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A career with the United Nations is not only highly rewarding, but also very prestigious. If you work in finance and are interested in joining the UN, there a range of roles open to those with relevant experience. If you are beginning your career and interested in working for the UN, consider training in finance as the UN recruits many different finance positions.
We’ve put together this guide to help people interested in working in finance roles in the UN. It includes an overview of the different types of finance roles within the United Nations, the qualifications you will likely need, how to apply for UN finance jobs and which UN agencies you should target with your applications.
United Nations Finance Roles
The first thing you need to do to get a finance job with the United Nations is understand what type of finance roles the UN recruits for. The United Nations is enormous, with 38 agencies, programmes, and funds. There are a huge range of finance jobs recruited across the UN. However, some of the most common finance roles in the UN are:
- Grant Manager
- Financial Planner
- Finance Manager
- Budget Officer
Let’s take a quick look at each of these…
The United Nations receives grants from external organisations to fund their work. The UN also gives grants to NGOs to implement projects on its behalf. The role of Grants Manager is one of the main finance roles within the UN.
A UN Grants Manager is responsible for monitoring the project grant, managing its budget, ensuring reporting is completed as needed and that the project is implemented in-line with the required guidelines.
There are many accountancy positions within the United Nations. Like in the private sector, the UN hires accountants to manage financial processes, complete audits, monitor cash flow and provide financial advice. To work as an Accountant for the UN you are will likely need to be fully qualified and licenced to practice.
Many UN agencies recruit financial planners. The job of a financial planner is to develop, update and maintain forecasts of organisational or project finances. They are also responsible for communicating these across teams and ensuring that deliverables are adjusted in-line with updated forecasts.
A key finance job within the UN is a Treasurer. This job is responsible or financial management, as well as ensuring control and oversight of specific financial resources. The UN hires Treasurers at senior levels, but also has Treasuring Officer positions that provide more day-to-day running of financial processes.
In the UN, Finance Manager roles are common positions that oversee financial processes within the organisation. UN Finance Managers are often attached to specific projects and are responsible for ensuring the finances are managed correctly. The UN also recruits more junior Finance Officer roles that complete a similar function.
Another commonly recruited finance job within the UN is the Budget Officer. This position is responsible for monitoring and reporting on a specific projects budget. The Budget Officer can also be called upon to design budgets for new projects, as well as ensure that budget holders across a project have the information they need to do their work effectively.
It is common to see Budget Officer roles combined with the Finance Officer role. You’ll see many United Nations agencies recruiting Budget and Finance Officers.
Administrators in the UN are general support staff who work either on specific projects or departments. They ensure administrative processes, including in many areas of finance, are completed in a timely and effective manner. Many people looking to work in a finance role in the UN should consider applying for administrative roles.
Qualifications Needed Work In Finance At The UN
To get a finance job in the United Nations there are two main steps you must complete regarding your qualifications. The first is to complete formal qualifications in finance.
Different finance positions require different qualifications. However, if you are looking to work in a finance role in the United Nations, you need to become qualified to a professional level in the area of finance you plan to work in. For example, if you wish to become an Accountant within a UN agency, you need to become fully qualified as an accountant in your country. The same goes for finance management roles – if you want to be a Finance Manager in the UN, you need a degree in finance.
Essentially, your aim should be to become fully qualified in your chosen area of finance before applying to work for the United Nations.
Jobs at the UN are very competitive. Alongside this, UN jobs are highly demanding, and you will be required to work to a high level of proficiency. Therefore, you should not apply for finance jobs in the United Nations until you are fully qualified
Sadly, the United Nations will not fund your finance training. You will need to complete your qualifications yourself before you apply to work for the UN.
The second step you need to take to become qualified to work in a finance position within the UN is to gain a specific understanding of the UN’s work and how finance roles support this. Finance jobs within the UN will directly support the implementation of the United Nations’ work. For this reason, the UN will look for people who have both a knowledge of finance, as well as a strong grasp of what the UN does.
The best way to gain an understanding of the UN’s work, and how finance positions are key to supporting UN projects, is by doing online short courses. There are a range of UN courses that can be taken online for free, or for a small fee. Adding these to your CV will differentiate you from other applicants when applying for finance positions within the UN and will demonstrate your understanding of the UN’s work.
