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Employment Opportunities With the United Nations and Other International Organizations

Fact sheet released by the UN Employment Information and Assistance Unit
Bureau of International Organization Affairs
U.S. Department of State, December 1, 2000

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This Fact Sheet is intended to answer questions concerning employment opportunities and procedures with the United Nations (UN), its affiliated agencies, and other international organizations. It provides information on ways the Department of State and other Federal agencies assist Americans interested in such employment and includes a list of addresses for many of the international organizations.

The U.S. Government encourages qualified U.S. citizens to consider employment opportunities with the UN and other international organizations. While pursuing a rewarding work experience, such international civil servants also impart to their chosen organizations their standards of integrity, competence, efficiency and dedication to the needs of the world community. The U.S. Department of State assists Americans interested in such employment opportunities and promotes American representation in these agencies.


The Secretariats of the UN and its affiliated agencies hire career, project, and short-term employees to carry out their ongoing functions. Like other institutions, they have a continuing need for competent staff in numerous professional fields. Most UN employees are experts in their field, have extensive technical experience, hold a minimum of a masters degree, are fluent in at least one of the official UN languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish) and have a strong working knowledge of at least one other. To attract and hire such individuals, the UN and other international organizations have their own personnel departments that publicize vacant positions, and evaluate and hire applicants.

According to the UN Charter and personnel policies of other international organizations, the primary consideration in the selection of staff is the need to secure the highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity. Most organizations also have intensified efforts to recruit qualified women for positions on their professional staffs and pay due regard to recruiting and selecting individuals on as wide a geographical basis as possible.


Some of the professional positions for which the international organizations recruit are described below.

Administrative - Organizations need administrative experts with advanced degrees and a second language. At entry and mid levels, these positions are often filled internally. Recruitment in this field is usually for specialists in personnel, budget, finance, procurement, and management analysis.

Agriculture/Forestry - There is a demand for agriculture, forestry, and food experts at FAO. This agency requires at least a masters degree and foreign language skills. Typical vacancies are for agronomists, animal production specialists, plant pathologists/geneticists, rural development, agricultural economists, and women-in-development experts.

Demography - Demand for staff in this field is infrequent. An advanced degree in the social sciences with a major in demography is usually required.

Development - This field requires advanced degrees in business, social sciences, economics, with specialization in finance or development economics in addition to field experience and strong foreign language skills.

Economics - This is one of the fields most sought by the organizations. Advanced academic degrees and specialized work experience relevant to the organization are almost always required (e.g., development economists for UNDP, labor economists for ILO, international trade economists for OECD and UNCTAD, agricultural economists for FAO). Field experience and working knowledge of French, Spanish or Portuguese are often required.

Engineering - The IAEA, WHO, and the UN development agencies have a need for engineers. Advanced degrees, field experience, and a second language (often French or Arabic) are required.

Information Systems, Computer, EDP- Organizations need qualified computer specialists with mainframe and networking experience. Applicants generally must have a degree in computer science or statistics, economics or accounting, and a minimum of three years' experience on large-scale computers.

Legal - Legal staffs are relatively small, and their turnover is slow. As a rule, only candidates with specialization in the purview of the organization or public international law are considered. French or Spanish language skills are often required. Few vacancies occur for persons whose main experience has been in U.S. civil, administrative, commercial or penal law. Occasional vacancies arise for positions in patent and copyright law, labor and international law, and in the immigration and refugee fields.

Political/International Affairs - Opportunities for international relations specialists or political scientists, with no other field of expertise, are rare, and candidates greatly outnumber the positions available. Most of these posts are at the UN in New York.

Public Health - WHO and PAHO regularly recruit for health professionals such as epidemiologists, sanitary engineers, and health educators. MDs or public health degrees, developing country experience and language skills (usually French) are required. There are few openings for doctors, nurses, dentists, and others wanting to provide clinical care.

