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UN Internships: 2022

UN Internships: 2022

UN Internships Overview

Is a UN Internship worth it? Find all about the benefits of the prestigious UN Internship Programs!

Be selected for a UN Internship Program is a dream for many! Being a UN intern combines a wide range of benefits with meaningful work that can help millions of people around the world. Working for a UN organization means developing a global career with a global reach, in a multicultural and pleasant environment; where you will be able to construct influential networks and receive encouragement to develop professionally.

In this sense, the UN Internship Programs seek candidates interested in a highly diversified and multicultural work environment conducive to the development of their skills. The UN internships application process is a great opportunity for those interested in building an international career in the institution.

In pursuit of its mission, the OpenIGO network has prepared a comprehensive eBook and support and guidance services, with the aim of highly increasing your chances of success in these competitive processes. These services include revising your UN internships application documents (curriculum vitae/resume and cover letter) and a mock interview, as per the United Nations model. We also offer a range of packages that combine the eBook with different services.


UN Internships – Products & Services

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UN Internships – PDF eBook 

Our comprehensive eBook will introduce you to the complex world of the United Nations and its approach towards international development; it will teach you how to prepare a perfect Curriculum Vitae and an outstanding Cover Letter, and will also get you ready for the interview. In addition, it will present exclusive information about the best paid UN Internship opportunities and tips to be prepared for the internship, including the preparation phase, during and after the internship completion. This eBook was written and revised by a team of professors, human resources specialists, and former young professionals with a great deal of diligence.

This article is only a small sample of the extensive content present in our excellent ebook.


UN System Overview

The United Nations (UN) is an international organization established in the aftermath of the Second World War, with the central purpose of maintaining international peace and security. The UN does this by working to prevent conflict; helping parties in conflict make peace; peacekeeping; and creating the conditions to allow peace to hold and flourish. Founded in 1945, the Organization is currently made up of 193 Member States and headquartered in New York City.

The United Nations was created with a considerable structure. In addition to revisiting ideas and organisms from the League of Nations, and incorporating existing organizations – such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) –, in its Charter, the UN established the creation of specialized agencies and programs that would constitute an integrated labour structure, to maximize the reach of the organization`s purposes.

In reality, the United Nations operates as an articulated and complex system. In fact, all the organizations that make up the large family that is the UN System are referenced as United Nations Common System Organizations, and are specialized agencies or related organizations. Both categories are separate, autonomous organizations, with their own budgets and international staff members.

UN’s main focus: to maintain global peace, security and promoting international development.

Themes addressed by the UN System:

  • Human rights and humanitarian aid
  • Global security
  • Human development (Health, Education, Labor, etc.).
  • Sustainable Development (Environment and climate change).
  • International cooperation and integration;
  • Finance sector development;
  • Children protection
  • International law

Description of the UN Internships

What are the fields of study required for the UN Internships?

The UN System is vast and complex, demanding the development of different activities in order to achieve its goals. In this sense, there are opportunities for candidates of almost all educational areas.

Thus, the following table provides a glancy of the most common areas required by the UN Internship Programs:

UN Internships

What are the most common tasks required of a UN intern?

There are usually two categories of activities conducted by an intern: a) research activities and b) administrative support activities.

Research activities usually vary according to the agency`s needs and are more frequent during the process of writing a report or important publication for the institution. Therefore, an intern`s research related tasks may involve:

  • Cataloguing information;
  • Analysis of statistical data;
  • Researching topics relevant to the development of publications;
  • Writing and revising documents;
  • Preparing tables, charts and figures using computer software;
  • Preparing and applying questionnaires;
  • Discussing important articles.

Some internships, such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO), only focus on research activities.  In other words, they serve to develop graduate students` dissertations or theses. Therefore, tasks not linked to the purpose of the research will not be expected on this program.

In turn, administrative support activities are required in the majority of the internship vacancies and also vary according to the specific focus of activity of the agency or department involved. However, the most common tasks are as follows:

  • Assisting in solving organizational problems;
  • Generating data and institutional documents;
  • Taking part in meetings and training with other agency members;
  • Organizing events, conferences or forums;
  • Providing other types of support, according to your professional specialties;
  • Meeting with the agency`s clients;
  • Working on the organization`s internal and external communication (preparing audio-visual materials, managing social networks, generating institutional repositories or preparing internal documents);
  • Preparing and giving presentations.


