How To Get A United Nations Security Job (Complete Guide)

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The United Nations can be a great place to work. UN staff have jobs in a fast-paced and exciting organisation, whilst getting the opportunity to work all over the world. The UN runs projects that aim to improve peoples lives around the globe and this can make having a UN job highly rewarding.

The UN works in many high-risk and complex security contexts. The organisation has a major need for qualified and trained security staff. This means there are many roles across the United Nations in different areas of security management. If you are interested in joining the UN and working in a security role, this guide is for you.

United Nations Agencies Recruiting Security Staff

One of the first things you need to do if you want to work for the United Nations in a security role is understand which UN agencies most commonly recruit security positions. The UN is a huge organisation, with a presence in 193 countries. Although some nations, such as active conflict zones or countries recently hit by disasters, have a greater need for security staff, in fact almost every UN office will hire some types of security role.

With that said, the UN agencies that frequently hire the most security management staff include:

  • International Organization for Migration (IOM)
  • UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  • UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
  • World Food Programmes (WFP)
  • UN Development Programme (UNDP)
  • UN Palestinian Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA)

Now we’ll look at each of these in-turn…

International Organization for Migration (IOM)

The International Organization for Migration is one of the UN bodies working with people on the move. Assisting migrants and refugees, IOM runs projects in many unstable and hostile regions. IOM frequently recruits security staff to analyse the context, develop security measures and provide advice to staff on keeping safe.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

UNHCR is the UN’s refugee agency. Operating in 137 countries, UNHCR runs projects in many areas hit by conflicts and natural disasters – because of this the agency has a large need for security staff.

UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

UNICEF is the UN agency that assists children affected by conflict, poverty, and disasters. In order to reach children in need UNICEF must often operate in dangerous contexts. UNICEF recruits’ security staff at all levels of the organisation in order to ensure its security processes are optimally managed.

World Food Programmes (WFP)

WFP is the largest humanitarian organisation in the world. It assists hundreds of millions of people around the world facing famine and food insecurity. When people lack basic needs, including food, they often become desperate. This can fuel violence, conflict, and crime. WFP recruits many security staff in order to ensure its programmes can continue to run and staff and supplies are kept safe.

UN Development Programme (UNDP)

UNDP is the UN’s development arm. It runs projects in low- and middle-income countries to help lift their populations out of poverty. UNDP regularly recruits security staff and has a wide range of security focused roles around the world.

UN Palestinian Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA)

UNRWA assists Palestinian refugees in the Middle East. Operating in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, the West Bank and Gaza, UNRWA runs projects in countries that frequently experience conflict. As a result, there are often security management jobs being recruited for by UNRWA.

Qualifications Needed To Work In UN Security

If you are looking to get a job with the UN working in security, there are two main steps you need to take in order to be qualified. The first is to gain formal qualifications in security management.

Security management is a highly professional expertise. In order to work in security for a large and complex organisation such as the United Nations, you need to be trained. There are a huge range of qualifications you can take in security management. The qualifications you complete will depend partly on the area of the security you wish to work in. For example, if you want to work in information or cyber security, you need to take a qualification in this area, the same goes for humanitarian safety and security for example.

Jobs at the United Nations receive huge numbers of applications. This makes them very competitive. UN jobs are also highly demanding – you need to work to a high professional standard in order to succeed working for the United Nations. Therefore, you should become fully qualified in security management before applying for security jobs with the UN.

Sadly, the United Nations will not fund your studies to become a security expert with them. You need to complete your security qualifications before applying for positions with the UN.

The second step you need to take to become qualified to work in security for the UN, once you are fully trained in security management, is to gain a strong understanding of the United Nations and its work. One of the best ways to do this is to take online short courses related to the United Nations and its role in the world.

There are a huge range of online short courses you take related to the United Nations. Many can be taken online for free. Adding relevant short courses to your CV will greatly help your application for a UN security role. The UN seeks candidates that both have knowledge and experience of security management, but that also understand how security impacts and informs how the UN works. Taking online short courses is a great way to gain this knowledge.

United Nations Online Courses

For those wanting to work for the United Nations we highly recommend the online course Global Diplomacy: The United Nations In The World. We think it’s one of the best overviews of the UN and it’s work and would be a great addition to the CV of anyone applying for a UN job. Click the link to enrol on the course.

If you want to know more about how to get a job with the UN, including in security management, then take the United Nations Jobs Guide online course. This course provides great details on the UN recruitment system, what the UN looks for in candidates and what you can do to make your UN application stand out. Follow the link to the course’s page for more information.

Another online course we recommend for those wanting to work for the UN is International Organizations Management. This course shows how large global organisations, including the UN, work. It also highlights many of the challenges, including legal issues, these organisations face. Click the link to be taken to the course’s page.

