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If you are a recent graduate and want to work at the United Nations, there are a number of jobs open to you. The UN has a range of graduate positions. These include internships and volunteer postings, as well as paid positions at home and abroad.
We’ve put together this guide to provide graduates with information on the best UN jobs to apply for. If you’ve recently finished your studies, or are still at university, and thinking about a career at the UN, then read on…
Young Professional Programme
The United Nations offers the Young Professionals Programme (YPP) to recent graduates who want to start a career with the UN. The YPP aims to recruit talented graduates and is one of the best ways to begin working for the United Nations. Applicants to the YPP must have completed their undergraduate degree, ideally a bachelor’s degree or a three-year university programme.
You do not need previous work experience to apply to the UN’s YPP and therefore it is considered one of the top UN graduate jobs.
Those accepted onto the YPP receive a two year fixed term contract with the UN. YPP jobs are considered graduate positions and are at either at P-1 or P-2 level within the UN system. One advantage of applying for the YPP after graduation is that P jobs in the UN usually require some years of previous work experience, however this is negated for graduates applying to the YPP.
Not every nation is part of the YPP. Only nationals of countries that are part of the scheme can apply to YPP graduate positions.
Graduates wishing to join the UN on the YPP must complete an exam. This is held once a year. The YPP aims to recruit graduates from countries under-represented at the UN. This means nationals of countries that do not already have a lot of staff working for the UN will be more likely to receive an offer.
How to Apply
The criteria for securing a graduate job through the UN YPP are as follows:
- Be a nationality of a participating country
- Hold an undergraduate degree
- Be between 18 and 32 years of age
- Fluent in either English or French
If you meet these criteria, you can apply to take the YPP entrance exam. Upon passing this exam, you will be offered a place on the UN YPP.
UN General Service Staff (G-1)
Another type of UN graduate job is the G-1 ‘General Service’ position. The United Nations has two main categories for their jobs – P or ‘Professional’ roles, and G or ‘General Service’ roles. The naming isn’t great as there is really nothing more professional about P jobs.
General Service jobs at the UN are recruited in the country where the UN is operating. This means you must be a national of that country to apply.
Each job in the UN is given a number as well as it’s letter category. The lower the number, the less experience you need to apply. G-1 jobs require no previous professional experience. This makes them ideal for recent graduates looking to start their career with the United Nations.
There are many different types of jobs across the United Nations that are categorised as G-1. However, generally, G roles in the UN are in support functions or technical areas. If this is the kind of work you want to do for the UN, then definitely consider applying for G-1 roles soon after graduation. If it is not, then still consider applying for G -1 level roles after university but then make moves to transition towards roles that are more interesting for you after gaining a few years professional experience within the UN.
How to Apply
If you want to apply for a G-1 job at the UN, you will need:
- Completion of high school education
- Minimum 18 years of age
- English or French language. There may be additional language requirements depending on the location
Although you do not need a degree to apply to a G-1 position in the UN, being a recent graduate will help your application.
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 Professional (P-2)
As well as General Service roles, the UN also has what is known as ‘Professional’, or P category jobs. The main difference between P and G positions in the UN is how and where they are recruited.
Graduates looking to build a career working internationally for the United Nations should apply for P-2 level jobs. These are the most junior level international postings in the UN.
You cannot apply for P-2 category jobs straight from university. You are required to have two years of professional experience before getting a P-2 job with the UN. However, as the most junior expat position in the United Nations, P-2 jobs are still ideal for recent graduates that want to work abroad for the UN.
There are P-2 jobs across the UN in a huge range of positions. Some areas that often recruit P-2 category jobs are operations, economic and social development, peace and security, information systems and communications, legal, and public information and external relations. These are just a few examples – make sure you check what P-2 level jobs are being recruited to see if there is one in the area you wish to work.
How to Apply
To apply for P-2 jobs with the United Nations candidates need at least the following:
- An advanced university degree
- Two years relevant work experience
- Spoken English or French
In addition to these criteria, graduates applying for P-2 jobs may need another UN language. Each P-2 job also has its own criteria that candidates must meet in order to apply.
United Nations Volunteers
A great way for recent graduates to get a job at the UN is through UN Volunteers (UNV). The UN Volunteers scheme deploys qualified personnel into UN humanitarian, development, and peace building projects. Although UN Volunteers do need some professional experience, and you cannot apply straight after completing your degree, it is a good option for those a few years out of university to find a graduate position within the UN.
UN Volunteers usually need a technical area of expertise. This means it is best to apply if you have completed a degree in an area closely linked to the UN’s work.
Each UN Volunteer posting is requested by a UN agency that requires the support. They are often used to fill gaps in or provide expertise that is needed on the UN missions. If you have a degree, and few years of professional experience, completing a placement with UNV can be a great way to begin a career with the United Nations. Once you have done a UNV posting, it is much easier to apply for UN jobs.
If you want to work for the United Nations after university, and are not succeeding in securing some of other graduate positions open at the UN, consider getting a few years of professional experience and then applying to UN Volunteers.
How to Apply
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
To become a UN Volunteer, you need to apply to the roster. Once you are awarded a place on the UNV roster, you’re approved for missions as suitable positions arise.
United Nations Internship Programme
A further UN graduate job is the United Nations Internship Programme. UN internships aim to give young professionals their first experience of working in the United Nations. Graduates on the UN Internship Programme work directly with teams across the organisation providing valuable assistance.
Getting a position on the UN Internships Programme is a great way to begin building a career in the United Nations as a recent graduate. The programme specifically aims to give post holders the skills and experiences they need to go on to other jobs within the UN. Interns are supported by senior management and provided mentoring throughout their time on the programme.
You do not need professional experience after finishing university in order to apply to the UN Internship Programme. You can apply directly as a recent graduate.
How to Apply
The UN Internship Programme is ran by several UN agencies. Each internship has its own requirements; however all require the completion of a university degree. If you are a graduate and interested in doing an internship with the UN, follow the links below to explore which agencies are currently recruiting interns:
- 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)
Junior Professional Officers Programme
A final graduate position that is open at the UN is the Junior Professional Officer (JPO) programme. The JPO programme provides recent graduates with the opportunity to work on UN humanitarian and development projects. All JPOs support the UN in its work towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The JPO programme is ideal for graduates that want to begin a career in the UN. It aims to provide hands-on and practical experience that graduates can use to then build successful careers across the United Nations.
Not all nations participate in the JPO programme. Most JPO positions are only open nationals of countries that fund JPO roles. However, there are a limited number of nations that also sponsor JPO positions for graduates from developing countries.
As well as general JPO positions sponsored by specific countries, there are also JPO roles that focus on individual areas of humanitarian or development work.
How to Apply
Each JPO opening has its own requirements. However, the general requirements for the JPO are as follows:
- An advanced university degree
- A minimum of two years of relevant work experience
- Strong command of one of the working languages of the United Nations, English or French; an additional official language is an asset
- Normally 32 years of age or younger, but this varies by donor country
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.