International organisations typically require a relevant postgraduate degree and a few years of pertinent professional work experience, as well as fluency in English and at least one other language. Some of the larger organisations also set an upper age limit for entry-level posts. Certain international organisations operate fixed contract ‘Young Professional’ type schemes, or ‘Junior Professional Officer’ programmes, below are a few examples of such schemes.
United Nations (UN)
The UN recruits into a number of occupational groups, as and when required. Examples of these include:
• Human Rights
• Information Technology
• Language and Related Work
• Legal Affairs and Related Work
• Public Information
• Social Affairs
Core staff from eligible countries – based on the requirements of the UN quota system of representation – are initially recruited for advertised junior posts or can begin their career via the Young Professionals Programme (YPP) .
Examinations for language positions are held on a more ad hoc basis. Candidates for translator positions are required to translate from at least two of the six official UN languages (English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish). Interpreters are required to interpret simultaneously into one of the official languages and must have full auditory comprehension of at least two others. See the Career Briefing on ‘Translating and Interpreting’ for more details.
More senior ‘entry’ level positions with the UN usually require an advanced university degree and five years or more professional experience relevant to the job for which you are applying. For mid-career and senior level positions, progressively responsible work experience is required. Individual bodies within the UN system each have their own recruitment notices that can be accessed via their specific websites.
The Junior Professional Officer (JPO) Programme is administered by the JPO Service Centre (JPOSC) for the following organisations:
United Nations Development Programme and its affiliated funds/programmes:
- United Nations Capital Development Fund
- United Nations Development Operations Coordination Office
- United Nations Volunteers
- United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
- Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
- United Nations Population Fund
- United Nations Industrial Development Organization
- United Nations Institute for Training and Research
- United Nations Office for Project Services
- United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
- United Nations System Staff College
- United Nations University
- Universal Postal Union
- World Health Organization
The JPO Programme offers one-year contracts that are normally renewed for a second (and in some cases a third) year. Whilst a small number of JPOs do continue to serve within the UN system, the aim of the programme is not to provide long-term careers within the UN, but exposure to the co-operative work of the divisions. Typically, applicants should have a Masters (or equivalent) degree relevant to the work of the department, possess relevant work experience in a developing country (one to two years minimum), and be fluent in written and spoken English and at least one other UN language.
Individual divisions have their own criteria for applications so check carefully with those in which you are interested. Salaries are equivalent to those of entry-level professional staff in the relevant division. The governments of participating donor countries generally sponsor applicants, and applications should normally be made through your Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Some donor governments also sponsor JPOs from developing countries. The JPO Service Centre website contains further information.
The World Bank Group
The World Bank Group is not a ‘bank’ in the common sense, but an international organisation owned and managed by more than 180 member countries – borrowers, lenders and donors. Together they set the Bank’s policies and oversee operations. All Bank Group efforts are coordinated with a wide range of partners, including government agencies, non-governmental organisations, other aid agencies and the private sector. The Bank is also not a single organisation, but five agencies working together:
- The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development – IBRD
- The International Development Association – IDA
- The International Finance Corporation – IFC
- The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency – MIGA
- The International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes – ICSID
The Bank has several entry schemes, depending upon the level of experience required. Some of these are described below and for more information see The World Bank website.
The World Bank Group Young Professionals Program (YPP) offers a two-year initial assignment normally involving several trips to developing countries, as well as numerous training activities and policy-related discussions. Competition is keen: there are 8,000-10,000 applications each year for a limited number of positions, and most of the candidates exceed the minimum criteria. This is a great route into a gaining long term position within the bank; two thirds of the 1,500 applicants hired since 1963 still work in the organization. Candidates should be under 32 and must have a Master’s degree or equivalent in economics, finance, education, public health, social sciences, engineering, urban planning, natural resource management, or a related field. Significant relevant work experience (at least 3 years; most have four or five years) or continued academic study at doctoral level is also required. Work experience in a developing country is desirable, as is a working knowledge of languages relevant to the work of the World Bank. YPP participants earn “competitive” salaries.
The World Bank Group Young Professionals programme is a two-year entry-level, non-renewable contract for those whose analytical and research skills extend to areas of specialisation such as: economics, finance, human resources development (public health, education, nutrition, population), social sciences (anthropology, sociology), agriculture, environment, private sector development, as well as other related fields. Applicants should be fluent in English and, preferably, at least one other relevant World Bank language (French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Portuguese, or Chinese). They should also be under 28, hold the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree (with some relevant experience), a Master’s, or be a DPhil candidate with a superior academic record.
Positions may be located in any of the Bank’s offices across the world. The JPA programme is not an entry point for a career in the World Bank and employment beyond the initial two-year contract will be prohibited for a period of two years after the end of the contract. Recruitment and hiring for this programme is ongoing throughout the year. The Junior Professionals Programme for Afro-Descendants (JPPAD) is open to applicants 35 years of age or younger, who are Afro-descendants, i.e. of Sub-Saharan African descent.
The EU institutions employ over 40,000 people from the 28 EU member countries. The European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) organizes ‘open competitions’ to select permanent staff. Each year there are competitions for administrators, linguists, interpreters, translators, secretaries and other staff categories.
EPSO recruits staff for all the EU institutions:
- European Commission – based in Brussels (Belgium) and Luxembourg. The Commission is the largest employer among the EU institutions, with staff in Europe and offices around the world. A number of specialised posts are available, for example for people with a background in science, languages or statistics/economics.
- European Parliament – based in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg (France).
- Council of the EU – based in Brussels.
- European Court of Justice – based in Luxembourg.
- Court of Auditors – based in Luxembourg.
- European Economic and Social Committee – based in Brussels.
- Committee of the Regions – based in Brussels.
- European Ombudsman – based in Strasbourg.
- European Data Protection Supervisor – based in Brussels.
Whichever institution you are interested in, the selection procedure and type of contract are the same. Permanent officials are divided into administrators and assistants. Administrators are typically involved in drafting policies and monitoring the implementation of EU law, analysing and advising. In general, to apply for an administrator competition, you must have completed (at least) three years of university. Assistants usually work in supporting roles and are crucial for the internal management of the institutions. In general, to apply for an assistant competition, you must have completed (at least) secondary school.
More information can be found on the Europa website.
The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Young Professionals Programme is designed to bring entry-level professionals with diverse backgrounds into the organisation. Applicants should have a Masters or DPhil in Economics, with a specialisation in an OECD-relevant field, as well as several years of professional experience and international exposure. There are normally more than 2,500 applications for seven two-year positions. Full-time students who can benefit from a Memorandum of Agreement between their releasing institution and the OECD can also obtain an unpaid traineeship within the organisation. Areas of study must be directly related to their programme of work.
For more information see the OECD: Young Professionals Programme.