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. Today’s article is the second in the series and focuses on the Young Professionals Programme.

The Young Professionals Programme 

The Young Professionals Programme (YPP) is a recruitment initiative for talented, highly qualified professionals to start a career as an international civil servant with the United Nations Secretariat. It consists of an entrance examination and professional development programmes once successful candidates start their career with the UN.

Application Process

The YPP examination is held once a year and is open to nationals of countries that are un- or under-represented in the United Nations. The list of participating countries is published annually on the YPP home page of the UN Careers website and varies from year to year.

Depending on the staffing needs of the UN, applicants are invited to apply for different exam subjects each year. Descriptions of responsibilities and required educational qualifications and professional competencies differ depending on the subject area. Eligible candidates who are interested in the exam area must apply through Inspira, the UN staff selection system. The basic application criteria for candidates include:

  • Must be a national of a participating country;
  • Must hold at least a first-level university degree relevant for the exam subject;
  • Must be 32 years old or younger in the year of the exam; and
  • Must be fluent in English or French.

All applications will be screened for eligibility for each exam subject. If more than 40 applicants from the same country are eligible for the same exam area, those applicants will be further screened and ranked based on the highest level of education completed, knowledge of official UN languages, and relevant work experience.

Examination Structure

The examination process consists of a written and an oral stage. The written examination is administered online and may be conducted in either one or two stages. Prior to finalizing the results of the written examination, candidates may be subject to further verification via a brief, online, proctored assessment.

The written examination consists of a General Paper and a Specialized Paper:

  • The General Paper is the same for all YPP examinations that are scheduled on the same date. It must be completed in either English or French, and assesses fundamental skills needed to work in a complex international organization like the United Nations.
  • The Specialized Paper tests substantive knowledge of the subject area, and often includes multiple choice questions and open-ended questions. The number of questions may vary based on the exam area.

Candidates who pass the written examination will be invited to take part in the oral examination, which is a competency-based video-conference interview with a panel of members of the Specialized Examination Board. At the end of the evaluation process, all candidates will be individually informed of their results.

The YPP recruitment exam is not offered in every subject every year, so it’s important to check the website periodically to see if the test is being offered in your subject area, particularly if you are close to the age cut off age of 32 years.


Successful YPP candidates will be placed on a roster used to fill appropriate vacancies, valid for a period of three years. It is important to note that placement on the roster does not guarantee an offer of employment. Candidates may be selected from the roster as relevant vacancies become available across the UN Secretariat Offices located in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Beirut, Geneva, Nairobi, New York, Santiago, Vienna and more. Successful candidates must be willing to be placed in a position at any UN duty station or field office.

Once selected, candidates will be offered a two-year fixed term contract at a P-1 or P-2 level with the UN Secretariat. After two years in their first function and subject to satisfactory performance, the young professionals may be granted a continuing contract. They will also be invited to participate in the Managed Reassignment Programme (MRP), which offers them the opportunity to be reassigned to another position of interest to them, normally in a different department and duty station. The objective of this programme is to provide staff with new opportunities to diversify and develop their career, to acquire new skills and to create a solid foundation for their career advancement.

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, Julie Weintraub, Human Resources Officer with the United Nations Department of Operational Support (DOS), provides an overview of the Young Professionals Programme, and you’ll hear from the following UN staff members about their experiences joining the Organization through the YPP, with personal insights and advice:

  • Lonjenzo Hamisi, Associate Public Information Officer, UN Department of Global Communications (DGC)
  • Xuan Che, Associate Statistician, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA)
  • Geneva Damayanti, Associate Public Information Officer, UN Department of Global Communications (DGC)

Got questions about the YPP programme? You can submit your inquiries by completing the online form.

Additional Resources

#Work4UN: The Young Professionals Programme