How To Get A HR Job In The United Nations (Complete Guide)

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Jobs with the United Nations are some of the most sought-after roles in the world. Many people want to join the UN as it often offers a well-paid and prestigious position, whilst giving the opportunity to travel the world and work on some of the biggest global crises.

With tens of thousands of staff globally, the UN has an enormous need for human resources personnel. This means there are a wide range of positions across the organisation for those with HR experience. We’ve put together this guide for those working in HR who are thinking about transitioning to work for the UN, as well as for those thinking about a UN career and wanting to know if HR is an area they should specialise in.

United Nations HR Jobs

If you are looking to work for the United Nations in a HR position, it is important to understand the types of HR jobs the UN frequently recruits. Some of the most common human resources roles across the UN include:

  • Human Resource Officer
  • Recruiter
  • Administrative Officer
  • Finance-HR Officer
  • Human Resources Director
  • HR Consultant

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

Human Resource Officer

Probably the most commonly recruited HR role in the United Nations is Human Resource Officer. This position is responsible for the day-to-day management of human resource processes. This can include recruiting new staff, ensuring HR systems are being correctly followed and reviewing HR guidelines. The HR Officer in the UN can be stationed within a UN agencies HQ, or within a sub-office at field-level.


With so many staff, the United Nations has a frequent turnover in positions. This means there is a significant need across the organisation for Recruiters. They are responsible for advertising new roles, shortlisting candidates, arranging, and participating in interviews and assisting with the onboarding of new recruits. Most large UN offices will have a staff dedicated to recruitment.

Administrative Officer

Another HR role within the United Nations is the Administrative Officer position. This role supports human resources in work such as applying for visas and work permits, making travel and movement arrangements and the onboarding of new staff.

Finance-HR Officer

In some smaller UN offices, the job of Human Resource Officer is combined with the Finance Officer role. In these instances, the post-holder provides financial and HR support as needed. The Finance-HR Officer usually works within a combined team covering finance, HR and administration and is line-managed by the Admin Manager.

Human Resources Director

One of the most senior HR positions within the United Nations is the HR Director. This role overseas a large HR department within a UN agency or office. They have ultimate responsibility for all aspects of HR management.

HR Consultant

The UN hires a huge number of consultants to provide advice and complete technical pieces of work. There are frequent positions open for HR consultants across the UN.

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Qualifications Needed To Work In HR At The UN

To get a HR job in the United Nations you need to be qualified. There are really two main steps to getting the qualifications you need to work in human resources in a UN agency. The first is to get a formal qualification in human resource management.

The United Nations has a significant need to qualified HR staff. However, even for entry-level human resource positions, the UN will likely be looking for candidates that are qualified in human resource management. A degree in human resources would be the best qualification to get if working in a HR role in the UN is your aim. Ideally, this should be at master’s level. However, other HR qualifications supported by several years of working in similar HR roles may suffice.

UN jobs are highly competitive. You should aim to become fully qualified to work in HR before applying for positions with the United Nations.

It’s also important to note that the United Nations will not fund your training to become a HR specialist. You will need to complete your studies and then apply to work for the UN in a human resource role.

The second step to becoming qualified to take a HR role with the United Nations is to gain a strong understanding of the UN’s work, and how human resource management supports this. One of the best ways to do this is to take online short courses.

Human resources is a vital support function in the United Nations. Recruiting, training, monitoring, and supporting the huge number of staff across the organisation is key for the UN to deliver its projects effectively. However, for the UN HR departments do this well, it means HR staff across the organisation must have a strong understanding of what the UN’s really does.

Being able to demonstrate on your application that you not only have strong HR qualifications, but that you also have an understanding of the UN’s work, and how human resources can support this, is key.

There are a huge range of online short courses you can take to gain knowledge of the United Nations. Many can be taken online for free, or for a small fee, and only take a few weeks to complete. We think taking some of these courses is one of the most important steps to becoming qualified to secure a HR role within the UN.

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 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 in the UN, especially in a HR role, 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.

Applying For United Nations HR Roles

One of the most important things you need to do to before applying for jobs at the United Nations, including in HR roles, is to understand the UN job categorisations. Understanding this will help you select which UN roles are right for you and which you should apply for.

The UN has two main categories of jobs. These are known as ‘Professional’, or P jobs, and ‘General Service’ or G jobs. The naming isn’t great as there is nothing unprofessional about G, or any other type of, jobs in the UN. The main difference between the two job types is how and where they are recruited.

G category jobs in the UN can only be recruited locally. This means you must be a national of the country where the UN project is being ran. You cannot apply internationally for a G category UN job.

P jobs in the United Nations are international roles. These can only be applied to from abroad and are reserved for staff that deploy as expatriates to support UN projects. Many post holders of P jobs move between different UN postings throughout their career.

There are also D category jobs within the UN recruitment system. These are essentially the same as P jobs but at a more senior level.

As well as giving each job a letter category, the United Nations also has a number categorisation for each role. 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 see UN jobs listed as P-4 or G-5, for example.

If you want to work in a HR job in the United Nations, you should apply for positions in-line with your experience and career aims. If you are early in your career, and from a country where the UN has a significant presence, consider applying for lower category G roles. Then, if you want to work abroad, you can apply for P positions once you have some experience within the UN system.

For those who aim to work internationally for the United Nations and are from a country where the UN doesn’t run projects, then consider gaining relevant HR experience outside the UN, before applying to relevant P roles. Taking HR roles within the NGO sector could be a great to gain highly relevant experience.

Another route into working for the UN is by taking an internship. This is ideal for recent graduates who want to straight away begin their UN careers. Although there are likely some UN internships in HR roles, most focus on the programmatic areas of the UN. However, doing an internship in the United Nations is a great way to gain experience within the organisation, and once you have completed one you are well placed to apply for role of your choice – including in the human resources department.

UN Volunteers (UNV) is the official volunteering scheme of the United Nations. UNV deploys volunteers to support UN projects around the world. Most UNV postings are for technical support, however taking a UNV posting is a great way to get experience within the UN. So, if you cannot find a relevant HR role, consider taking a UNV posting and then transitioning into human resources afterwards.

Finally, make sure you also explore the possibility of doing consultancy work with the UN. The United Nations hires a huge number of consultants to complete specific pieces of work. Although many consultancies focus on technical areas, there are consultancy openings in HR roles. Most UN consultancies are at senior levels, but actually there are more junior openings as well, so be sure to regularly check what consultants different UN agencies are hiring.

United Nations Agencies Recruiting HR Positions

In most of our guides to starting careers in the United Nations we like to include a section on the UN agencies most likely to recruit a specific type of role. However, for human resource staff, there is a need in every part of the United Nations. Some larger UN agencies will recruit more HR staff by default, but really every UN office will have some dedicated HR personnel.

If you want to get a HR position in the United Nations, your best strategy is to apply for a wide range of human resources roles across many UN agencies. Then, once you are working within the UN system, apply for HR positions on UN projects that most interest you.

It is much easier to move roles once within the UN, than it is to secure one externally. Therefore, do not be too picky when applying for HR roles, and send a lot of applications to different UN positions to increase your chances of landing a human resources role within the UN.

If you want to learn more about how to get a job in the United Nations, check out our list 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.