United Nations Online Courses
For those wanting to work for the United Nations, including in a finance role, 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 a finance role, 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.
If you are looking to work for the UN in a finance role, we also recommend the online course How To Design and Fund International Development NGO Projects. It covers the key concepts of how humanitarian organisations develop their programmes and the core skills needed to manage finances in the international development sector. Click the link to be taken to the course’s page.
Applying for United Nations Finance Jobs
The United Nations recruitment system is notoriously complicated. However, if you are going to apply for a finance job within the UN, it’s important you understand the different ways the UN recruits and what categories of roles there are within the United Nations.
Jobs in the UN, including finance jobs, are split into two types – G, or ‘General Service’ positions, and P, or ‘Professional’ roles. The naming is unfortunate because there’s really nothing less professional about the General roles! The actual differences between G and P roles in the UN is how and where they are recruited.
G roles in the UN are only recruited locally. This means that staff are hired within the country where the UN project is being ran. If you are not a national of that country, you cannot apply for a job categorised as ‘General’.
Alternatively, P jobs at the UN are recruited internationally. This means staff are hired as expatriates to travel abroad to work on UN projects. Most holders of P positions move between different United Nations programmes across many countries throughout their career.
The UN also has D level roles that are similar, but more senior, to P level jobs.
Each role at the UN is given a number as well as it’s letter. The number relates to how much experience a candidate should have in order to be hired for that position. For example, a UN job will be a P-4, or a G-5. The higher the number, the more experience is needed for the job.
When looking for a finance job in the UN, you should apply for positions in-line with your experience, qualifications, and career aims. If you are a national of a country where the United Nations has a large presence, consider first applying for junior level G roles within the UN’s finance departments. You can then gain experience in the UN system before deciding to either stay in your home country and take more senior G roles, or transition towards international work with the UN and applying for P positions.
If you have previous experience working in finance, especially for an NGO or humanitarian organisation, you may consider applying for UN P roles directly. UN recruiters will often look for those with relevant previous work experience when hiring for P positions, even for more junior P roles.
Alongside hiring G and P positions, the UN also hires a huge number of consultants. The United Nations uses consultants at all levels to support projects and provide guidance and expertise. Although many UN finance consultancies are at senior level and will require significant previous experience either in finance roles in the UN or in NGOs, the UN does occasionally recruit short term finance consultants at more junior levels. If you’re looking to work in a finance job in the UN, make sure you regularly check what consultancies are being recruited for.
Another proven route into the UN is through internships and volunteer postings. Although most UN internships focus more on technical or coordination roles and less on specific finance positions, taking a UN internship can be a great way to begin a career in the United Nations. You could start with an internship and later work towards taking a finance job within the UN.
Lastly, a great way to enter the UN is through the UN Volunteers scheme. These are short-to-medium term volunteer postings within UN projects. UN Volunteers specifically looks for people with professional experience outside of the United Nations and many of the postings require specific technical skills. Definitely explore open positions with UN Volunteers that require financial training. This can be a good first step into working in the United Nations in a finance job.
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United Nations Agencies Recruiting Finance Roles
In many of the guides we have written on how to get specific jobs within the UN, we’ve provided an overview of which UN agencies are best to target for those looking for specific roles. However, almost every UN agency requires finance staff. The United Nations is an enormous organisation with budgets in the hundreds of millions. Finance staff are required across the entire United Nations and at almost all levels.
As there are so many finance roles across the UN, those looking to join the organisation in a finance job should think about which part of the UN interests them most. The UN does a huge range of work – from humanitarian and development assistance, to coordinating civil aviation and global shipping, to human rights and social justice, to even advising on international postal services and tele-communications. All of these functions require the support of qualified finance staff.
If you’re looking to work for the UN in a finance role, do some research on the different UN agencies and focus your applications on the ones that work in the area you’re most interested in supporting. Alternatively, you could apply for finance roles across the UN, and once in the organisation begin to move towards agencies that take your interest.
If you want to learn more about how to get a finance job in the United Nations, check out of the top UN online courses here.