Taking your first steps into the humanitarian job market can be a pretty daunting process. More and more people have begun to enroll in academic programs geared toward aid and development work, making a once fairly dry supply of capable workers now plush with talent. The talent pool is ever-expanding with individuals with similar educations, so how exactly do you gain an advantage over your ‘competition’? Luckily, several big-name agencies have created and implemented programs aimed at giving young professionals the opportunity to make the mark in the humanitarian aid community. In this article, we’ll focus on the programs offered by the largest humanitarian entity in the world: the United Nations.
The UN Young Professionals Programme (YPP) is a 2-year program designed for professionals interested in working with the UN. After submitting the initial application, interested applicants must take the YPP examination, which consists of a written portion and an oral portion. Applicants who pass this exam are placed on the P1/P2 roster for assignment within the Young Professionals Programme. From the roster, candidates can be offered a 2-year fixed term contract for placement at the P1 or P2 level. From this program, participants have the opportunity to move into a full-time, regular position through various pathways. More information about the process, including FAQs, can be found on their website.
In order to qualify for the Young Professionals Programme, applicants must have nationality of a participating country, have at least a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject, and be 32 years of age or younger. Fluency in English or French is also required. Additional questions about eligibility can be found in the FAQ section on the site.
This program is an entryway for young people to make the first steps toward getting hired for a job in a UN agency. It is run by the UN Secretariat and aims to help early professionals begin their international civil servant careers. The clout associated with this program is appealing to the masses, with the program averaging around 40,000 applicants each year, meaning the competition is fierce. All applicants must pass an examination to be considered and, if accepted, continue to pass exams each year. The positions in the YPP are various, differing by sector, so each exam is tailored to the applicant’s job preferences. The subjects presented on the exam also change with the times each year, reflecting the current needs of the UN. Generally speaking, any particular subject will be offered every other year, so no two exams are identical. Subject matters range from social and legal affairs to statistics and administration, and test prep is offered across the web in order to help students prepare.
It’s important to note that passing the exam does not automatically win you a job. There are other qualifications that must be met, as well. For example, the exam is only open to citizens of certain countries, and the list of eligible nations changes each year. Candidates must be younger than 32 years old at the time of applying, be in possession of a high-GPA university degree, and be fluent in English or French- bonus points for both! If hired, program participants are offered professional development opportunities throughout their tenure. A young professional can expect to earn anywhere between $37,000 and $80,000- both strong salaries for entry-level aid workers. You really need to research and prepare in order to have a shot at entering the program, but if you are dedicated and driven, it’s a great option.
The EHP is a fairly new recruitment (and conversion) initiative run by UNHCR- the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Another point of entry for the UN, it allows outside applications to be converted into full-time, deployable employees. Participants of this program will enter the UN at the P2 level and must be willing to take assignments anywhere in the world. The EHP runs on a cohort system, bring together people with similar interests and aims for the purpose of sharing information and working toward a common goal. This system has shown a great success rate, and participants of this program report high degrees of satisfaction.
To be eligible for UNHCR’s EHP, you must possess (at minimum) a bachelor’s degree and two years of relevant work experience, as defined by the UN grading criteria for P2 level positions. Written and analytical test screenings must be passed before being granted an interview with a panel. Applicants must also be under the age of 45 at the application closing date, in addition to being fluent in English or French (the working languages of the UN). The EHP, on average, only takes on around 50 new participants each year.
If selected, candidates do not determine their positions. Rather, they are put into the cohort that best matches their skills profile. This may be in protection, programming, supply, or administration and finance. Candidates also do not have much of a say in the location of their posting and, as such, must be willing to go wherever they are needed. Oftentimes, this can be a conflict zone or developing area, so be sure to fully consider the scope of the commitment before applying.
Save the Children UK offers a program aimed at providing graduates with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience responding to crises and emergencies. It is a 12-month intensive program in which participants work to build national capacities in the humanitarian sector. The program has had many successes since its conception, providing meticulous training, mentoring, and skill-building from experts in addition to requiring invigorating academic study. Graduates earn credits toward a Master’s program and gain invaluable experience for their future careers in the humanitarian sector.
This is a great program that offers individuals the opportunity to get experience either in their home countries or in the field abroad. Each assignment is different and will have its own unique requirements, so be sure to check for opportunities related to your sector of interest regularly. UN volunteers are given large amounts of responsibility in various roles, which in term allows the volunteer to gain invaluable experience for building their resumes. National roles require a higher education degree and have a minimum age of 22, while international service is open to people 25 and above. There are also opportunities to volunteer online.
Another branch of the United Nations, UNESCO also offers an employment scheme for university graduates and young professionals who are early in their careers. The program aims to promote gender parity and representation in the Secretariat. Applicants must have a degree, be under 30 years old, and speak one of the working languages of the UN (English or French), with a second language being desirable. The YP holds diversity as one of its highest priorities, and individuals from under-represented Member States are strongly encouraged to apply.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees offers a Junior Professional Officer program for young graduates and professionals to gain experience either at headquarters or in the field. Participants must be interested in refugees and internally displaced and stateless people. Being apart of this program gives young people the unique opportunity to gain training and exposure to UNHCR’s humanitarian work, focusing on certain areas of expertise, including law, social sciences, and public administration. Applicants must meet the same general criteria as other UN-run programs.
Internships and Fellowships- Global
While not a single developed program, taking on an internship (or better yet, a fellowship) is not limited to those who are still studying. Checking for opportunities at large NGOs and INGOs can prove extremely fruitful for those who need to get some experience under their belt. While most internships will be in offices, many organizations offer onboarding opportunities after successful completion. Furthermore, these organizations may also allow qualified interns to register on SURGE or rapid deployment rosters, allowing them to gain important experience in the field. Check large organizations such as Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, Care International, World Vision, Oxfam, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and Action Against Hunger, to name just a few.
The OECD Young Professionals Programme is a 2-year program that works to help young professionals in the field of international development and global policy develop advanced skills and gain experience alongside senior colleagues and other experienced professionals. They work with over 60,000 senior national policy makers to research and analyze current policy issues and are involved in various technical and policy meetings. The research that the YPP participants conduct is used by the OECD to prepare policy documents, committee reports, intergovernmental discussions, and publications. Candidates are matched to their assignments based on academic background, professional experience, and personal preference. Participants receive mentoring and training both on the job and in developed training programs.
Eligibility for the program includes an advanced degree in a field relevant to the OECD’s work and at least 2 years of professional experience. They also must have quantitative and analytical skills, as well as knowledge of country policies and institutions. Spoken and written fluency in English or French and working knowledge or willingness to learn the other. Proficiency in any other language is also useful.
IDB’s Young Professionals Program is a 2-year program that can often lead to a full-time, regular staff position. Participants may be working in the headquarters in Washington, DC or in one of the Country Offices. IDB pays for transportation for interviews, as well as the actual employment period. The 2-year program consists of 2 departmental rotations—the first is chosen by IDB based on needs and the candidate’s skills, and the second is decided upon by an agreement between the participant and IDB based on their preferences and IDB’s needs. Young Professionals receive training and orientation sessions, including language and technical training. Each participant is also assigned to a mentor, who is a senior staff member, in order to maximize the experience.
In order to be eligible for this program, applicants must be a citizen of one of IDB’s member countries. They must also be 32 years of age or younger and fluent in both English and Spanish with a working knowledge of either French or Portuguese. Applicants must have a Master’s degree or equivalent plus two or more years of professional experience in a field relevant to international development. Additionally, they must be exempt from any military obligation during the program period. Applicants who are Afro-descendant or Indigenous have additional allowances, including a maximum age of 35 and fluency in only one IDB official language and working knowledge of another.
AfDB’s Young Professionals Program is a 3-year program offered to limited number of candidates, determined each year. The program is divided into 6-month batches, allowing participants to experience and work in various departments and areas of AfDB’s organization. Young Professionals get hands-on experience in AfDB projects and work alongside experts, who deliver training and leadership development. Participants will be working on projects related to AfDB’s primary goals which are power systems development, hunger/agriculture, economic integration, industrialization, and human/social development. The YPP offers coaching, mentoring and sponsoring, a “buddy-system” with previous cohorts, a coordination team for the YPP participants, and a YPP liaison team to act as representatives to the HR department.
Applicants must be citizens of a regional or non-regional AfDB member country to be eligible for the Young Professionals Program. They also must be 32 years of age or younger, have a Master’s degree or equivalent in a field relevant to international development, and have at least three years of work experience in areas related to their priority goal areas. AfDB is also looking for candidates who have hands-on experience in African countries or in other developing countries, as well as a passion for African development and strong leadership/teamwork skills. They are also looking for people with analytical, entrepreneurial, business, and digital/technological skills. Applicants should be fluent in either English or French and must be willing to live in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire and travel to various country assignments.
UNHCR’s young professionals programs offers two opportunities for international development professionals to gain hands-on, meaningful experience with UNHCR and develop their skills. The Junior Professional Officer (JPO) programme has specific vacancies that eligible candidates can apply to, as they are available. In particular, UNHCR is looking for professionals with expertise in law, public administration, and social sciences. JPOs are sponsored by their home countries, and the assignments last 2-3 years. Most JPOs continue on in full-time, regular work at UNHCR following the end of their assignment. The Entry-Level Humanitarian Professional Programme (EHP) is a cohort program meant to train and develop professionals interested in humanitarian work. Participants are brought in at the P2 level and deployed into field positions. The program seeks to identify and develop future leaders in UNHCR’s work and support them in gaining new skills and honing existing skills.
Applicants for JPO positions must be between 25 and 35 years old and a citizen of their donor country (with the exception of the Netherlands, who sponsors candidates from various developing countries). While other eligibility requirements may exist for individual positions, applicants must generally have a Bachelor’s degree and four or more years of work experience or a Master’s degree and two to four years of work experience in a relevant field. Fluency in English is required, and working knowledge of an additional UN language is recommended. Candidates must also demonstrate interest in the UN and humanitarian issues and be willing to live and serve in hardship locations.
Applicants for the EHP cohort must be 45 years or younger and eligible for work at the P2 level, including at least a Bachelor’s degree with a minimum of 2 years of relevant work experience. Other general requirements apply, including fluency in English and a recommended working knowledge of another UN language.
The World Bank’s Young Professionals Program (YPP) is a program designed to give participants hands-on experience with World Bank projects. The program accepts around 40 applicants each year who are offered five-year renewable term contracts, spend 2 years in a structured development program, and are given access to benefits and other opportunities. YPP participants gain professional experience through specific assignments. They also join in with field work to get hands-on experience in development work. Additionally, participants receive training through a developed curriculum to help young professionals gain skills in leadership, innovation, integrative thinking, and more. Young Professionals are assigned a buddy from the previous year’s cohort, as well as a mentor, a technical buddy, peer-coaching groups, and the Youth Program Team to recruit future YPP participants.
Eligibility requirements for the YPP include citizenship of a World Bank Group member country, maximum age limit of 32 years old, fluency in English, and at least three years of professional experience or a doctoral degree. Applicants also must have expertise in a field relevant to World Bank operations, and proficiency in a World Bank working language is desired. The Young Professionals Program is looking for candidates who have excellent academic credentials, a passion for international development, leadership skills, ID country experience, and a willingness to relocate for country assignments.
The OFID Young Professional Development Program (YPDP) is a 2-3 year program that is structured to equip young professionals with skills and knowledge to prepare them for OFID entry level positions. Participants spend about half the program in their home department and gain hands-on experience with OFID’s projects and operations. They also receive coaching and various training/professional development opportunities. Participants are offered compensation and benefits, including housing allowance, relocation grant, medical benefits, children’s education subsidy, various insurances, and retirement benefits.
In order to apply, interested applicants must be a citizen of an OFID member country, 28 years of age or younger, and fluent in English. Applicants must also have at least a Master’s degree, specialization in a relevant field, and the ability to work in globally/culturally diverse institutions and environments. They must have a GPA of 3.0 or above and a willingness to serve with OFID for at least two years after completion of the program. Proficiency in another language is strongly recommended.
ADB’s Young Professionals Program (YPP) is a 3-year program for highly qualified professionals interested in working with ADB. Participants are initially assigned to an operational department and then rotate to other departments as part of 12-month assignments. This program is meant to develop expertise and broaden their perspectives with regards to the various aspects of the organization’s work. Participants can participate in activities such as fact finding and appraisal, project review and completion, country programming, sector and policy studies, or disbursement. Participants work with their supervisors to set up a professional plan which identifies learning programs meant to improve their technical skills and teach them about ADB’s operations.
Applicants must be 32 years or younger, have a degree in a relevant field, and have at least 2 years of relevant professional experience. They must also be a national of one of ADB’s member countries, be fluent in English, and be able to work in a multicultural environment.
The Alfa Fellowship Program is designed to help emerging leaders in international development and global policy gain first-hand experience in business, policy, and culture in Russia and the surrounding region. The program lasts for a year and is divided into various training and professional opportunities. Participants gain Russian-language skills in their home countries and then have orientation in Washington, DC. Once in Russia, they gain additional language training and then participate in seminars and lectures related to politics, social/cultural affairs, economics, and more. Participants then take regional trips within Russia and surrounding countries to meet with various officials, businesses, and organizations and to see sites of historical and cultural significance. From October to April, fellows gain professional experience working with an organization or company in the fields of business, economics, journalism, law, policy, or other related field. The final step is an exit interview and final evaluation.
Applicants for the Alfa Fellowship Program are typically between the ages of 25 and 35 with at least a Master’s degree and 2 or more years of additional professional experience in a relevant field. Those with a Bachelor’s degree only must have 5 to 6 years of professional experience. They must be citizens of the US, the UK, or Germany. Excellent professional and academic qualifications are desired, as is some working knowledge of Russian language, although this is not required. Leadership potential and active community involvement are also preferred for fellowship candidates.
Peace Corps volunteers work in a variety of development sectors in developing countries across the world. Volunteers work in agriculture, education, health, community economic development, environment, and youth development. Volunteer opportunities typically last 2 years with opportunities to extend in some cases. Peace Corps volunteers are given a living stipend, medical benefits, and vacation time, in addition to other benefits. The program is designed to give hands-on experience to individuals interested in international development work with leadership experience and/or potential. Peace Corps also offers short-term, high-impact opportunities for experienced professionals and former volunteers. They also have a 1-year Global Health Service Partnership for doctors and nurses with active US licenses.
Eligibility requirements include US citizenship, a minimum of 18 years of age (no maximum age), and a commitment to global development and helping others. Peace Corps does have some medical restrictions which vary based on health conditions and country of assignment. Applicants apply for the program they are interested in and then can choose country preferences and skill areas, which may or may not be taken into consideration.
United Nations Secretariat
The United Nations Office of the Secretariat hires Junior Professional Officers to perform a variety of duties within the office. To qualify for a position, applicants must hail from one of 26 donor countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. Qualified applicants will have a graduate-level degree from an accredited university and at least 2 years of professional experience.
The Young Professionals Program offered through the United Nations Office of the Secretariat allows individuals to obtain entry-level positions working in the United Nations. The program is open to individuals who are from countries that are considered unrepresented or under represented at the UN. Each year, the Office of the Secretariat publishes a list of participating countries. Qualified applicants must also have an undergraduate degree from an accredited university, be under 32 years of age and be fluent in French or English. It is also necessary to pass a qualifying examination.
United Nations Development Program
Junior Professional Officers at the United Nations Development Program work in field offices performing a variety of duties under the supervision of senior staff members. To qualify for the program, you must be from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland or the United Kingdom. Applicants must hold master’s degrees and have at least 2 years of work experience in a field related to the mission of the United Nations Development Program. Fluency in English, French or Spanish is also required.
Food and Agriculture Organisation
The Junior Professional Officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is a pathway to a career in civil service for individuals who meet a pre-established set of criteria. To qualify for a position through the program, applicants must be 32 years of age or younger and hold a master’s or doctoral degree. Two years of related work experience is required as well as fluency in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Russian. Applicants must also not be closely related to anyone who works for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Junior Professional Officers receive a 2-year contract, which may be renewed up to two times.
The Associate Professional Officers Programme of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is designed to allow young professionals who show promise to begin careers in public service. Those accepted to the program receive mentoring and on-the-job training and development assistance while gaining valuable career experience. Only applicants from participating countries will be considered for the program. The current participating countries include Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, AECID, Switzerland, Sweden, The Netherlands, The Republic of Korea, and the United States.
International Atomic and Energy Agency
The International Atomic and Energy Agency officers a Junior Professional Officer Program to help individuals who would be an asset to the work of the agency enter careers in civil service. To qualify for a position with the program, applicants must be under 32 years of age and from Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation or the United States of America. Qualified applicants will have a master’s or doctoral degree in engineering, physics, chemistry, biology, hydrology, agriculture, nutrition, medicine, computer science, information sciences, accounting, finance, human resource management, law, library science or communications.
International Fund for Agricultural Development
The International Fund for Agricultural Development offers entry-level employment positions through their Junior Professional Officer Programme. To be considered for the program, applicants must be from one of the program’s sponsor countries, which include Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. Applicants must be less than 32 years old and hold at least a bachelor’s degree in a field related to the work of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Contracts are typically for 1 to 2 years and may be renewed for those with satisfactory job performance.
International Finance Corporation
International Finance Corporation offers an Investment Analyst Program to help individuals with relevant training and experience receive work experience in finance on the international level. Those who participate in the program work in Washington, D.C., or in a regional office of the International Finance Cooperation in Asia or Africa. The positions are for 2 to 4 years. To be considered, applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree and have at least 3 years of experience working in a financial institution or in finance. Fluency in English is required. Candidates who also speak Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian or Spanish are preferred.
