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Career path and required qualifications for United Nation

There are few clearly labeled career paths in the United Nations. The variety of careers and multidisciplinary mandates means that you may change not only functions, and departments but even organizations or fields of work. While such changes demand learning, time, and effort, they also provide valuable experience, broader perspectives, and hard work.

Geographic mobility is yet another way for you to impact your career in the United Nations positively. Career progression to senior levels depends, in part, on evidence of mobility, including service in challenging locations.

Your career path is a reflection of your aspirations and decisions about your professional development, where you play the leading position. The Organization recreates a supporting role in putting effective systems in place to enhance and support your career decisions.

The United Nations workforce is made up of different categories of staff. Within each category there are different levels, which reflect increasing levels of responsibilities and requirements. The information in this section will help you decide in which staff category, and at what level, you fit in. This will be useful when you start searching and applying for jobs.

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These are the various categories of staff at the United Nations:

  • Professional and higher categories (P and D)
  • General Service and related categories (G, TC, S, PIA, LT)
  • National Professional Officers (NO)
  • Field Service (FS)
  • Senior Appointments (SG, DSG, USG and ASG)

At the United Nations, you progress in a category through excellence and qualifications. There are, however, limitations on movement between the various categories.

Staff members in the Professional and higher categories (P and D) are normally internationally recruited and are anticipated to serve at various duty stations throughout their careers with the Organization. Openings for professional jobs can be found at all duty stations across the global United Nations Secretariat.

Education required

Normally, it is needed that you have an advanced university degree for professional and director-level positions. It is, however, continually accepted that if you have a first-level university degree, combined with qualifying work experience, you meet the educational requirements.

Positions in certain job families, including military, civilian police, medical, and conference services may have various standards for the minimum educational requirements, which are accordingly reflected in their respective job openings. Positions from job families that need specialized studies, e.g. Medical Doctors, require an advanced university degree, which cannot be substituted by a combination of a first-level university degree and experience. Positions in some other areas, mainly language positions, might need only a first-level university degree for the minimum educational requirements.

Experience required

Your work background should be appropriate to the job for which you are applying; each job may also have specific requirements, which are specified in the opening. For mid-career and senior-level positions, progressively responsible work experience is needed. As you gain more relevant work experience you can progressively apply for higher positions.

Entry level professionalsMid-level professionalsSenior level professionals
P-2Minimum 2 years of work experience

No background is required if applying to the young professional programme

P-4Minimum 7 years of work experienceP-6/D-1Minimum 15 years of work experience
P-3Minimum 5 years of work backgroundP-5Minimum 10 years of work experienceP-7/D-2More than 15 years of work experience

if you have recently graduated from university and have no relevant work experience

If you recently graduated from university and you have limited or no work experience, you may qualify to take the young professionals programme recruitment examination(YPP).

language requirements

There are six authorized languages at the United Nations: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. Two of these, English and French, are the working languages. To work for the United Nations you require to have excellent knowledge of either English or French. Knowledge of an additional language is an asset but is not required for most jobs.

If there are additional language requirements, as may be the case for some language positions, they are specified in the respective job openings.

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Jobs in the Professional and higher categories

There is a wide range of jobs in the eight job networks: management and operations support; economic and social development; political, peace, and security; information systems and communication technology; legal; public information and outer relations; conference management; and safety and security.

The nature of the work in the Professional and higher categories

Work in the Professional category generally requires a high degree of analytical and communication skills, substantive expertise, and/or managerial leadership ability.

Typically, these positions need judgment in analyzing and assessing problems as well as in decision-making involving discretionary choices between alternative courses of action. They also need the understanding of a methodical body of theoretical knowledge at a level equivalent to that represented by a university degree. While this knowledge is customarily and characteristically obtained through formal education, it may, in some fields of learning or specialized disciplines, be obtained through other training, self-study, or practical experience.

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Jobs at the senior professional level entail

Directors (D-1 and D-2 levels) illustrate the highest level of the career staffing structure of the Organization. As a Director you handle a program of the Organization. You are also desired to provide leadership in formulating and enforcing the substantive work programme of an office, determine priorities, and allocate resources for the fulfillment of outputs and their timely delivery.

Senior professionals hired for positions at the P-6 and P-7 levels typically work as senior advisers or experts, bringing several years of analytical and research background to the United Nations.

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