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

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Working for the United Nations can be a fantastic career. You get an often well paid and prestigious job, whilst also working to resolve some the biggest global crises. Many people want to work for the UN in America, either because they’re US citizens and want to work for the UN in their home country, or because they want to move to America from overseas whilst building their UN careers.

For those interested in working for the UN in America, we’ve put together this guide one the main steps you need to take…

UN Agencies In The United States

The first step to getting a job with the United Nation in America is knowing which UN agencies are based in the US. Thankfully, the UN has a major presence in America with many of its largest agencies headquartered in the country. Below are of some of the top UN agencies in the US:

  • UN General Assembly
  • UN Development Programme (UNDP)
  • UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
  • UN Population Fund (UNFPA)
  • International Monetary Fund (IMF)
  • World Bank
  • UN Women

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

UN General Assembly

The General Assembly is the main policy making body of the United Nations. It is made up of representatives from each member state. The General Assembly is located in New York, USA. Alongside the actual assembly, there are range of offices and functions that support the General Assembly’s operation. As a result, there are many UN jobs at the organizations HQ in New York.

As well as the General Assembly, the UN Security Council and the Economic and Social Council are also based at the same location in New York. These will also have supporting offices and will hire staff.

UN Development Programme (UNDP)

UNDP is the development agency of the United Nations. With headquarters in New York, UNDP is one of top UN agencies recruiting positions in America. Anyone with an interest in international development or who wants to work on global development projects, whilst having a job in the US, consider applying for positions with UNDP.

UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

UNICEF is the UN agency that assists children and their families around the world impacted by disasters, conflicts or crises or who are living in poverty. UNICEF is based in New York, meaning it is a great place to work if you want to join the UN and have a background in humanitarian child protection, nutrition or education.

UN Population Fund (UNFPA)

UNFPA is the UN agency focused on reproductive and maternal health. It runs programmes around the world assisting women and girls and conducts research on global population figures. The HQ of UNFPA is in New York and so it is a great option for anyone interested in women’s health who wants to get a job in America with the United Nations.

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

The IMF is one of the major financial agencies of the UN. The IMF works with countries to develop sound financial policies. It also provides financial assistance to countries facing economic or humanitarian crises. Based in Washington D.C., the IMF is a great part of the UN to target with applications if you are interested in global finance or development and want to work for the United Nations in the US.

World Bank

The World Bank is another financial institution that is part of the United Nations. It provides loans and grants to developing countries to improve their development. It also assists with policy and provides guidance to poorer countries. The World Bank is headquartered in Washington D. C., meaning it is a great place to get a job for anyone interested in economic, international development or finance and who wants to work for the UN in America.

UN Women

Founded in 2010, UN Women is one of the newest UN agencies. If you are interested in feminism, or what to work on projects assisting women and girls around the world, then target applications at UN Women. The headquarters of UN Women is in New York, meaning it is a great place to apply if you want to work on women’s issues for the UN whilst in the United States.

Types Of United Nations Jobs In America

With so many UN agencies headquartered in the United States there are literally hundreds of different jobs you can apply for. However, UN jobs around the world, including in America, really fall into two main categories.

The first type of UN jobs is known as programme, or technical roles. These positions are responsible for running the UN’s programmes, as well as giving technical guidance. As the UN doesn’t run many programmes within the United States, and many of the UN offices in America are agency HQs, most of the programmes roles will be providing advice and support to UN programmes around the world.

Examples of the kinds of areas UN programme roles within the US follow include healthcare, education, refugee assistance, and disaster response.

The second type of United Nations position that you will find across the organisation, including in the United States, is support roles. These are the positions that provide the support needed for the UN to run its programmes.

There are a huge range of different support roles in the United Nations. In America, UN support roles will either focus on running the United Nations’ offices based in the US, or will provide support to overseas UN missions

Some examples of support roles you will see recruited in America include in areas such as logistics, finance, human resources, grants management, project monitoring and security management.

Both programme and support roles will be recruited by United Nations offices in the United States. However, as many UN programmes are ran overseas, so you will likely find more support roles recruited in America. With that said, as there are several large UN agencies with headquarters in the US, there are hundreds of types of jobs recruited across the country.

