National Competitive Recruitment Examination – NCRE) is a great way to start as a junior professional with at the UN Secretariat. The YPP examination is offered annually to nationals of a number of a member states. Make sure to check http://careers.un.org to determine if nationals of your country are eligible this year and whether the examination is offered in your field of interest.
Application Process

An application to the UN varies depending on the organization to which the individual is applying. The United Nations Secretariat and other UN organizations maintain careers websites where the applicant can prepare a personal history profile and apply to a wide variety of positions. The UN Secretariat website is http://careers.un.org. Individuals with prior field experience may have an advantage when applying for work at the UN should seek advice from friends or alumni already working at the UN. Proficiency in languages other than English or French is also helpful but not always required.


While salaries at the UN are generally lower than salaries in the private sector, the UN offers an excellent package of benefits to its employees including health insurance, defined-benefits pension, home leave, annual leave, education grant, etc. An individual who has passed the YPP and obtained a contract would receive excellent compensation. UN Volunteers earn a lower salary than employees on a fixed-term contract, but UNVs earn a sufficient salary. Most internships are unpaid. Many employees at the UN work on renewable fixed-term contracts lasting two years or, in some cases, on short-term contracts lasting three to eleven months. It is important to keep trying when applying to UN jobs, as the level of competition for UN jobs is often high.

Fast Facts
  • Interested in the UN? If so, know what agency. Be specific when you talk about wanting to work at the UN. Each UN organization has a different application and hiring process but similar conditions of service.
  • The UN does not easily promote support staff (called General Service staff) to higher level positions, so be sure to take a job that interests you. Just getting your foot in the door with a low level job does not mean you will move up during your career. This is why many staff of the UN have entered from established careers in other sectors.
  • Wondering what skills the UN is looking for? The UN looks for applicants with a variety of skills. Most positions require a higher degree, but study what interests you, then look into which agencies are doing interesting work related to your studies.