After writing about her work experience in a Non-profit Organisation and sharing tips on how to get NGO jobs, Mridhula Sridharan writes about the most-sought after jobs in the international non-profit / development sector.
What are the different career options in the United Nations? What are the eligibility requirements and salaries for jobs at the fresher (no experience) and mid / senior levels.
UN Jobs and Careers in India
One of the most coveted organizations in the development sector, United Nations offers a fulfilling and challenging career for those lucky enough to get it.
I use the word lucky rather strongly here because nailing a job with one of the UN missions is extremely hard as competition is fierce and ambition aplenty, therefore a dash of luck is absolutely essential.
Why work for the UN
Even a behemoth like UN has its appeal. Reputation and honor, great mobility, higher salaries (some times tax exempted) are few of the reasons why people interested in development sector want to join the UN.
Ability to be part of a bigger purpose, intellectually rewarding and challenging opportunities and satisfaction of seeing results are other reasons to join the UN.
But be forewarned, UN like any other large corporation is bureaucratic in its nature and one has to learn to work the system to enjoy a successful career.
UN in India
UN has been in India since the time of its inception (India, being a founding member). The following are few of the UN missions in India.
UNICEF*: United Nation’s Children’s Fund’s works to further the rights of children, adolescents and women in India focusing on their survival, growth and development by reducing inequalities and increasing access to resources. Headquartered in Delhi with offices in Chennai, Guwahati, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Mumbai, Lucknow etc
WHO*:The World Health Organization’s mandate in India is to help the government fight deadly communicable diseases such as Malaria, AIDS, Tuberculosis and other deadly diseases that threaten the lives of millions of Indians. WHO also works to eradicate substance abuse and promote healthy eating and nutrition.Headquartered in Delhi
UNDP*: United Nations Developmentworks in areas of human development ranging from democratic governance, poverty eradication to sustainable energy and environmental management.Headquartered in Delhi with an office in Odisha
UN Women*: UN Women focuses on advancing gender equality in line with international priorities by helping member countries create inclusive policies for women. Headquartered in Delhi
UNESCO*: United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organizationfocuses on peace and security by encouraging international collaboration through science, education and culture. Headquartered in Delhi.
UNFPA*: United Nations population fund focuses on reproductive health of pregnant women and ensures survival of the newborn child. Headquartered in Delhi, UNFPA has presence in Maharashtra, Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan
*All information taken from respective websites.
What does a job with a UN mission look like?
Here are a few sample jobs within the UN in India as listed on the respective websites.
- Role: Project officers : Work with a ministry in central/state government
- Description: The mission is looking to recruit a project officer to work in tandem with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to provide IT based solutions to tackle the needs pertaining to e-governance in line with the government’s priorities
- Qualification: Technical Degree (Engineering) with minimum 5 years of relevant experience
- Remuneration: 98,000 INR/Month (Taxable)
- Location: Delhi
- Role: Program coordinator : Work with a ministry in central/state government
- Description: The mission seeks to recruita programme coordinator to support the Finance Ministry in identifying priorities for Global Environment Facility (GEF) projects in general and smooth implementation of the GEF 6 cycle in India in particular.
- Qualification: Bachelor’s in Science or Engineering with minimum 10 years of work experience
- Remuneration: 1,76,000/Month (Taxable)
- Location: Delhi
World Bank (International Finance Corporation)
- Role: Investment officer 
- Description: IFC South Asia Regional Industry Team is looking to recruit a senior investment officer with significant local India market and industry experience to help grow and develop IFC’s business in South Asia. The position will be based in Mumbai, India covering IFC’s operations not just in India, but also across South Asia.
- Qualification: Master’s degree in Finance with CFA or CPA accreditation. 10-12 years of experience in the financial sector.
- Location: Mumbai
How to start a career with UN
UN looks for people with impeachable integrity, professionalism and respect for diversity. Depending on your role the following traits might become imperative:
- Team work and collaboration
- Technical Skills
- Communication skills
- Planning and organizing
For young and experienced professionals, UN offers a wide range of opportunities.
