How to find and land an internship with the UN

By Amy Lieberman 20 October 2015

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) greets interns gathered inside the General Assembly Hall. Experts say candidates who successfully land U.N. internships are generally those who are team players, strong communicators, well organized and open to working with people of different nationalities. Photo by: Eskinder Debebe / United Nations

Most United Nations internships might be unpaid, but the gig remains extremely competitive, whether it’s with agencies like U.N. Women and United Nations Population Fund or at the U.N. Secretariat itself. The six-week to six-month programs offer unique, insider access to the workings of international diplomacy and aid. They also, in some cases, can eventually lead to full-time jobs with the U.N.

Devex tracked down recruitment and human resources officials at a variety of U.N. agencies to glean the strategies and tips you need to stand apart from a pool of competitive applicants.

Who’s eligible?

There are about 4,000 interns working around the world for the U.N. in any given year, according to John Ericson, the U.N.’s chief of outreach unit in the human resources management office.

Internships are typically open to students enrolled in a graduate program or who have graduated from a program within the past year. Bachelor’s students, or people who recently received their undergraduate degrees, are also sometimes considered. UNDP, for example, recently altered its qualifications to consider students who are in their last year of their undergraduate program, in addition to one year post-grad, in a bid to widen the applicant pool. The U.N. Secretariat made the same move.

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About the author

Amy Liebermanamylieberman

Amy Lieberman is an award-winning journalist based in New York City. Her coverage on politics, social justice issues, development and climate change has appeared in a variety of international news outlets, including The Guardian, Slate and The Atlantic. She has reported from the U.N. Headquarters, in addition to nine countries outside of the U.S. Amy received her master of arts degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in May 2014. Last year she completed a yearlong fellowship on the oil industry and climate change and co-published her findings with a team in the Los Angeles Times.

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