Public Information - Vacancies in this field are rare and competition is keen. These posts usually call for substantial experience in the fields of information media--press, publications, radio, films and television. International media experience related to the work of the agency is desirable.

Social Welfare - Some opportunities are available in field offices of the specialized (and refugee related) agencies.

Statistics - Agencies such as WFP, UNHCR and ILO seek statisticians with strong quantitative and modeling skills. Language skills may be desired.

Teaching - Since the U.S. is no longer a member of UNESCO, there are few positions available for U.S. citizens in the education sector.

Telecommunications - Positions in this field are limited. Applicants for posts in the ITU at either headquarters (in Geneva) or in the field are required to have an advanced degree in electrical engineering or electronics and substantial practical experience in the telecommunications field, e.g. network planning, microwave, radio relay, telephone switching. The ITU insists on French language skills. For consultant field assignments, developing country experience is generally required.

General Requirements

Virtually all professional and senior posts require an advanced degree; significant number of years of recent, relevant and specialized work experience, some field experience in developing countries; and at least a working knowledge of a second UN language, usually French or Spanish. (Appointments to Translator or Interpreter posts require passing a qualifying examination.)

There are rarely suitable openings for students, recent college graduates, or persons who lack pertinent experience or language skills.

Length-of-service & retirement: Many of the UN agencies have established a mandatory retirement age for individuals in professional positions. In the UN and most of its agencies, new employees are not allowed to remain employed beyond age sixty-two. Most organizations prefer not to appoint candidates who will not be able to complete at least five years of service before reaching that age. This mandatory retirement limit also applies to individuals seeking positions in the peacekeeping and technical assistance programs. However, for consultants and for posts of limited duration and in which pension issues are not a consideration, age is generally not a factor in the selection process.

Grade Structure, Salaries and Related Allowances

Professional positions within the UN system are divided into two categories: "P" levels (P-1 through P-5) and "D" levels (D-1 and D-2). P-1 is the most junior level, generally equivalent to a USG ranking of GS-11. D-2 is the most senior level, equating to the USG ranking of Senior Executive Service.

Compensation in the professional and senior positions is made up of two main elements: salary and post adjustment. Salaries range from approximately $30,000 (net of taxes) for an entry level (P-1) position to $90,000 for the top Director (D-2) position. Depending on circumstances, employees are also eligible for dependency, rent, education, and other allowances.

Post Adjustments are additional cost-of-living payments, also net of taxes, (including exchange rate variations) designed to preserve equivalent purchasing power for all UN duty stations worldwide; they are adjusted monthly. For some high-cost cities such as Geneva, Rome and Vienna, these adjustments can be significant--though in recent months they have gone down dramatically.

(Note: Many Americans, and other UN employees, especially those with families, state that current post adjustment levels do not necessarily compensate for the true cost of living in these high-cost cities.) The amounts provided vary depending on the employees' salary level and dependency status. For example, in November 2000, the post adjustment for a mid-level (P-4) officer in Geneva was about $11,700; in Vienna about $1,700; in Rome about $0; and in Nairobi about $7,000. Neither housing nor an additional housing allowance is provided, but if rent exceeds a specified limit, a rental subsidy can be paid.

Recruitment Constraints & Problems

UN agencies and other international organizations are under continuous pressure from member governments to appoint that country's nationals, and there remains an emphasis throughout the UN system to recruit more nationals from developing countries. With most of the agencies headquartered in Europe, distance and language requirements may create problems for some Americans. In addition, UN agencies are experiencing difficulties competing with U.S. private industry salaries and career opportunities, especially in fields such as information management, law, scientific research, engineering and business.

Over the years, Americans attempting to obtain employment with UN agencies and other international organizations have experienced problems that have made the whole recruitment, selection and moving process difficult. For example, the selection process generally takes a very long time, causing many qualified candidates to lose interest or take other jobs. Resettling a family in a foreign environment can be trying and financially burdensome; children's education costs can be very high; and there may be few opportunities for spouse employment in many of the locations.

