The United Nations, with offices in 193 countries and 37,000 employees, is the world’s largest universal multilateral international organization. It inspires people from around the world to join its mission of maintaining peace, advancing human rights and promoting justice, equality and development. 

Securing employment with the Organization can seem like a daunting task, but as the scope of its work is global and multidimensional, there are many different entry points for candidates of varied educational backgrounds and diverse professional experience. UNAI designed the #Work4UN series to help you understand the UN, its structure, and some of the most common avenues available to join the organization.

The final article in the series introduces the UN internship programme.

Internship Programme

For current students and recent graduates thinking of entering the world of diplomacy and public policy, an internship at the United Nations could be an ideal start.

At the UN, interns will have the opportunity to experience first-hand the day-to-day working environment of the Organization and work directly with inspiring career professionals. They are exposed to high-level conferences, global campaigns and will have a real chance to contribute to analytical work as well as organizational policy of the United Nations.

Interested candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be enrolled in a Master’s or in a Ph.D. programme, or in the final year of a Bachelor’s programme, or within one year after graduation from a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Ph.D. programme;
  • Be proficient in English or French;
  • Neither a child nor a sibling of a United Nations Secretariat staff member.

The UN internship lasts for at least two months and can be as long as six months. Interns may get academic credit for the internship, depending on the academic credit policy of their university.

It is important to note that United Nations interns are not paid. All costs related to travel, insurance, accommodation, and living expenses must be borne by either the interns or their sponsoring institutions. The interns will also be responsible for obtaining and financing the necessary visas and global medical insurance coverage.

Internship vacancies are published year round on the Job Openings page of the United Nations Careers website. Major locations for internships include New York, Geneva, Vienna, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Beirut, Santiago, and UN sub regional offices in cities around the world. All applications should be submitted through Inspira, the UN human resources system.

Many UN agencies, funds and programmes, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), also have internship programmes. Some of these entities offer paid internships. Applications for these entities should be submitted through their human resources systems following the links in additional resources.

UNAI conducted a series of interviews with United Nations staff members to provide additional information on working for the UN, and to allow staff members the opportunity to share their professional and personal insights into working for the Organization. In this video, Sophie Lake and Mariko Tatsumi talk about their experience joining the United Nations as interns at United Nations Global Compact and in the UN Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance respectively.

Additional Resources

#Work4UN: UN Interns