What is the duration of the UN Internships?

In relation to the minimum time allowed, various agencies accept candidates who would like to take an internship for one month, or a little longer, such as IFAD, WIPO, UNDP, WHO and UNICEF, among others. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) internship program, which focuses on complementing Master`s or doctorate research, accepts candidates who would like to work for between two and four weeks, being one of the shortest programs within the UN System agencies. However, this program is different to the others, since it focuses exclusively on research.

Most internships run for six months. In many cases, these opportunities may be renewed for an equal period, although this is not a general rule. Longer internship opportunities run for one year. Extending the maximum internship limit only takes place if there is a need at the agency/work unit in which the individual is allocated, and if there is no impediment from your university or government.

It should be emphasized that if an intern`s performance is below that expected by the organization, it may be ended early. In these cases, the agency has the duty to notify the intern about their dismissal from the program in advance.

What is the weekly workload of the UN Internships?

Generally speaking, UN internship opportunities have two types of working hours: a) full-time and b) part-time.

a) Full-time internships
Full-time internships have working hours that vary between 30 and 40 hours per week. This assumes that those selected will usually work 5 days per week, from Monday to Friday, like the agency`s staff members. However, there are cases where you may be required to work on Saturdays, dependent on the agency`s needs. The exact working hours vary according to the agency. On average, the working day usually starts at 9:00 am and ends at 5.00 pm or 6.00 pm.

b) Part-time internships

Part-time internships are characterized as having flexible or part-time working hours. The exact working hours are defined in the job advertisement or, in other cases, following the candidate`s appointment, in order to adjust to the organization`s demands and each person`s availability. In the case of part-time vacancies, restrictions that prevent the selected candidate from working at another organization to supplement their income are not imposed. However, it is recommended that the appointed candidate clarifies any doubts directly with the respective organization during the selection process.

Lastly, there may also be UN organizations that offer both full and part-time vacancies, or that adjust the contract according to the intern`s needs and interests.

Where are the locations of the UN Internships?

A large number of UN System internship vacancies are distributed throughout the various units and offices, located in practically every region of the planet. For example, organizations the size of the World Bank and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) have more than 100 offices, spread throughout their Member States.

There are three types of the more common units: i) headquarters; ii) field/country offices and iii) liaison/representative offices.

  • Headquarters: are the main UN System agency locations. These offices are usually linked to developing strategic activities and coordinating the operations undertaken. A significant part of the UN System headquarters is located in North America or Europe, as is the case of the World Bank, WIPO and UNWTO, with headquarters in the USA, Switzerland and Spain, respectively. This does not mean there are no headquarters in developing countries, such as UNEP`s, which are based in Kenya.
  • Field offices: in some cases, they are called country/regional offices. These offices/units are linked to field work, to resolve specific local demands. These offices are spread over every continent and region, including: Africa, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, the Pacific, Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East.
  • Representative/liaison offices: These offices provide support to the headquarters and carry out less complex activities, operating as a type of “embassy” for the agency in a given country. The FAO, IAEA and UN Women, among others, are examples of organizations with representative offices.

Subsequent employment:

Participation in an internship program does not imply that you will be taken on as the organization`s staff member at a later date, since the purpose of the internship is to develop the participants` competencies and learning. However, former interns have advantages in future selection processes at the organization (such as having a better knowledge of the organizational structure, its culture and projects, and a network) and other international organizations.

It is worth remembering that, for the majority of cases, UN System interns are prevented from applying for other job vacancies at the organization during the internship period or for up to six months following its completion. When the waiting time has ended, those interested can submit their applications as an external candidate.

UN Internships - Salary

Among the main UN internship programs, approximately 19 offer payment or assistance to their interns. Some agencies, such as UNICEF, may offer both paid and unpaid vacancies. The average sum offered for paid internships is between USD 1,000 and USD 1,300 per month.