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Qualifications Needed To Work For The UN In America

If you want to work for the UN in America, you need to have the right qualifications. Jobs with the United Nations are highly competitive – in the US, they are even more so. In order to get a job with one of the UN agencies based in the United States, there are two main steps to becoming qualified…

The first thing you need to do to become qualified to work for the UN in the US is get a relevant college degree. Almost all UN jobs require a college level of education. Most jobs within the United Nations actually require a master’s degree or higher. So, if you want to work for the UN, you need to go to college.

Although there are roots into the UN agencies based in America with almost any college degree, if you aim to work for the UN soon out of college, then pick a degree that is relevant to the UN’s work.

Deciding which college courses are most relevant to the UN depends a lot on what job you want to do for the United Nations. In America, the UN recruits a huge range of positions. There are technical and programme roles that focus on coordinating the UN’s work overseas, as well as support roles in areas such as finance, administration, logistics and human resources.

Have a look at what roles the UN agencies based in the United States often recruit, as well as think about which areas of the United Nations most interest you, and ideally do a college degree in a related area.

The second step to becoming qualified to work for the United Nations, including in the US, is to gain an understanding of the UN’s work. Recruiters for the United Nations look to hire people who not only have the experience and knowledge needed to the role, but also understand, and are passionate, about what the UN does.

One of the best ways to gain knowledge of the UN’s work is to take an online short course. There are many courses online that go into detail about the United Nations, it’s work and its history. Adding these to your CV will really boost your UN application.

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 United Nations is International Organizations Management. This course shows how large global organizations, including the UN, work. It also highlights many of the challenges these organizations face. Click the link to be taken to the course’s page.

Applying to UN Jobs in the United States

The United Nations recruitment system is notoriously complex. It doesn’t matter where in the world you apply to the UN, even in America, the difficulty of navigating the UN’s job categorisation is the same.

There are two main job categories in the UN, these are P – or ‘Professional’ jobs and G – ‘General Service’ jobs. The naming isn’t great as there is really nothing more professional about P category jobs.

The main difference between P and G jobs in the UN is where and how they are recruited. This is especially true for UN jobs in the United States.

G category UN jobs are only recruited in the country in which the position is based. Only nationals of that country are eligible to apply. This means, in America, only US citizens can apply for G jobs within any of the UN agencies based in the United States. If you want to work for the UN in America and you are a US citizen, definitely apply for G positions.

For P category roles in the United Nations, these are recruited internationally. This means anyone from around the world can apply to P jobs within a US based United Nations agency. Most people who work in P jobs in the UN move between different duty stations throughout their career. They also often move between UN agency HQs – including in America, and do field roles in UN programmes around the world. If you want to work for the UN in America, and you are not a US citizen, then apply for P category jobs.

The UN also has D category jobs. These are similar to P positions but are more senior. There are also Field Service – or FS category positions, but these are only one UN field missions and are not recruited in the US.

Alongside P and G roles, another way you can apply to work for the UN in America is as a consultant. The United Nations hires a huge number of consultants that are hired to deliver a set piece of work over a specific period of time. UN consultants generally bring technical expertise that the United Nations does not have in-house. The UN hires consultants both within the US and from abroad, meaning that if you want to work in America for the United Nations, applying as a consultant can be a great option.

If you are near the beginning of your career, or a recent graduate, and want to work for the United Nations in the US, there are some programmes are that ideal.

The Young Professionals Programme is aimed at recent graduates that want to join the United Nations. There are YPP postings all over the world, including in the United States. Only citizens of countries that are part of the YPP scheme are eligible to apply, but if you are from one of these countries and want to work for the UN, including in the America, then apply to the YPP.

The Junior Professional Officers (JPO) scheme is another UN programme that helps recent graduates begin careers in the United Nations. Like with the YPP, only certain nationalities can apply for JPO roles. However, as JPOs can be stationed at UN headquarters in the United States, it can be a great way for people from outside America to begin a United Nations career in the US.

Another UN scheme that is ideal for recent graduates is the UN internship programme. The UN hires interns from all around the world and often has positions in many of the UN HQs that are based in the United States. Internships at the United Nations are open to any nationality.

If you want to learn more about how to get a job with 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.