How To Get A Management Job In The UN (Complete Guide)

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Many people want to work for the United Nations. It’s a highly prestigious job that often lets you travel the world. It also allows you to work for an organisation addressing some of the biggest global crises.

If you are senior within your career, there are a huge range of management level jobs within the UN that are open to you. This guide is ideal for anyone wanting to transition into a managerial role in the United Nations, as well as those earlier in their careers looking ahead at how they may become a UN manager.

United Nations Management Jobs

The United Nations is an enormous organisation. With tens of thousands of staff across 193 countries, there are almost an unlimited number of different roles within the UN. However, across the different UN bodies, there are some common management level positions that are frequently recruited. These include:

  • Programme Manager
  • Grant Manager
  • Director
  • Chief of Unit
  • Operations Manager
  • Support Functions Manager

Let’s look at each of these…

Programme Manager

One of the mostly commonly recruited UN management jobs is Programme Manager. The UN hires Programme Managers to oversee a wide range of different activities. Programme Managers are responsible for overseeing the team and budget, as well as ensuring project deliverables are met.

Programme Managers in the UN can direct anything from human rights advocacy to development projects, and from climate change conferences to civil aviation coordination. The role is seen as one of the most vital managerial positions in the United Nations.

Grant Manager

The United Nations receives grants from funding bodies to support its work. It also provides grants to frontline organisations to implement many of its projects.

Grant Managers across the UN ensure grants are received, spent, reported, and monitored correctly. They are also responsible or liaising between donors and project implementers to ensure compliance is maintained. Grant Manager roles are another common senior level position within the UN.


Directors are senior level jobs within the United Nations. They oversee either a large department or a number of dedicated units. Directors can be based within the HQ of a UN agency or at field level.

Chief of Unit

The Chief of Unit role within the United Nations is the managerial position overseeing a department. It is responsible for ultimately ensuring the smooth running of the unit, as well coordination with other units across the UN office in which it operates.

Operations Manager

Operations Managers work across the United Nations overseeing the systems and processes needed to run UN projects. Each Operations Manager position has a specific remit, but all work at senior management level and are responsible for delivering project results.

Support Functions Manager

There are many jobs in the UN that oversee the running of what is known as support functions. These are areas such as finance, logistics, HR, or security that support the implementation of UN projects. The responsibility of the support functions manager is to ensure that the area under them is working correctly and providing the required assistance to the UN programme it supports.

Applying For United Nations Management Roles

If you want to work in the UN in a management role you need to be highly qualified. You will especially need significant relevant work experience in order to take a management position within the United Nations.

UN jobs are highly competitive. Although at senior management level competition may decrease slightly – due to their being less people with the extensive previous experience needed to apply, you should still understand that getting a UN job is, sadly, not easy.

Those wanting to become a manager in the United Nations will likely need to already be senior in either the private, public or NGO sector. The UN will look for management candidates that have both the relevant technical skills and knowledge needed to perform the role, as well as demonstratable leadership and organisational skills.

The United Nations recruits a wide range of people to become managers. Although many senior level positions in the UN are held by those who have worked their way up through more junior roles within the UN system. However, it is definitely possible to transition into a management position from outside the United Nations.

There are two main ways to transition into a management role in the UN. The first is from the NGO sector. If you have several years’ experience and are already at a senior level working within NGOs, you are well-placed to apply to similar roles at the UN.

The second way to transition into a senior role at the United Nations is from the private sector. This maybe more difficult as there are potentially less similarities between private sector work and roles within the UN. However, there are definitely areas of overlap. For example, HR, finance, or logistics roles may link closely to positions within the UN. If you are in the private sector, look carefully at management roles in the United Nations that require similar skills, experience, and competencies.

Overall, for management level jobs the UN will be most interested in your previous work experience. However, you will likely need a degree, probably to master’s level, to support your professional background. However, candidates with many years of highly relevant work may not need a degree to get a management level job in 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 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.

UN Management Job Categories

An important step in getting a management job in the United Nations is understanding the UN’s recruitment system. The UN gives each job a category. This is linked to its seniority, as well as who can apply for it. For management level jobs, there are five main categories within the UN. These are:

  • P-6 and P-7
  • D-1 and D-2
  • National Professional Officers (D and E)
  • FS-6 and FS-7
  • Other Senior Appointments

Let’s briefly go over each of these…

P-6 and P-7

United Nations P jobs stand for ‘Professional’ roles. These positions can only be applied to from abroad and staff in P positions deploy internationally. The most senior jobs within the P category at the UN are P-6 and P-7. The UN gives a number to each role, the higher the number meaning the more experience a candidate needs.

For P-6 roles, candidates are expected to have at least 15 years relevant professional experience. P-7 roles are open to candidates with more than 15 years.

D-1 and D-2

D-1 and D-2 roles within the United Nations recruitment system are essentially the same as P-6 and P-7 positions. Staff deploy internationally into these positions and are expected to have 15 or more years of professional experience.

National Professional Officers (D and E)

National Professional Officers (NPO) within the UN system work at a similar level and in related positions to P and D level jobs. However, these jobs do not have to be recruited internationally. This means people from the country where the UN is running its project are open to apply to NPO roles.

The managerial level NPO roles are in categories D and E. Candidates applying to D level NPO positions require at least seven years of professional experience. E category NPO jobs require more than seven years’ experience.

FS-6 and FS-7

The United Nations has a specific job category for those serving on frontline field missions. These are FS category roles. The management level positions within the FS category of the UN are FS-6 and FS-7. Those applying to FS-6 positions need 10 years of relevant work experience. FS-7 positions require 12 years of career experience.

Other Senior Appointments

Alongside the above listed management job categories, the UN also has a few very senior positions outside of these categories. These include Deputy and Under Secretary Generals, as well as Assistant Secretary Generals. These roles are appointed either by the UN Secretary General themselves or in conjunction with the General Assembly and Security Council.

United Nations Agencies Recruiting Management Positions

In each of our United Nation’s job guides we like to include a section on which UN agencies are most likely to recruit a particular role. However, management level positions are present throughout the UN. Although some of the largest UN agencies will recruit more mangers by default of their size, the United Nations is such as an enormous organisation that there are significant numbers of senior level positions throughout.

If you want to secure a management position within the United Nations, you are best to target applications at the UN agencies most closely linked to your professional expertise. This is because the UN will look for significant previous professional experience when hiring managers, and therefore applying to UN bodies that are closely linked to your career so far, will improve your chances of landing a management role.

The best way to get to a senior level in the UN, whether you are working your way up within the organisation, or hoping to transition from outside it, is to have a specialism within a certain technical area. Being able to demonstrate that you not only have the knowledge and skills needed, but also several years of relevant experience, before applying for a management job with the UN, is key.

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