Appointments Based on Geographic and Gender Balance

To enable as many member states as possible to have their nationals represented on the professional staffs, the UN and some other international organizations have agreed to consider geographic balance when filling vacancies. Some UN agencies have developed formulas for determining the "desirable range" for the equitable representation of member countries on their staffs. These formulas are generally based on member states' financial contributions, their population, and general membership. In recent times, the United States has been within its "desirable range" only in the UN Secretariat. Americans remain under-represented in most other international organizations.

Some UN agencies give hiring priority to qualified women applicants in hopes of increasing their representation in professional and senior posts.


The UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is always looking for individuals to assist its emergency relief and peacekeeping operations in trouble spots throughout the world. Recently, the UN has recruited experts in election monitoring, emergency relief, transportation, and logistics. This year there was a special recruitment effort for civil administrators for the missions in Kosovo and East Timor. Positions are short-term (rarely longer than one year) and require that individuals travel unaccompanied. Candidates are expected to have field experience, languages, and a blend of initiative, political judgment, and humanitarian sensitivity. They must also be prepared and able to withstand arduous physical conditions, long working hours, and many diverse pressures. More information on Peacekeeping field employment can be found on DPKO's Home Page at: www.un.org/Depts/dpko/field/


The UN agencies recruit for these positions by competitive examination. A university degree, relevant experience, and a thorough knowledge of at least three official United Nations languages are required. The Department of State does not recruit for Translator or Interpreter positions. Persons interested in these positions should contact the UN Recruitment Office in New York, or write directly to the organizations that interest them.


Clerical/secretarial positions are most often filled with individuals recruited locally from among the residents of the area in which the international organization is located. Interested personnel may, however, write directly to the organization stating their interest and availability.


UN Guides - Guides for UN Headquarters in New York are recruited locally, usually once a year, and begin their training early in March. Candidates should be from 20 to 30 years of age, with college education or equivalent. They must be fluent in English, with a good speaking voice. Fluency in at least one other language is required. A personal interview is necessary and may be arranged, usually in the autumn, by writing the United Nations Central Employment Service, Room DC-200, New York, New York 10017, or telephoning (212) 754-8841. Applicants must pay their own travel expenses.

Intern Programs - Some internships are available for graduate students. Also, each year the UN conducts a Graduate Student Intern Program for four weeks at UN Headquarters and a Graduate Study Program, for a shorter duration, at the Geneva Office of the UN; these are unpaid internships. Applicants should be enrolled in a graduate program and should not be more than 30 years of age. Deadline for applications is six months prior to the starting date. For more information, contact the Coordinator of the Intern Programme, Room S-2570, UN, NY, 10017 (Phone: 212-963-4437 or Fax: 212-963-3683).

UN Volunteers Program (UNV) - This multinational volunteer program that works through the UN Development Program (UNDP), supports UN development assistance projects worldwide. Volunteers are sought to work in technical cooperation programs, humanitarian relief and rehabilitation, and in support of human rights and electoral and peacebuilding processes. Volunteers can expect to work under difficult living conditions. UNV covers Volunteers' pre-departure expenses and provides them with full medical benefits and a monthly stipend during their two-year assignments.

To be considered for the program, individuals must have at least a first level academic degree and at least five years of relevant work experience. The Peace Corps is the point of contact in the United States for the UNV program. Interested individuals may write to the UN Volunteer Coordinator / Peace Corps; 1111 20th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20526 or call at (800) 424-8580 x 2256.

Junior Professional Officers (JPOs) - JPOs are government-sponsored young professionals who have completed at least a masters degree, have strong foreign language skills, and have at least two years of subsequent professional work experience, often in an international setting. JPOs are assigned for two years, most often in the field. Presently, the U.S. Government sponsors about a dozen JPOs at the UN High commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). For additional information, individuals should contact the Department of State, UN Employment Information and Assistance Unit (IO/S/EA), Rm. 4808, Washington, D.C. 20520.


The ability of UN agencies and other international organizations to carry out their programs effectively depends largely on the quality of their staffs.

