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Opportunities in International Organisations

International Organisations are characterised by their own system of grades into which career progression is divided. Three levels can be distinguished:

  • clerical staff normally recruited in the country where the institution is located (in the UN system these are referred to as General Staff, G);
  • staff holding posts for which a university degree is required (in the UN system these are referred to as Professionals, P, ranging from P1 to P5);
  • senior management (in the UN system they are called Directors, level D1 and D2).

The P1 position is the entry level for university graduates and does not, as a rule, require any particular work experience. For a P2 position, up to 3 years of experience may be required, for a P3 position 4 to 6 years, for a P4 position 7 to 10 years, for a P5 position 10 to 15 years. These are indicative references, as requirements vary from one organisation to another.

Salary and benefits

Remuneration consists of two main elements: the basic salary and benefits. Salaries range from $27,000 (after tax) for an initial P1 position to $79,000 (after tax) for a D2 position. In some cases, civil servants are guaranteed benefits: from house rent to their children’s schooling. Then there are the so-called post adjustments, further benefits linked to the cost of living (such as the change in the exchange rate) of the place of work. The adjustment is made monthly and aims to ensure purchasing power parity for the Organisation’s salaries in all locations. The adjustments depend on the level of the official and the number of dependants. Salary information is contained in the post vacancies themselves.

Fixed-term contracts, age limit

The employment contracts of International Organisations are usually of a fixed duration (one to three years). In some cases they are renewable, but some institutions place a limit on the number of renewals. This refers to the individual position and not to the total years of service of an official.
Retirement: at the UN and in many UN agencies new recruits, if they continue their internal career, will have to retire at the age of 60. Many organisations prefer to recruit candidates who complete at least 5 years of service before reaching retirement age. In technical assistance programmes, where assignments are short and pension aspects are not considered, age is not a factor in the selection mechanism. There is no retirement age for consultants either.

Geographical distribution of places and equal access conditions

International Organisations seek a balanced distribution of staff by country of origin. Each Member State is allocated a percentage of staff, calculated on the basis of factors such as contributions paid or population. It should also be noted that for some years now, most international organisations have followed a recruitment policy that gives priority to female candidates (all other things being equal) in order to achieve a balanced presence of both genders.


There are four basic requirements to apply for a vacancy: experience, education, languages, skills/aptitude.

  • Experience. This is the most restrictive area of selection. The candidates need to have the required number of years of experience. International Organisations consider professional experience to be experience gained after graduation. In some cases, brief work experience may be equated with a postgraduate qualification.
  • Training. The notice always specifies the qualification required. Completion of the second level of university studies is usually required, but a lower level of education may be required, particularly if combined with relevant professional experience.
  • Languages: Two languages are preferably required: English and French. Knowledge of a particular language may be necessary. Attention should be given to the level required: “excellent” (fluent) implies perfect command; “working knowledge” means the ability to work independently, to prepare any kind of document (from a letter to a report), to participate actively in meetings and professional discussions in the language indicated; “limited knowledge” will enable the official to make phone calls, read work texts, write short reports, follow meetings or discussions, but choose another official language of the Organisation to speak.
    There are six official languages in the UN (Arabic, Chinese, French, English, Russian and Spanish). English and French are the ones used.
  • Skills/ aptitude. Some of the qualities most required include: flexibility; initiative; sound judgement; ability to work under pressure, plan and organise activities, establish and maintain productive working relationships; ability to draft effective documents, manage meetings, public speaking; willingness to travel frequently to developing countries. Knowledge of computer programmes is required.
    Depending on your qualifications and experience, the opportunities offered by international organisations vary.



The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has made available to users a new portal dedicated to the promotion of Italian applications in International Organisations. The JOIN-IT search engine allows anyone interested in an international career to select the professional opportunities published by the International Organisations and to open a direct channel of communication with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to report on the status of applications.

JOIN-IT is a useful search tool for aspiring international civil servants with Italian citizenship, through which it is possible to view in real time the vacancies published on the institutional websites of the International Organisations and made available on the portal. Thanks to an intuitive interface, the search engine allows to carry out a targeted search of the various vacancies, also by activating filters.

Once the positions of interest have been identified, the user will be able to apply directly through the website of the International Organisation in question. At the same time, users registered on the portal will be able to access their own personal area, through which they will be able to inform MAECI of their applications and any developments and progress.


Information on UN tenders can be obtained from the UN Information Centre at the following address: Regional United Nations Information Centre, Residence Palace – Bloc C, Rue de la Loi/Wetsraat 155, 1040 Brussels Belgium – Tel. 00 32 2 2892890 or directly from the UN by contacting the Examination and Tests Section – Division for Staff Development and Performance, Policy and Specialist Services Division – Office of Human Resources Management – Room S-2590 – New York 10017 USA (fax no. 001212 9633683).