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The United Nations is a great place to work. The UN is a prestigious organisation working to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges. UN jobs pay well, let you travel and give you an exciting career. However, UN jobs are also competitive and most require many years of experience. So, what if you are at the start of your career, a recent graduate or someone with no previous experience?
We’ve put together a full list of the UN jobs you should apply for if you want to work for the United Nations but don’t have any work experience.
Young Professional Programme
The United Nations Young Professionals Programme (YPP) aims to recruit talented and motivated individuals to begin their career within the UN. You can apply to the UN YPP without any previous work experience, and it can be a great way to get your first position in the United Nations.
Jobs within the YPP are designed to bring new staff into the UN. They are entry-level positions, and you can get them with no experience. The YPP brings in staff to fill gaps within the UN and provides training to new staff to be international civil servants to UN standards.
YPP jobs are two-years and post holders are given a fixed-term contract. YPP positions within the United Nations are either at P-1 or P-2 level. This is great as P-level jobs within the UN generally require previous work experience, but YPP staff can join at this level without experience.
Once staff have completed the YPP they may be offered an extension of their current post or another job within the UN. This means the YPP is one of the best options to begin a UN career if you have not previously worked for the United Nations or a similar organisation.
To get job on the UN YPP you need to pass an exam. However, this does mean you can get the position without previous work experience, as long as you have the knowledge to pass the test. YPP entry exams are held once a year.
The UN YPP aims to recruit staff to the United Nations from underrepresented countries. This means nationals from countries that do not have a lot of staff in the UN are more likely to get a job on the YPP even if they don’t have previous professional experience.
UN General Service Staff (G-1)
Another job you can get at the UN without any previous experience is at G-1 General Service Staff level. United Nations positions are divided into two main groups – P, or ‘Professional’ roles, and G ‘General’ positions. They are rather unfortunately named as there is really nothing less professional about G positions.
General Service staff jobs within the UN are recruited locally in countries the UN has missions. This is different from P jobs where staff are deployed internationally. Each type of UN position is ranked on a scale. For G positions, this goes from G1 – G7.
G-1 jobs are entry-level positions within the United Nations, and you do not need any previous work experience to get one. This makes them great starting positions if you want to work in the United Nations but not done much previous work.
It is important to remember the G roles are only open to local staff, so you must be a national of the country in which the UN is recruiting to apply. Other requirements for G-1 jobs include:
- Completion of high school education
- Minimum 18 years of age
- English or French language. There may be additional language requirements depending on the location
More senior G positions within the UN require a number of years of work experience. However, G-1 jobs to not require any previous experience to get.
Many G-1 jobs within the UN are in low level administrative, security or premises management roles. Although they are junior positions, starting in a G-1 role is your foot in the door of the UN and if you do not have previous work experience, they can be a great place to begin a career.
United Nations Online Courses
If you are interested in working for the United Nations, we highly recommend the online course United Nations Jobs Guide. It’s a great overview of the UN recruitment system and includes valuable tips for anyone looking to build a career within the United Nations. Follow the link to the course’s page.
We also think the United Nations CV and Cover Letter online course is a must for anyone looking to get a job in the UN. It goes through exactly what is needed when applying for a UN position and provides guidance on what exactly to include. It also shows students what the UN recruitment process is like. Follow the link to get full details on the course.
An important step for those wanting to work for the United Nations is to get a strong understanding of how the UN works, and what its global role is. We recommend the online course Global Diplomacy: The United Nations in the World offered by SOAS in London. Not only does it give a fantastic overview of the UN; the fact it is offered by SOAS – one of the top colleges in the world for international relations studies, makes it a great addition to the CV of anyone applying for a job at the UN. Click the link for more information.
UN Volunteer (UNV) are deployed in United Nations humanitarian, development and peace building projects. Although UN Volunteers do need some professional experience, you don’t need previous experience within the UN.
UN Volunteers often have a technical area of expertise that can be utilised within a UN project. Some UNV positions require very little previous experience if you have a practical skill that the UN requires. UN Volunteer postings can also be good for people wanting to transition across to the career in the UN who do not have previous experience in international development work.
Each UN Volunteer position is requested by a specific UN agency. They are often used as gap-fill or to bring in expertise from outside the United Nations. If you have no, or very little, previous experience within the humanitarian, NGO or peace building sectors, UN Volunteer roles can be a great option.
All UN Volunteer postings have specific requirements. However, some general points that are needed to join the UN as a volunteer include:
- 25 years of age or older. There is no upper age limit
- University degree or technical diploma
- Working knowledge of English, French or Spanish.
- Commitment to the principles of volunteerism
- Able to work in a multi-cultural environment
- Be able to work with people from different organisations and backgrounds
- Strong team building skills
- Prior volunteering experience in a developing country is an asset
Many UN Volunteer postings require two or more years of professional experience. However, this does not have to be within the United Nations or the humanitarian and development sectors, and so UN Volunteer roles can great for people without previous UN or related experience.
To join UN volunteers, you must apply to the roster. Once you are awarded a place on the UNV roster, you’re approved for missions as suitable positions arise. You don’t need to have worked for the UN before to get onto the UNV roster.
UN Internship Programme
The United Nations Internships Programme is ideal for those wanting to work in the UN who don’t have any previous experience. UN internships aim to provide young professionals with first-hand experience of working within the United Nations. UN interns work directly with key teams within UN agencies and provide valuable assistance. However, no prior experience is needed.
Working as part of the UN Internship Programme is a fantastic way to build a wide range of technical and practical skills, ideally suited to a career in the UN. Interns are also supported by senior management and there are extensive mentoring opportunities.
The UN Internships Programmes is a great opportunity to gain experience within the United Nations. Each internship has specific entry requirements, but as the scheme is designed to bring new talent into the UN, previous experience is not required.
To apply for internships with the UN you need go directly to the UN agency recruiting. There are several United Nations agencies that have interns. These include:
- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
- United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)
- United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA)
- United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
- United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
United Nations internships can be a great way to start a career within the UN if you don’t have experience. They are specifically aimed at students, recent graduates and young professionals and so if you do not have previous professional experience, UN internships can be some of the best roles to go for.
If you want to learn more about the United Nations, and how to get a UN job, explore our list of the top UN online courses here.