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A Career with the United Nations

A job with the United Nations (UN) is one of the most sought after. It has status and prestige, with lucrative emoluments. In this issue, we describe the various opportunities and how to apply for jobs with the UN. We have also provided addresses from where additional information can be obtained.

The United Nations plays many vital roles. More than ever before, member States are seeking assistance of the UN and trusting it with an unprecedented set of new responsibilities. In many areas of conflict and humanitarian assistance, it is the only institution that can tackle pressing global challenges.

This challenge is met by a global Secretariat of 14,800 staff drawn from 160 countries and many more civilians serving with peacekeeping operations. The United Nations Secretariat needs dedicated staff who are competent in a multitude of fields.

Some of the occupational groups which are required by the UN are listed below

Occupational Groups


Positions in administration provide a variety of day-to-day support services for the substantive activities of the UN. Staff in this occupational group are involved in the planning and management of human and material resources, in recruitment and training of staff and in administration. They liaise with programme managers and financial planners, as well as secure goods and services required by the United Nations.


This includes a wide variety of specilisation, such as designing and conducting research in various economic areas; development of economic models for long-range forecasting and development strategies; and planning, developing and monitoring technical assistance projects. A prominent area of activity is the field of sustainable development and capacity building.

Electronic Data Processing

Positions relate to a wide range of assignments in data processing, telecommunications and infrastructure support. These assignments consist of feasibility studies, systems analysis, systems development and implementation, local and wide-area network implementation and support, electronic messaging, setting of hardware and software standards, and operations support.


Accounting, auditing, financial analysis, and treasury personnel are required. Staff in the accounting field perform accounting functions for the regular budget as well as the peace-keeping budget of the United Nations and trust funds. Auditors are responsible for audit functions for all UN activities. The United Nations Treasurer is responsible for managing and investing the United Nations Pension Fund. Financial analysts provide information and advice, and respond to inquiries on financial matters to the major bodies of the United Nations and to Member States.

Language and related work

Positions in this occupation group are found in the following areas: Translation, Interpretation, Editing, Verbatim Reporting, and Proof-reading in the six official languages which are: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. The services of interpreters are needed in the meetings of all UN bodies. Proficient in at least three official languages, interpreters are put to the test every day as they quickly and accurately convert statements from one language to another, often without the benefit of the written text. Translators are also required to be proficient in three languages and work on reports, resolutions and official communiques in social, political, technical, financial and other fields. Teams of verbatim reporters prepare written records of meetings of the most important UN organs. Editors ensure the accuracy and conformity of documents and publications to UN style and form. Terminologists establish and ensure the application of UN terminological standards, while copy preparers and proof-readers are responsible for typographic processing and accuracy.


A specialisation in law is required. The following activites are conducted under this area: preparation of opinions and studies on the interpretation of the UN Charter and the rules of international law; progressive development, codification and harmonisation of international law; providing advice on commercial matters dealing with claims of an international or a private law character; responding to the needs of the Member States in dealing with legal, political, economic, scientific, technical and environmental aspects of the law of the sea and marine affairs; representation of the Secretary-General before the International Court of Justice and in the settlements of claims.


The services provided include management of an archival collection of United Nations documents and publications and in-house production and processing of data. This information is used by delegates, permanent missions, staff members and researchers. The UN libraries also support the world-wide network of depository libraries, which assist in disseminating United Nations information.

Public information

Positions in the field of public information involve making of UN press releases and information materials, both in print and on-line. The assignments may include providing official coverage of United Nations meetings, conferences, and programmes for delegations, the media and Non-Governmental Organisations, the production of thematically-integrated publications, radio, television, video, and photographic products. Other major activities comprise the handling of promotion campaigns and media coverage of international conferences and observances, special events, conducting public tours and responding to public inquiries.

Social development

Crime prevention, criminal justice, narcotics control, institutional development and popular participation, social integration and welfare, promotion of equality of men and women, rural development, as well as issues of importance to youth, the ageing, and the disabled, are part of the social development activities undertaken by the UN, Demography and population science are other important areas in this field. An increasingly prominent area of activity is the field of environmental protection.


Positions in this field provide for increasing the availability and use of relevant, timely and reliable statistics for national and international planning and action. They also contribute to the development, expansion, improvement and maintenance of cost-effective statistical capabilities through teh formulation and the improvement of statistical methodologies. Furthermore, assignments in this area are responsible for enhancing the collection and dissemination of statistics in numerous fields, promoting the co-ordination of international statistical work, and producing the international statistical series, which includes national accounts, prices, internatinal trade, population, social indicators, environment, industry, energy, transport, and housing.

Salary and Benefits

The United Nations offers attractive remuneration packages and benefits. Starting salaries are based upon academic and professional qualifications, as well as the level of the post. The base salary scales are set by the General Assembly. There is also a post adjustment element based on the cost of living and the rate of exchange of local currency and the US dollar at each duty station.

Recruitment Through competitive Examinations

Junior professionals and professionals are recruited through National Competitive Recruitment Examinations. The examinations are organised as a matter of priority in countries that are inadequately represented among the staff of the secretariat.

For junior professional positions, a candidate must possess a first level university degree and be 32 years of age or younger. For senior positions, a candidate must possess an advanced university degree, four years of professional experience, and be 39 years of age or younger. Fluency in either English or French is required. All those who meet these criteria and believe in the purposes and ideals of the United Nations are encouraged to apply. Interested candidates should contact: United Nations Examinations and Tests Section, Division for Staff Development and Performance, Policy and Specialist services, Office of Human Resources Management, Room S-2590, NY 10017, USA.

Peace-keeping operations

In order to fulfil its primary peace-keeping role, the United Nations is involved in a number of operations established in different regions of the world, known as United Nations Peace-keeping Operations. Aside from the widely known "blue helmets", which are military forces provided directly by the member States of the United Nations, these operations also rely on civilian staff for a wide variety of functions ranging from monitoring the observance of human rights to managing human or material resources.

Positions are offered in the following fields: political affairs, legal affairs, human rights, election monitoring, humanitarian assistance, public information, general administration, procurement, logistics, civil engineering, and electronic data processing.

Interested applicants may obtain an application form and submit their curriculum vitae to the following address: United Nations Personnel Management and Support Service, Field Administration and Logistics Division, Department of Peace-Keeping Operations, S-2280, NY 10017, USA.

United Nations Headquarters Internship Programme

The United Nations Headquarters Internship Programme is offered to students enrolled in graduate school with a view to promoting a better understanding of major problems confronting the world and giving them an insight into how the United Nations attempts to find solutions to these problems. The programme consists of three two-month periods throughout the year: mid-January to mid-March, mid-May to mid-July, and mid-September to mid-November. As the UN has no provision in its budget to pay interns, all costs connected with internships must be borne by the students concerned or by their sponsoring institutions or governments. Interested candidates should contact: United Nations Internship Programme, Division for Staff Development and Performance, Policy and Specialist Services, Office of Human Resources Management, Room S-2580, NY 10017, USA.