UN Jobs for freshers immediately after first degree
Young Professional’s program (YPP): The YPP is a gateway for qualified professionals to start their career with the UN Secretariat. Selection for the YPP is through an entrance exam, based on job requirements for that particular year. This year’s YPP exams are based on Public Information, Social Affairs Administration, Statistics, Finance and Legal Affairs
India was part of the YPP in 2013 and each year new set of countries participates in the program. YPP is meant for countries underrepresented at the UN, so it might take few more years for the program to come back to India.
Eligibility: The applicant has to be less than thirty-two years of age with a minimum of bachelor degree in the exam area you are applying for and a fluency in either English or French.
Interning with one of the UN offices is a great way to build your resume, understand how the system works and create a good network inside the UN.
Eligibility: Enrolled in a master’s or a PHD program or fresh graduate with less than 1-year work experience with a working knowledge of English, French or Spanish and willing to commit 2-6 months on assignments.
Sample interning opportunity:As indicated on the job-site.
- Role: INTERN – ECONOMIC AFFAIRS
- Description: Intern with UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific for duration of 6 months in Delhi. Assist with drafting and preparing official documents, create presentations, provide support during meetings, compile statistics and conduct literature review
- Qualification: Be enrolled in graduate degree program or final year undergraduate degree program with demonstrated ability to interact with diverse group of people and is computer literate.
UN Jobs for Experienced professionals
As an experienced professional there are many entry routes to the UN.
Job categories include:
- Professional and higher categories
- General service and related categories: Administrative and clerical roles
- National Professional officers: Similar to professional category
- Field Service: Work directly on the field
Professional and higher categories  have different grades with work experience requirement getting progressively higher. P2 the basic entry level requires a minimum of 2 years and P7 the highest level requires 15 years of work experience.
Professional category jobs fall under the following buckets:
Management and operations support; economic and social development; political, peace and security; information systems and communication technology; legal; public information and external relations; conference management; and safety and security. [As indicated in website]
Work in these categories generally requires strong analytical and communication skills, substantive work experience and management ability and expertise. These positions require ability to analyze and solve problems, think on your feet, understand organizational workings and local area knowledge
The most difficult part of getting a job with the UN is that the organizations expect a perfect match of their requirements and your experience either through education or real life expertise. Also keep in mind, considering the volume of CV received each day, employees going over the CVs will set aside those without exact requirement match.
For seasoned professionals specialization is the key along with a Masters degree and relevant work experience in the specified area. Embellishing the CV to reflect requirements is a big no-no with the UN as their interview rounds are extremely difficult with absolutely no wiggle room.
To quickly sum up the following are must-haves for a job with the UN
- Competitive and relevant CV
- Masters or PhD Degree: For professional category
- Minimum 2-3 years Experience in development sector
- Strong professional networking skills
- Strong English language skills and preferably knowledge of official UN language
- Chinese, Russian, French, Spanish, Arabic
- Ambition and Perseverance and lot of luck
- If you really want to work for the UN, apply and apply again
- Consider avenues wherein you can interact or meet fellow UN professionals, attend UN based events especially in Delhi.
How to apply for UN jobs?
Step 1: Research UN jobs in any of the website listed below
Step 2: Determine which UN mission you want to work for
Step 3: Determine your staff category based on eligibility
Step 4: Register for a My UN account
Step 5: Create your personal history profile, an online resume with detailed work experience information
Step 6: Work on your CV to match the requirements either through work experience or through online courses.
Step 7: Once you are ready, apply for the job online
Didn’t get a call back? Fret not. Remember persistence is the key. Improve your work experience and apply again.
As mentioned earlier, your CV must match the requirements exactly; therefore multiple attempts might be needed before landing that job!
Where / how to find jobs?
Here are a few sites to start your search: