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How to become a UN Junior Professional Officer


Starting off a human rights career is not an easy task. Graduating from university and finding a job in today’s economic climate can be pretty daunting. Nonetheless, there are different avenues you can pursue. As a young professional, age can sometimes seem like it is working against you. However, youth is a factor that the United Nations (UN) positively considers in their employment channels, whether it is internship programmes, fellowships or junior officer initiatives. For several years the UN has run their Junior Professional Officer programme (JPO) for young people under the age of 35, it is famous for its highly accessible nature and career enhancing factors. Although, it is competitive it is worth the challenge to apply and take the plunge. This is all you need to know about the UN JPO:

What is the UN JPO programme:

It is a unique programme designed for young professionals usually between the ages of 25-35 years old, however this varies depending on which UN organisation you apply to. The following UN organisations feature in the programme: UNDP and its affiliated funds/programmes, UNCDF, UNDOCO, UNV, UN Women, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNIDO (on occasional cases), UNITAR, UNOPS, UNRWA, UNSSC, UNU, UPU, WHO.

The JPO programme provides a great opportunity to gain training in your respective field, develop skills and contacts, as well as direct experience in a UN country office working on human rights and humanitarian development. You will be given a one year assignment usually in a developing country, working under supervision and will be directly involved in the technical programming of various humanitarian projects. Although, the initial assignment is one year only, it can be extended from two years up to four years. Your salary scale is based on the UN system of entry-level UN professional staff (P1 – P2).

How to Apply:

The first thing to consider is whether or not you are eligible to apply. It is important to note that JPO`s are sponsored by their own governments, meaning if you are a French national then the French government will sponsor your participation.  Hence, if you are a national from one of the following countries you are eligible to apply.

To submit an application you must do so via your government, hence for full details and application process just click on the link of your country above.  If your country is not on the list then panic not! As thankfully, the government of the Netherlands through the Nedworc Foundation sponsors applicants from 53 developing countries. You can view the full list here. Also a good tip: if you have dual nationality or roots from different countries you should look at which country would be more favourable for your application.



In terms of qualifications, work and voluntary experience applicants should have:

  • Degree equivalent to a Bachelor’s Degree or a Master’s Degree in a field relevant to the functions requested in the job description – development-related discipline.
  • At least two to four years of relevant work experience. Work experience in a developing country is an asset.
  • Proficiency in English (spoken and written) and working knowledge of a second language of the United Nations (Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish). In some cases organisations like the UNHCR only require English however a second language is an impressive asset to your application.
  • Demonstration of strategic thinking, ability to articulate your ideas, teamwork and independent working, strong capacity for cultural and gender sensitivity.
  • Passionate interest the UN and humanitarian issues, openness and willingness to live in developing countries.

Success Stories:

Starting off in a new country is an exciting adventure into the unknown for anyone. Doing so for a JPO is an even bigger challenge and mind-blowing opportunity to grow as a young professional. Gaining hands on experience into human rights and the humanitarian field in such a way can truly help define your career and boost your confidence and knowledge.  Nelly Blessings, a young female professional from Kenya had this to share about her time working as a Programme Assistant with the UNFPA in Jamaica.

“I am a community health worker from Nairobi, Kenya and hold a Masters in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies from the London School of Economics.  I have a multi-cultural background as I grew up in the UK and Kenya. Through this diversity I believe I reflect the principles of the United Nations. Prior to taking up this assignment in Jamaica, I had been living in South Africa working in the area of public health, in particular the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls.

Upon graduating from university I took up an internship in India working with a grassroots NGO, tackling female genital mutilation, child marriage and HIV. My responsibilities included campaign implementation, monitoring and evaluation, analysis of harmful and traditional practices and coordination of partnerships. It was a life changing and enriching experience whereby I witnessed first hand the harsh realities faced by Indian women and girls. I coordinated meeting with parents, teachers, village and religious leaders and local authorities. I also played a key role in imitating a local campaign to end child marriage and ensure that girls remain in school. After, successfully completing my internship I returned to Kenya and continued working on female genital mutilation and access to sanitary products. I focused on the human rights of women and girls and collaborated with a wide network of youth advocates, social workers and health professionals.

Frustrated with the status of women and girls’ sexual reproductive health and rights, I decided that I wanted to have a greater positive impact on the global rights of women and girls. Hence, I applied for the UNFPA Junior Professional Programme. I can say it is the best decision I have ever made in my life! As UNFPA`s JPO for the Sub Regional Office in the Caribbean I was the main point of contact for emergency preparedness and gender and reproductive health sensitization. My tasks were so diverse and comprised of different components on sexual reproductive health and the prevention of gender based violence in emergencies. I was given a lot of responsibilities including programme management and national coordination. Through the JPO programme I have been given the opportunity to build my professional experience and technical skills. Finally, I would encourage any young professional to apply to the UN JPO programme, it is truly amazing.”

Checkout this success stories video.

The JPO programme is one of the best ways to gain entry-level positions within the UN system. So what are you waiting for? Check out the official website.


About Author

Global Peace Careers is a website dedicated to career related information in the sectors humanitarian aid and action, international development, peace and conflict studies, negotiation, conflict resolution, diplomacy and international law. On our website we collect and distribute information about entry level jobs, paid internships, affordable master degrees, free online courses and other opportunities.

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Disclosure: Global Peace Careers may be compensated by course providers.