Making a career in an international organization

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Working one day for the UN or another world organization is a dream for many people. If you hope one day to enter this field, be aware that there are selective steps to take. This should not, however, be an obstacle to your desire to try this adventure, as a career in such an organization offers unique opportunities. Indeed, there are many advantages and ways to make a career in an international organization. International law is a good choice if you want to go into this type of career.

What is defined as an international organization?

An international organization defines an association of sovereign States founded by a multilateral convention, an agreement between these States, or an international treaty. They are created to coordinate action on a subject determined by their respective status.

The different types of international organizations

There are currently more than 200 organizations around the world working on a wide variety of topics. They can be found in the form of institutions, delegations, agencies or specialized organizations. But, in summary, there are two types of international organizations:

  • intergovernmental organizations (IOs);
  • international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Types of positions in international organizations

There are many vacancies in international organizations. They fall into two broad categories:

  • professional and higher categories (P);
  • general services (G).

Positions in the professional and higher categories are for university-level specialists. They are the subject of an international offer. The general services, on the other hand, are made up of positions that do not require an academic background: translators, secretaries and maintenance services.

Why work in an international organization?

International organizations offer interesting opportunities for young graduates and people wishing to reorient their professional careers. Working in these global organizations has many benefits:

  • attractive remuneration: salaries generally higher than those of the best paid local civil servants;
  • A tax-advantaged status: employees are exempt from all national taxes on income derived from their employment with an international organization;
  • positions of responsibility;
  • A multicultural environment: immersed in a foreign country, you can discover all its facets (culture, customs, inhabitants and politics);
  • Various allowances including post, housing, relocation, repatriation, family visit and training allowance.

How to make a career in an international organization?

There are many ways to start a career in an international organization.

How to join an international organization?

Different paths are possible to obtain a position in an IO or an NGO:

  • competitions: all applications are studied beforehand and the dates are posted on the organization’s website. The competition usually generates many applications. To increase your chances of getting the job, it’s a good idea to complete all the requirements correctly;
  • direct recruitment: the offers are generally posted on the sites of the organizations;
  • the path of secondment for French public officials: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports French public officials who wish to work in an international organization by providing them with various tools, as well as useful training;
  • the programs to encourage the next generation which apply every year.

What are the profiles sought in international organizations?

First of all, it is important to know that working in a global organization is not just about wearing a sleeveless vest and doing charity work. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Most positions require specializations. Apart from the social sector, the trend in the criteria sought is in the areas of rural development, medical assistance and engineering. It is therefore necessary to have additional training in these areas. Many positions require a degree from the international bachelor to the master level.

Joining an international organization also requires:

  • very good knowledge of French, English and other foreign languages;
  • flexibility and good adaptability in a multicultural context;
  • solid work experience, which is a problem for most recent graduates. Therefore, it is essential to have completed at least one internship. Fortunately, almost all international organizations offer them.

Job sites of international organizations

In order to facilitate your job searchin an international organization, here are some official websites of global organizations working in several different fields.

International careers: what are the other options besides an international organization?

In addition to working in an international organization, there are many other avenues to explore to launch an international career. Here are the most promising sectors:

  • the catering and hotel industry: an open door to numerous career opportunities abroad;
  • sales professions: a promising sector which offers good international career prospects (many distribution multinationals are looking for export directors, country managers and market managers);
  • IT and digital: very vast, these fields offer endless international career possibilities;
  • transport and freight: this is one of the areas with the most jobs on an international scale;
  • international corporate volunteering: a very good track for young people.


Updated 17 April 2023