Staff Categories

Staff Categories

Understand the Staff Categories & Levels

The United Nations workforce is made up of different categories of staff. Within each category there are different levels, which reflect increasing levels of responsibilities and requirements. The information in this section will help you decide in which staff category, and at what level, you fit in. This will be useful when you start searching and applying for jobs.

These are the different categories of staff at the United Nations:

  • Professional and higher categories (P and D)
  • General Service and related categories (G, TC, S, PIA, LT)
  • National Professional Officers (NO)
  • Field Service (FS)
  • Senior Appointments (SG, DSG, USG and ASG)
 

At the United Nations you progress in a category through merit and qualifications. There are, however, restrictions on movement between the different categories.

Staff members in the Professional and higher categories (P and D) are normally internationally recruited and are expected to serve at different duty stations throughout their career with the Organization. Openings for professional jobs can be found at all duty stations across the global United Nations Secretariat.

What education do I need?

Normally, it is required that you have an advanced university degree for the professional and director level positions. It is, however, frequently accepted that if you have a first-level university degree, combined with qualifying work experience, you meet the educational requirements.

Positions in certain job families, including military, civilian police, medical, conference services may have different standards for the minimum educational requirements, which are accordingly reflected in their respective job openings. Positions from job families that require specialized studies, e.g. Medical Doctors, require an advanced university degree, which cannot be substituted by a combination of a first-level university degree and experience. Positions in some other areas, mainly language positions, might require only a first-level university degree for the minimum educational requirements.

What work experience do I need?

Your work experience should be relevant to the job for which you are applying; each job may also have specific requirements, which are specified in the opening. For mid-career and senior level positions, progressively responsible work experience is required. As you acquire more relevant work experience you can progressively apply for higher positions.

Entry level professionalsMid-level professionalsSenior level professionals
P-2minimum 2 years of work experience

No experience is required if applying to the young professionals programme
P-4minimum 7 years of work experienceP-6/D-1minimum 15 years of work experience
P-3minimum 5 years of work experienceP-5minimum 10 years of work experienceP-7/D-2more than 15 years of work experience
 

What if I recently graduated from university and have no relevant work experience?

If you recently graduated from university and you have limited or no work experience, you may qualify to take the young professionals programme recruitment examination(YPP).

What are the language requirements?

There are six official languages at the United Nations: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Two of these, English and French, are the working languages. To work for the United Nations you need to have excellent command of either English or French. Knowledge of an additional language is an asset but is not required for most jobs.

If there are additional language requirements, as may be the case for some language positions, they are specified in the respective job openings.

What kind of jobs are there in the Professional and higher categories?

There is a wide range of jobs in the eight job networks: management and operations support; economic and social development; political, peace and security; information systems and communication technology; legal; public information and external relations; conference management; and safety and security. You can learn more about the different jobs in the section on job networks.

What is the nature of the work in the Professional and higher categories?

Work in the Professional category generally demands a high degree of analytical and communication skills, substantive expertise and/or managerial leadership ability.

Typically, these positions require judgment in analyzing and evaluating problems as well as in decision-making involving discretionary choices between alternative courses of action. They also require the understanding of an organized body of theoretical knowledge at a level equivalent to that represented by a university degree. While this knowledge is customarily and characteristically acquired through formal education, it may, in some fields of learning or specialized disciplines, be acquired through other training, self-study, or practical experience.

What do the jobs at the senior professional level entail?

Directors (D-1 and D-2 levels) represent the highest level on the career staffing structure of the Organization. As a Director you manage a programme of the Organization. You are also expected to provide leadership in formulating and implementing the substantive work programme of an office, determine priorities, and allocate resources for the completion of outputs and their timely delivery.

Senior professionals hired for positions at the P-6 and P-7 level typically work as senior advisers or experts, bringing several years of analytical and research experience to the United Nations.

 

The functions in the General Service and related categories include administrative, secretarial and clerical support as well as specialized technical functions such as printing, security and buildings maintenance. There are jobs in all the eight job networks: management and operations support; economic and social development; political, peace and security; information systems and communication technology; legal; public information and external relations; conference management; and safety and security. Learn more in the section on Job Networks.

The work carried out by General Service staff supports the functioning of the Organization and is typically procedural, operational or technical in nature. The work in these categories ranges from routine duties to varied and complex assignments. The knowledge of the subject matter and higher-level skills are generally developed through long experience and familiarity with applicable procedures, regulations and precedents or projects of the Organization in a narrow technical field or in an administrative support activity. The higher the level of the job, the more complex the functions become along with higher levels of responsibility.

Staff in the General Service and related categories are generally recruited locally from the area in which the particular office is located but could be of any nationality. As a result, such staff members are usually not expected to move between different duty stations.

At the Organization’s Headquarters in New York, jobs such as drivers, electricians, building management and printing staff fall under the related category called Trades and Crafts (TC). Similarly, Security Officer jobs in New York are advertised as a separate category called Security (S), and tour guides in New York as Public Information Assistants (PIA). Another related category is the Language Teachers (LT), for which positions can be found only in New York and Geneva. In all other duty stations these jobs are included, and listed, under General Service.

Currently, the following General Service Tests are administered in the UN Secretariat (some of them in New York only):

What qualifications do I need to work in the General Service and related categories?

The following requirements have to be met to be considered for General Service jobs:

  • High school diploma or equivalent.
  • Minimum age of 18 years.
  • Required number of years of work experience relevant to the job and its level, as specified in the job opening.
  • Language requirements depending on the job and the location of the office. Most jobs require fluency in one of the two working languages, English or French.
  • There might be additional requirements which are listed in the specific job opening. Always check to make sure you meet the minimum requirements for the job for which you are applying.
  • Pass the Global General Services Test (GGST) and any specialised test required for specific functions. The test is taken at the duty station in the locality where you wish to apply. For more information on the test, please refer to the GGST section on this page. You may also contact the United Nations offices in New York (email: ggst@un.org), Geneva, Vienna, Nairobi, Santiago, Bangkok, Beirut, Addis Ababa, Arusha or The Hague, or contact your nearest United Nations Information Centre or United Nations Development Programme office.