The World Bank and IMF Internships are among the programs with the best payments. The World Bank Group pays between USD 20 and USD 30 per hour. Considering that the interns at this organization work on a full-time basis (up to 40 hours per week), the monthly payment varies between USD 3,200 and USD 4,800. In turn, the IMF offers their interns up to USD 5,000 per month, and may pay for the travel costs (return) from the applicant`s home country to the Fund`s headquarters in Washington D.C. However, these sums may be adjusted according to various factors, such as the candidate`s educational background, work experience, and differences in working hours.

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WB Internship: Products & Services

IMF Internship: Products & Services

The payment offered by the varying programs can also be divided into categories. This is the case of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which offers €500 for housing expenses and an additional €500 for general living expenses. Other agencies offer assistance that only covers basic living costs. This is the case of Gavi Alliance, a UN partnership, which focuses on vaccinating vulnerable groups in underprivileged nations that offers between USD 11 and USD 12 per hour to assist with travel and food expenses.

Most UN organizations pay in US dollars or euros, but this may vary according to the location of the internship. For example, the International Labour Organization (Geneva) offers approximately 2,245 CHF (Swiss francs) to selected interns.

It should be emphasized that many organizations only award payment/assistance to interns who prove that they do not receive any type of assistance from private entities, public institutions or the governments of their respective countries.

Would you like to know the estimated salary of the paid UN Internships? Access:

19 United Nations Paid Internships!

UN Internships - Requirements

What is the education requirement of the UN Internship Program?

The education requirements vary according each UN internship Program. However, we provide below a compilation of the most common requirements among the UN organizations:

  • Be enrolled in an undergraduate program (Bachelor’s level or equivalent).
  • Be enrolled in an advanced degree program (Masters, PHD or equivalent).
  • Have graduated in an undergraduate or graduate program (in the last 1-3 years)
  • Last year of a Bachelor’s Course.

We higly recommend that you check directly on the UN Internship’s Website or access the following link to know further about the different requirements of the UN Internship Programs.

UN Internship Programs

What is the language requirement of the UN Internship Program?

Excellent oral and written skills in English.

What is the UN Internship Age Limit?

On the question of age, the UN System accepts internship applicants who are a minimum of 18 years old at the time of application. With regards to the maximum age, the majority of the organizations establishes this as 32, but there are cases that are exceptions to this rule. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) accepts individuals up to the age of 36, and there is no age limit at the World Bank. 

What is the UN Internship nationality requirement?

The majority of the agencies require applicants to be nationals from one of their Member States to be able to apply for internship vacancies. However, others do not impose this prerequisite, accepting applicants from all countries, as is the case of UNICEF, UNCTAD, UN-Habitat, UNOPS, WFP and UNWTO, among others.


With regards to restrictions, the main one is that applicants do not have a direct relationship with United Nations employees. In other words, they are not parents, children or siblings.

Another very common restriction is that applicants have not taken a previous internship at the organization, or its subsidiary units.

UN Internship Application Process

When applying for a UN Internship? 

Firstly, it should be borne in mind that the intern recruitment and selection process is highly decentralized among the numerous organizations that make up the UN System.

Therefore, the application period, and other details related to a specific vacancy, or internship program, may vary. Generally speaking, there are four most common types of application period for the internship programs: a) applications always open; b) applications open on demand; c) applications by season and d) mixed applications. Further details about each of these will be provided below.

a) Applications always open (rosters)

When UN organizations keep their internship applications permanently open, what they are looking for is establishing a type of applicant database, called an internship roster, where potential applicants are filtered throughout the year.  Those who have the profile most in line with the agency’s needs are selected. Rosters are reserve lists composed of pre-assessed and eligible candidates who no longer need to be interviewed to take on a position.

The vacancies offered in this way usually have more generic requirements, which may attract a large number of professionals. Many of these programs establish a validity period of between six months and one year for applications. If applicants are not called within the stipulated timeframe, this means that your applications were not successful.

b) Applications open on demand

There are also UN organizations that open up selection processes for interns only when they identify a need for this. Generally speaking, these vacancies have more specific demands, with regards to requirements and the application process. Therefore, participants should check the opportunities on the respective agency recruitment sites, and search for the vacancies that best fit their profile.

c) Applications open by seasons

There are also UN System internship programs that open their selections at specific times of the year, giving applicants a specific period to apply. This is the case of the World Bank, which offers summer and winter internships. The former is open between December 01 and January 30, while the application period for the winter internship is between October 01 and 31.

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d) Mixed applications

 We should also mention that specific UN System organizations may offer internship opportunities that fit into more than one of these categories. This is the case of the IOM, UNESCO and WTO, which offer vacancies according to demand by their sectors, and they also have an internship program that is open throughout the year. Therefore, you should know the maximum possible about each agency’s specific characteristics, so that you do not miss out on the different opportunities offered.

How to apply for the UN Internships?

Generally speaking, there are three types of application for UN System internships, namely: a) application through internship rostersb) application for specific vacancies; and c) email application. These application processes have similarities and differences between them, which will be explained below. A common point is that they all require the online submission of the applicant’s supporting documents.

a) Application through internship rosters

As mentioned above, the internship roster is a type of applicant database that remains open to new submissions throughout the year. Usually, the applicants’ documents are available for the recruiters to analyze for up to six months. This type of application is made up of three steps:

  • Initial registration on the system: requests basic information to access the site, such as: your name and surname, email address, password, and other general data for identification and contact purposes;
  • Completing the personal/professional profile: this stage requires more specific information on your educational background, previous professional experience, language fluency, and other skills acquired;
  • Document submission and sending the application: following the previous stage, you may need to send your CV/resume and a cover letter. Some agencies also ask for references/recommendation letters from former employers or professors who have worked with the applicant, and can confirm their competency for the position. Lastly, just submit the application on the system, which will be valid for between six months and one year, in the majority of cases.

b) Applying for specific vacancies

In relation to specific vacancies, the application process differs a little from the previous one. The following steps are required to apply for them:

  • Initial registration on the system: usually a basic registration is also required to access the agency’s site, through general contact information and user identification.
  • Research specific internship vacancies: you should research and use the agency recruitment site’s filters to find internship vacancies that match your profile.
  • Complete the personal/professional profile: after you have found a vacancy that you are interested in, the applicant should complete the personal/professional profile specifically for that vacancy. We emphasize that, in some cases, completing the professional profile is independent of the vacancy; in other words, it may be carried out in advance, and be saved in the user’s account.
  • Submit your documents and send the application: as when applying for the internship roster, specific vacancies may require the submission of documents (CV/resume, cover and recommendation letters, among others). After sending them, the applicant will be contacted, if they are selected for interview.

c) Email applications

Lastly, are the email application processes, which are much easier, compared with the previous ones. This is the case of UNRWA – an agency that focuses on the protection of Palestine refugees – in which the interested party should look for the email address of the desired unit (headquarters, field/country or representative offices) and send their CV/resume, a cover letter and, in some cases, a statement that justifies the selection of the agency and indicates which areas of activity they are interested in.

What are the UN Internship Recruitment Platforms?

Many people think that all the UN System internships are advertised on the UN Secretariat careers site, believing that this is the only place that advertises vacancies.

In fact, UN Careers is one of the main sites to advertise internship and job opportunities within the UN System, including various vacancies, not only at the UN Secretariat, but at other agencies (UNEP, UN-Habitat, UNCTAD and UNODC, among others). However, there are various other sites that applicants should also be aware of.

There is the World Bank Group site, and although many people do not know this, this organization also belongs to the United Nations System. The World Bank internship program is valid for three of the Group’s main agencies, namely, IBRD, IDA and MIGA. The other two WBG agencies, IFC and ICSID, have their own intern recruitment site

Another major site is the one of UNDP. It is a transversal site that includes internship and job opportunities in various UN System categories, and sectors of activity. The majority of the internship vacancies available are distributed throughout the UNDP’s different regional and local units of activity. However, the site is also shared between other agencies, funds and departments to advertise internships, such as UN Women, UNCDF and UNOSSC, among others.

What are the documents to submit for the UN Internship Programs?

The application process requires you to submit:

  • Curriculum Vitae (CV)/Resume;
  • Cover Letter/Statement of Interest
  • Proof of enrollment 
  • Academic transcripts 

What is the evaluation criteria for the UN Internship Programs?

Recruiters will seek to identify whether applicants’ academic and professional experience is relevant to the organization’s activities, as well as evaluate their job expectations and level of knowledge about the institution’s work.

