How to Enter the UN Job System

Many young professionals looking to enter the UN job market come armed with two things: incredible respect for the organization and a belief that they don’t have a good chance of getting hired. There are also a number of other factors that might deter UN hopefuls from joining the organization, like the lack of job fairs and other recruiting events. This stops graduates for getting in touch with UN representatives and stops them from understanding the wide range of opportunities that are available to them. The other reason is that getting education on the process and actually applying are difficult to do because of the foggy information policy surrounding new jobs.

So what can young job hopefuls do to get started?

First, they must examine the pre-qualifications for a UN Position. UN staff is often recruited internationally and is expected to perform their jobs at different duty stations during their career. Before beginning a career it is typically required that you have an advanced degree from a university and a great command over French, English or both, as these are the most common working languages. That said, the most important thing you can have is previous work experience. Depending on the category of work being applied for, this can range from a minimum of two years to a total of 10. Once these general requirements have been met, there are more specific aspects of becoming employed to consider.


The first option requires the lowest of entry level requirements for job hopefuls out of all UN programs. The UN Internship Program needs a basic requirement of an enrollment in a Ph. D. or Master’s program, or for you to be in the last year of a Bachelor program. The internship will typical span two to six months.


The second opportunity for entry that is similar to internship is the UN Volunteers program. Active in 86 countries, this program has more than 7,700 volunteers that work in development assistance, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping work both nationally and internationally. These assignments can provide work for three months up to a year or longer and require that applicants be 25 years or over and receive their own financial support.

The Junior Professional Officer (JPO) Program

Much more competitive than the other two options, a JPO position is sponsored by your national government. This means you can only apply for the JPO program if your government offers a certain type of JPO position. Those wanting to apply must be under 32, have a Master’s degree in development-related fields, a minimum of two years of being paid in a relevant field, and spoken and written fluency in at least two of the existing three official UN languages–French, English and Spanish.

The Young Professionals Program

Finally, the Young Professionals Program is a recruitment service that offers young hopefuls the opportunity to start a career as a civil servant internationally with the UN Secretariat. Much like the JPO option, applicants must be under 32 years of age and hold a first-level degree from a university relevant to Finance, Public Information, Statistics, Social Affairs and Administration. They must also be fluent in either French or English, making this more attainable than a JPO position.

With these requirements met, you can then begin to filter through and figure out which program you are qualified to apply for. As with any dream job, it takes dedication, perseverance and discipline to land a position, but it is not as impossible to join the UN as you may have previously thought.

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