What work experience do I need?

Your work experience should be relevant to the job for which you are applying and each job may also have specific requirements, which are specified in the job opening. For mid-career and senior level positions, progressively responsible work experience is required. As you acquire more relevant work experience you can apply for higher level positions.

You can move from the General Service and related categories to the professional category only by passing a special competitive examination subject to certain conditions.

Global General Service Test (GGST)

The GGST is an important initiative in the process of General Service staff selection. Launched in July 2014 at the United Nations Headquarters, the GGST will soon be introduced to other offices away from Headquarters. Available initially in English, the GGST will also be available in French and Spanish depending on the language requirements of the position.

The GGST is a computer-based invigilated/proctored test, which assesses the competencies identified as core to the functions of General Service staff, e.g., communication and planning and organizing, through work-relevant scenarios and tasks.

The three sections of the GGST are: Verbal Reasoning, Numerical Reasoning and Situational Judgment. The Verbal Reasoning Section tests candidates’ ability to work effectively with written communication. The Numerical Reasoning section tests candidates’ ability to work effectively with numerical data. The Situational Judgment section tests candidates’ ability to work effectively in line with the core United Nations values and competencies.

Applicants interested in working for the United Nations in the General Services category, must first apply for a vacant position advertised on the this website. Once your application has been reviewed and if you meet the requirements, you will be invited to participate in the Global General Services Test (GGST) at the duty station to which you have applied.

Click here for more detailed information and sample tests of GGST.

Security Officers Test

Candidates must meet the following requirements to be eligible for consideration for a job as entry-level Security Officer:

  • Between the ages of 22 and 35 years at the time of application.
  • A high School diploma.
  • Excellent physical condition.
  • At least two years’ experience with a civilian police force or three years in a military police force. Candidates holding a degree in criminal justice with a minimum of 18 months’ experience in the security field will also be considered.
  • Pass the United Nations Security Officer Test. The tests are held when there is a requirement for such positions at the duty station in the locality where you wish to apply. For more information on the test and where to take it, please contact the Organization’s offices in New York, Geneva, Vienna, Nairobi, Santiago, Bangkok, Beirut, Addis Ababa, Arusha or The Hague, or contact your nearest United Nations Information Centre or United Nations Development Programme office.

National Professional Officers are normally locally recruited and perform functions at the professional level. The qualifications for National Professional Officers are the same as for the Professional category and require as a minimum a first-level university degree. Jobs for National Professional Officers can only be found in non-headquarters duty stations.

National Professional Officers are nationals of the country in which they are serving and their functions must have a national context, i.e. functions that require national experience or knowledge of the national language, culture, institutions, and systems. Examples of these positions include human rights officers, political affairs officers, legal officers, medical officers, child protection officers, humanitarian affairs officers, interpreters and civil engineers.

There are five levels of National Professional Officers, A through E. The higher the level, the more responsibilities the job requires and the more work experience is necessary.

  • A    minimum 1 to 2 years of work experience
  • B    minimum 2 to 3 years of work experience
  • C   minimum 5 years of work experience
  • D   minimum 7 years of work experience
  • E    over 7 years of work experience

Staff in the Field Service category are normally recruited internationally to serve in field missions. You are expected to be highly mobile and to serve in different locations during your career.

Field Service staff members provide administrative, technical, logistics and other support services to United Nations field missions. You are required to have as a minimum a High School diploma or equivalent; some positions may require a technical or vocational certificate.

There are four levels of the field service category: FS-4 through FS-7. As you acquire more relevant work experience you can progressively apply for higher positions.

Mid-level Field ServiceSenior level Field Service
FS-4minimum 6 years work experienceFS-6*minimum 10 years work experience
FS-5minimum 8 years work experienceFS-7*minimum 12 years work experience

* The minimum number of years of relevant experience is reduced for candidates who possess a first-level university degree; for FS-6 a minimum of 5 years of experience is needed and for FS-7 a minimum of 7 years of experience is needed.

As is the practice in many other international institutions, one arrives at the highest positions in the Secretariat either by appointment of the Organization’s legislative organs or Chief Administrative Officer. These positions include:

Secretary-GeneralAppointed by the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Security Council
Deputy Secretary-GeneralAppointed by the Secretary-General following consultations with Member States
Under-Secretary-General (USG)A Head of Department, appointed by the Secretary-General
Assistant Secretary-General (ASG)
A Head of Office, appointed by the Secretary-General
 

The Secretary-General has wide authority to appoint senior staff at the ASG and USG levels as well as special envoys at all levels. However, the appointment of a number of senior officials is subject to specific requirements set forth in General Assembly resolutions or related legislative documents. For example:

  • The Under-Secretary-General of the Office of Internal Oversight Services is appointed by the Secretary-General following consultations with Member States and approval by the General Assembly.
  • The Special Representatives of the Secretary-General and the Force Commanders in peacekeeping missions are appointed according to a long-standing practice that the Secretary-General informs the Security Council of his intention to appoint these officials before a decision is taken.
  • A Special Representative or Special Envoy is a highly respected expert who has been appointed by the Secretary-General to represent him on a set of critical issues. This typically involves continued negotiations with Governments at the highest levels on issues such as human rights, peace-building and peacekeeping, conflict resolution and post conflict as well as post emergency recovery. A Force Commander is the head of United Nations peacekeeping troops where they are deployed.

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