Language careers

United Nations language staff come from all over the globe and make up a uniquely diverse and multilingual community. What unites them is the pursuit of excellence in their respective areas, the excitement of being at the forefront of international affairs and the desire to contribute to the realization of the purposes of the United Nations, as outlined in the Charter, by facilitating communication and decision-making.

United Nations language staff in numbers

The United Nations is one of the world's largest employers of language professionals. Several hundred such staff work for the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management in New York, Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi, or at the United Nations regional commissions in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Beirut, Geneva and Santiago.

What do we mean by “language professionals”?

At the United Nations, the term “language professional” covers a wide range of specialists, such as interpreters, translators, editors, verbatim reporters, terminologists, reference assistants and copy preparers/proofreaders/production editors.

What do we mean by “main language”?

At the United Nations, “main language” generally refers to the language of an individual's higher education. For linguists outside the Organization, on the other hand, “main language” is usually taken to mean the “target language” into which an individual works.

How are language professionals recruited?

The main recruitment path for United Nations language professionals is through competitive examinations for language positions, whereby successful examinees are placed on rosters for recruitment and are hired as and when job vacancies arise.  Language professionals from all regions, who meet the eligibility requirements, are encouraged to apply.  Candidates are judged solely on their academic and other qualifications and on their performance in the examination.  Nationality/citizenship is not a consideration.

What kind of background do United Nations language professionals need?

Our recruits do not all have a background in languages. Some have a background in other fields, including journalism, law, economics and even engineering or medicine. These are of great benefit to the United Nations, which deals with a large variety of subjects.

Why does the Department have an outreach programme?

Finding the right profile of candidate for United Nations language positions is challenging, especially for certain language combinations. The United Nations is not the only international organization looking for skilled language professionals, and it deals with a wide variety of subjects, often politically sensitive. Its language staff must meet high quality and productivity standards. This is why the Department has had an outreach programme focusing on collaboration with universities since 2007. The Department hopes to build on existing partnerships, forge new partnerships, and attract the qualified staff it needs to continue providing high-quality conference services at the United Nations.