With the aim of highly increasing your chances of success in this stage of the UN Internships selection process, OpenIGO Network has put together a thorough Application Review service for candidates, to help you prepare your documents with extreme care and enhance the quality of your application.

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UN Internships – Application Review

UN Internships - Interview

The UN Internships selection cycle includes an interview phase, whose main aim is to find out more about the candidate, and analyze their knowledge and competences. It is widely understood and disseminated by the United Nations that the UN Internship interview model is the competency based interview (CBI) but, in fact, it is mixed, combining competency based questions with traditional ones. 

Traditional questions

This type of questions posed to candidates are usually linked to elements listed on their resumés, information on the application form and cover letter. It may also be expected questions regarding international development topics or about the specific UN organization the candidate applied for. Examples of the questions at this type of interview are as follows:

  • Do you prefer working in a team or on your own? Why?`
  • What are your strong and weak points?
  • Why should we employ you?
  • What are your three main achievements until now?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What types of activities or hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?
  • What is your main motivation to join the UN?

Competency-Based Questions

Competency-Based Interviews are based on an applicant’s past performance and the competencies displayed in performing previous jobs and solving problems.Therefore, the questions posed during the interview aim to discover whether the interviewee possesses the competencies pre-selected by the organization.

Below, we present examples of CBI questions:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an unexpected situation.
  • Have you ever had a project that failed? Tell me about this experience.
  • Give an example of a time when you used your problem-solving abilities to resolve an issue.
  • Tell us about a situation when you went above and beyond your manager’s expectations.

Sample questions for each UN competency assessment can be found in the Attachment section of our UN Internships Manual.

Get your copy:


To help you feel more secure and greatly improve your performance during the UN Internship interview stage, OpenIGO Network has developed a mock interview, as per the United Nations model, with a specialized professional who has extensive experience. Click on the link below to find out more about our UN Internship Mock Interview service:


How to finance/afford a UN Internship?

Firstly, it is important to emphasize that the UN does not charge its candidates at any stage of the selection processes. Even in the interviews, there is the possibility that they are held via video-conference or telephone, thereby reducing any travel costs. The UN recommends that candidates are mindful of fake emails that request any type of payment.

The most frequent expenditure that a UN System intern may have is with a visa, insurance cover, accommodation and travel. It should be emphasized that these expenses may be minimized if you receive sponsorship from your government or another institution, such as your university. Some of the expenses involved are explained below:


The payment of certain fees and the presentation of various personal documents are required to attain a visa, which may vary in accordance with the country and type of visa. For internships taken in the United States, such as the IMF and ICSID, an intern is usually requested to obtain a G4 (for employees of International Organizations) or F1 (for international students) visa. Intergovernmental organizations usually provide supplementary documents to facilitate obtaining your visa.


In the majority of programs, the candidate is responsible for taking out insurance. UN System interns are usually required to obtain the following types of insurance.

  • Medical insurance valid for the organization`s region. Medical or health insurance covers expenses with medication, hospital admissions and illnesses during the internship period. In some cases, travel insurance is accepted for this purpose.
  • Life/Accident insurance valid for the organization`s region. Although many people confuse this with medical insurance, this is for cases of permanent disability or death caused by a serious illnesses or accident. Travel insurance can also replace this type of insurance.

In addition to insurance requirements, many organizations require a valid and signed copy of a Medical Certificate of Good Health, which guarantees that the intern has the physical and mental conditions to perform activities at the organization. 


UN System organizations are not usually responsible for the candidate’s accommodation during the internship period. Therefore, the candidate (or sponsoring institution) will be liable for any expenses related to the accommodation required. However, there are some exceptions. The IAEA and CTBTO agencies, for example, offer up to 500 euros in housing assistance for internships in their respective headquarters in Austria.


The intern (or sponsoring institution) will be responsible for costs related to travelling to the workplace you are allocated to. Some organizations may offer assistance that covers travel from a selected university to the respective agency unit. This is the case of the IMF, which may pay for a student`s return journey to Washington D.C.

Of course, these expenses do not compare with the advantages of taking a United Nations System internship. In addition, contrary to what you may imagine, there are many paid internship programs in the UN System that minimize this expenditure.

We can help you to achieve your dream internship at the UN! Access now our products and services;


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