As the largest financial contributor to most of these organizations, and because these organizations execute multilateral development and assistance programs valued at millions of dollars, the U.S. Government has a major interest in the composition of these staffs and actively helps these organizations to recruit highly qualified American candidates.

Citizenship: Candidates seeking U.S. Government assistance in obtaining UN employment must be citizens of the United States. Non-citizens, including legal permanent resident aliens, should contact their government's representative or apply directly to the organizations.

U.S. Government Employees: Most Federal employees are eligible by law (Title V - U.S. Code 3581-3584, and implemented by Executive Order 11552) to be "detailed or transferred" to an international organization for a period of up to five years--and in certain instances up to eight years--with reemployment rights to their respective Federal agencies, continuity of service and protection of fringe benefits. This is subject to prior approval by the Federal agency concerned. (For more information, Federal employees should contact the Department of State, UN Employment Information and Assistance Unit (IO/S/EA), Rm. 4808, Washington, D.C. 20520.)

Role of the Department of State

The UN Employment Information & Assistance Unit (IO/S/EA) in the Bureau for International Organization Affairs of the Department of State is responsible for leading and coordinating USG efforts to improve American participation in the UN and for managing an information and "recruitment" program. This office helps disseminate employment information on a wide range of professional positions common to all organizations--accountants, economists, systems analysts, lawyers, engineers, human resource managers, statisticians, public health administrators, development specialists, etc. It compiles a bi-weekly list of all professional vacancies that, along with specific vacancy notices, is available to the general public upon request. The vacancy list, this Fact Sheet, and other pertinent information can be accessed from the Department of State Web Page at:


The office does not maintain information regarding contract or other short-term positions.

Individuals who believe they meet the stated requirements for specific positions and are interested in competing for these positions should send a detailed resume (or UN Personal History Form) directly to the organization, stating the specific vacancy. If a resume is used, it should be detailed and indicate birth date and citizenship.

Americans must compete with candidates from other countries, and competition is keen. Selection does not depend on U.S. Government support and sponsorship by the U.S. Government is not required. U.S. citizens are encouraged to apply directly to the organization of interest.

For very senior positions (D-level and above), IO/S/EA maintains a computerized roster of qualified candidates whose background can be reviewed against the qualifications of particular vacancies, and if found suitable, referred to the particular organization for consideration. Individuals qualifying for senior positions may also apply directly to the organization.

Role of Other Federal Agencies and Offices

Although the Department of State is the lead agency for managing USG recruitment efforts for UN employment, several other federal agencies play key roles by referring American candidates for technical and highly specialized positions in their counterpart UN agencies. For example, the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recruit for IAEA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for ICAO, and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for FAO, WFP, and IICA.

The Department of the Treasury is the lead USG agency for recruitment of Americans for the international financial institutions; e.g. the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Following is a list of other Federal agencies and State Department offices involved in recruiting for the international financial institutions and other international organizations.

Organization or Institutions

Federal Agency or Office

Inter-American Development Bank

Office of Personnel
808 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20577

U.S. Department of Treasury

Dir. Office of Multilateral Development Banks
15th & Penn., NW
Washington, DC 20220

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Office of Personnel
19th & H Streets, NW
Washington, DC 20431


World Bank

Office of Recruitment
1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433


Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD)

2 rue Andre-Pascal
Chateau de la Muette
Paris 16, France

U.S. Department of State

Office of OECD Affairs
EUR/RPE - Room 6519
Washington, DC 20520 

Organization of American States (OAS)

1889 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Mission to the OAS, Rm. 6914
Washington, DC 20520

North Atlantic Treaty Org. (NATO)

Brussels, Belgium

U S. Department of State

Coordinator for NATO
EUR/RPM - Rm. 6227
Washington, DC 20520


Department of Defense (DOD)

Directorate for Personnel and Security
Attn: AB
Washington Hqtrs Services
PO Box 46229
Washington, DC 20050

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