The International Finance Corporation offers the Young Professionals Program to recruit highly skilled, promising young people for employment. Young Professionals receive mentoring and education while gaining work experience in Washington, D.C., and in regional offices. Associate Investment Officers in the program must have 3 to 6 years of investment banking, project finance, private equity, corporate finance or financial consulting experience, while Investment Officers in the program must have 5 to 8 years of work experience in one of the aforementioned fields. Recent receipt of a Master of Business Administration degree is also required.
International Labor Organisation
The International Labor Organization hires talented young professionals for entry-level work placement positions through their Junior Professional Officer Program. To be considered for a position through the program, applicants must be from one of the organization’s donor countries, which include Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, The Republic of Korea, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Applicants must also have a master’s degree and some established working experience. Individuals who receive a position in the program generally are given 1 to 2 year contracts with positions at one of the organization’s more than 40 global offices.
International Monetary Fund
The International Monetary Fund offers its Economist Program to recruit young economists interested in working in international finance. To be considered for a position through the program, candidates must have received a doctoral degree in economics within a year of their dates of application and have established coursework experience in macroeconomics and one of the issues of interest to the fund, such as international economics, monetary economics, public finance, econometrics, labor economics, poverty issues, and political economy. In addition, applicants must be residents of one of the 186 countries that are members of the fund and be under 34 years of age.
United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organisation
The United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organisation offers the Junior Professional Officer program for individuals who have recently graduated from college and for young professionals who wish to begin working in civil service. Participants receive contracts for 2 to 3 years to work at the headquarters of the United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organisation or in a regional office. To be considered for a position, individuals must be under than 32 years of age and have at least a bachelor’s degree in education, culture, science, social and human sciences or communications. Fluency in English or French and being a resident of a donor country is also required.
The United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organisation offers the Young Professionals Program to allow individuals from non United Nations member states and under-represented member states to gain entry-level employment in civil service. Every year, the UN publishes a list of qualifying countries. Applicants must be no more than 32 years of age and hold a graduate-level degree in management, education, culture, science, social and human sciences or communication. Fluency in English or French is required. Individuals who have previous work experience and who are also fluent in Spanish, Russian, Arabic or Chinese will have an advantage.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees offers the Junior Professional Officer Program for individuals interested in working in civil service at the United Nation’s refugee agency. To be considered for a position, individuals must be between 25 and 35 years of age and have a bachelor or master’s degree in a field that relates to the specific opening for which they are applying. Those with a master’s degree must also have 2 years of relevant work experience. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree must have 4 years of related work experience. Fluency in English is required. Applicants who are also fluent in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian or Spanish are preferred. Candidates must also be from one of the countries that donate to the agency.
United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund offers the Junior Professional Officers program for young people who are interested in working in a nonprofit. Initially, individuals in the program receive 1 to 2 year contracts with the chance for renewal. About half of all participants advance to other positions with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. Most applicants accepted are between 28 and 35 years of age and have advanced university degrees. To be considered for a position, individuals must be from one of the fund’s donor countries, which include Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund offers the New and Emerging Talent Initiative to recruit mid-career level individuals to work for UNICEF. To be considered for a position, individuals must be willing to work at any of the UNICEF offices from around the world and be citizens or permanent residents of one of the fund’s donor countries, which include Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Applicants must also have at least a master’s degree and 2 to 5 years of professional experience to be considered for positions.
World Bank Group
The World Bank offers the Young Professionals Program to recruit recent graduates for entry level positions. To be considered for a position with the program, individuals must complete an essay on a topic established by the selection committee. Applicants must also be citizens of one of the member countries of the world bank and be uner 32 years of age. A doctorate or master’s degree in economics, finance, education, public health, social sciences, engineering, urban planning, agriculture, natural resources or a related field and at least 3 years of work experience in a position related to development are also required. Candiates must also be fluent in English.
The World Bank offers the World Bank Group Analyst Program to recruit young professionals to work as financial analysts. Individuals who are accepted to the program spend 3 years receiving on-the-job training and completing educational experience. At the end of the program, participants can advance to careers within the World Bank or work elsewhere. To be considered for the program, applicants must be citizens of one of the World Bank’s member countries and be 28 years of age or younger. A master’s or bachelor’s degree in a field related to finance or development and 1 to 3 years of work experience are also required.
World Food Program
The World Food Program offers the Junior Professional Officer Program to allow young professionals the opportunity to gain work experience in civil service. To qualify for a position through the program, applicants must be from Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland or the United States. Candidates must be less than 32 to 35 years of age, depending on what country they are from. A master’s degree in a relevant field and 3 to 4 years of professional work experience are also required. Applicants must also be fluent in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian or Spanish.