United Nations Security Jobs

Another thing that’s key to understand when thinking about applying to the UN for security roles is the types of security jobs the UN recruits for. As we’ve said, the UN is enormous and needs a huge range of different security positions. However, some of the most commonly recruited security jobs in the UN include:

  • Safety And Security Officer
  • Security Manager
  • Field Security Officer
  • Security and Access Officer
  • Health and Safety Officer
  • Digital Security Specialist

Let’s take a quick look at each of these…

Safety And Security Officer

One of the most common security jobs within the United Nations is Safety and Security Officer. The role overseas the day-to-day security management of an area of operations, as well as providing advice to staff on how to stay safe. The Safety and Security Officer is also often responsible for developing and maintaining security documents and protocols.

Security Manager

The position of Security Manager is the senior level security role within the UN. It overseas the security procedures over many projects and often manages the Security Officers.

Field Security Officer

Field bases are the locations where the United Nations directly runs its humanitarian and development projects. These projects are often run is insecure environments. The job of the Field Security Officer in the UN is to assist with security management at field level. It is one of the most commonly recruited UN security jobs.

Security and Access Officer

Humanitarian access is key to ensure aid is delivered to where people need it. The job of the Security and Access Officer in the United Nations is to assist the UN programme with gaining access to the areas it needs, whilst also providing assistance in managing the security risks the programme faces.

Health and Safety Officer

The position of Health and Safety Officer with the UN combines the tasks of Security Officer with the oversight of safety procedures within an area of operation.

Digital Security Specialist

Like any large organisation, the United Nations has a huge computer network. The UN regularly recruits Digital Security Specialists to ensure the integrity of its computer systems and to boost protection against cyberattacks and hackings.

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Applying for United Nations Security Roles

The United Nations is a huge and complex organisation. One area that reflects this complexity is its recruitment system. If you want to get a job working in security for the UN, you need to understand how the organisation categorises and hires for different roles.

Jobs at the United Nations are generally put into two category types. These are known as ‘G’ and ‘P’ jobs. G stands for ‘General Service’, and P for ‘Professional’. The naming isn’t great as there is really nothing more professional about jobs categorised as P.

In the UN system, jobs categorised as G are only recruited locally. You have to be a national of the country where the United Nations office is located in order to apply for G roles with the UN.

P jobs in the UN are recruited for internationally. You can apply to jobs categorised as P from anywhere in the world. Many people who hold P jobs within the UN move between different expatriate positions throughout their career.

There are also D category jobs in the UN. These are essentially the same as P job but are more senior roles.

Alongside the letter category that each UN job is given, each role within the UN is also given a number. This number relates to the amount of experience needed to do the job. The higher the number, the more years of experience is required. This is why you will see UN jobs listed as P-3 or G-2, for example.

Many people who want to work in security for the United Nations want to work internationally. Often, they will begin by applying to P roles in order to do this. However, if you are from a country where the UN has a large presence, consider first applying for G positions and building some experience within the UN system. After a few years in security roles in your home country, you can then more easily apply for P positions and begin to work abroad in a safety and security role for the UN.

If you want to work in security for the United Nations, you should regularly check what positions are being recruited for and apply to any that meet your level of skills and experience. UN jobs are very competitive, so expect to send a lot of applications. It’s good at first not to limit your job search too much and apply to a wide range of security roles across different UN agencies. Once you get into the UN, it is easier to move positions, so if you at first do not get the ideal security focused role you want, build experience within the United Nations, and then move positions.

As well as the internal roles the United Nations recruits for, the UN also hires a large number of consultants. These support UN projects by completing a set-piece of work. Although many UN consultants are at senior levels, actually there are consultancy positions in the UN at almost all grades. If you want to work at the UN in a security role, consider applying for consultancy positions.

Another great way to start a career in the United Nations is to do an internship. There are not many internships in the UN focused directly on security management, however, taking an internship to first gain experience in the United Nations, and then moving towards security positions is a proven career path.

Finally, if you want to work for the United Nations in a security management role, consider taking a position with UN Volunteers (UNV). The UN recruits a wide range of volunteer positions through the UN Volunteers programme. UN Volunteers work overseas supporting United Nations projects. The positions recruited by UNV are for specific technical roles and they do recruit for people with expertise in security. You need at least two years of professional experience in order to apply to UNV. If you already have a few years working in the security industry, consider applying for open positions with UN Volunteers.

If you want to learn more about how to get a security job in the United Nations, check out of the top UN online courses here.


Duncan is the founder of Humanitarian Careers. With over ten years experience in the aid industry across fifteen countries, Duncan set-up Humanitarian Careers to help people launch their own career in international aid.