Once upon a time, I was an intern at United Nations headquarters in New York. Back in the spring of 2010 in fact. I wrote about the experience on this site, and didn’t really actually finish documenting it (story of my life). However, it seems there is still a demand for information about the internship programme, considering the amount of emails and comments I get receive.
I’ve kept this here more for posterity than anything else. I’m sure there is much more up to date and relevant information does exist now on the internet.
But anyway, below are some frequently asked questions regarding the internship programme that were relevant at the time I did the internship (2010).
Keep in mind, they’re answered from my own perspective and are not intended to be definitive answers. I’ve provided some answers to questions that keep cropping up, but if you have a specific question, leave a comment on the post and I’ll try to get around to addressing it. You can also catch me on Twitter. Naturally, comments are moderated, so play nice. Inappropriate language or aggressive trolling will be discouraged.
*Editorial disclaimer #1* Keep in mind – I do not work for the UN nor am I affiliated with the internship program in any way. I’ll re-emphasise: these are practical tips that I’ve formulated based on my own experience of doing a ten week internship at UN headquarters in New York. UN documentation, including internship documentation, will trump anything I’ve mentioned here. The intention of this guide is to simply give you a reassuring and dynamic resource as well as insight into life as an intern at the UN.
*Editorial disclaimer #2* – Inspira – Since I completed my internship, the UN have moved to an online application system called Inspira (or the UN’s careers portal) (here’s a link to how to use Inspira). I haven’t used this system so I cannot answer questions regarding how to apply using this system. If someone out there has some helpful comments on using this system, please get in contact and I’ll put them up here.
Who am I? Well, read about me here.
Table of Contents
- Why do an internship?
- What do you do in an internship?
- What qualifications do you need?
- How do I apply for an internship and what tips can you give me on applying?
- What happens in the selection process?
- How many applications are received and how many interns get accepted each session?
- How do I ensure I intern in a department or area I’m interested in?
- What departments offer internships?
- What are the alternatives?
- How long does an internship last?
- How much work does one do on an average day?
- What are the costs of an internship?
- Can I get funding?
- How much should I budget for accommodation?
- Where should I get accomodation?
- What visa do I need?
- Need a further question answered?
- Comments from others, former and current interns and the like
- Other resources
1. Why do an internship?
Well, why not? The United Nations is pretty much the jewel in the crown for students of international relations, international development, or international humanitarian law. It is a great water-cooler topic of conversation. It is something that will make all your friends jealous.
I can tell you this, if you’re thinking about applying, it is worth the expense if only for being able to spend a few months in New York, quite possibly the greatest city on the planet.
Internships can be valuable experience for those about to enter the work force. One can learn much about the office environment and the daily pressures of working for large bureacratic institution. There are, of course, some office politics, but I was fortunate enough to work in a great team. I did, however, hear a few horror stories from other interns. Rest assurred, it is possible to change departments should it not work out (though chances of success are unknown).
Many people do internships under the impression that it looks good on the CV. As I said, working at the UN may make you the envy of your friends but do not expect it to land you a job, either within the IR field or within the UN.
2. What do you do in an internship?
It varies. You may find yourself doing administrative work, compiling reports, providing recommendations, running errands, attending meetings, taking meeting minutes. It really depends on the demands of your supervisor or the particular department. With reference to my own experience, I assisted with peacekeeping training documentation, copy-editing, as well as provided specialist IT assistance.
Do not expect to spend your internship hanging with Ban-Ki Moon, being called in to provide expert advice at the Security Council, nor solve all dilemmas on the Korean peninsula.
Outside of the formal ‘work’, many things intern activities do occur. You can get involved in the various intern committees that the internship department sets up. These committees do things like organise visits to the various national missions to the UN, organise social or sports events, publish an intern paper talking about events at the UN or places to eat or drink or even stories from specific interns.
During my time, I was head of the sports committee and help publish the intern newsletter and it was a very rewarding experience, mostly because I got to know many of my fellow interns.
You’re also usually permitted to attend many of the conferences, meetings and other open forums that occur in UN headquarters. I was once lucky to get the opportunity to attend an open UN Security Council discussion on violence in Palestine as well as a NGO-organised discussion on nuclear weapons (it was organised by ICAN and was very interesting because it preceded the review of the NPT treaty in 2010).
3. What qualifications do I need to undertake an internship?
To be an intern, you must be enrolled in a university or higher education degree as a student. Typically those who intern either are studying their masters or are doing a relevant PhD. You must be doing postgraduate work to intern (i.e not undergraduate).
However, the backgrounds of interns is highly varied. I met interns who had backgrounds in international relations, international development, humanitarian law, business studies, information technology, geography, communications and even architecture.
Unfortunately, it seems that being unemployed or simply being interested in the field doesn’t cut it. Sad face.
4. How do I apply for an internship and what tips can you give me on applying?
As I said, you must be a student to get an internship. Unemployed doesn’t cut it. Every now and then, typically three to four times a year, the UN advertise the internships on their jobs board. You will have to go through the motions, create a ‘personal history profile’ with all your relevant details, skills, education and work history, and draft a cover note to attach to your application.
One thing that pays to bear in mind is that the majority of people applying for UN interns will probably have skills in, or are studying, degrees like law or politics or international relations or development. If you’re doing those, you’re going to have to emphasise not only your skills in these areas but also your other skills.
In my instance, while I studied a degree in international relations, I also had a degree in history and information technology and five years experience in database systems. Therefore, I could emphasise these skills in addition to my knowledge of international relations.
The key to making a good application, I believe, is to emphasise skills that will help you in a general office and administrative area because, in many ways, that’s probably what you will be doing.
5. What happens in the selection process?
The intern department will send around a pool of applicants to various departments and teams within the UN who have expressed interest in having an intern. These teams then peruse the intern list, decide a shortlist and then approach the potential candidates.
In some cases, you will do an interview, typically over the phone. This doesn’t happen in all cases, however I did a phone interview and fortunately passed!
6. How many applications are received and how many interns get accepted each session?
I’m told there is over 3,000 applications for each session of which around 250 are accepted at different stages of each session. So success rate is below 10%.
That shouldn’t discourage you though. I applied to the programme twice, and got it on the second go. Actually, I got offered three internships on the second go. So miracles can happen.
7. How do I ensure I intern in a department or area I’m interested in?
Short answer – there are no guarantees. You may be offered multiple internships at different stages of the process As I said, I got offered at least three at different stages including two very interesting ones after I accepted my first offer – but that’s the luck of the draw!. Each offer could be correlated to my specific skills in areas such as IT and procurement rather than my university marks or interest in international relations.
My advice is, if you are offered an internship that is of at least some interest, TAKE IT. You most probably will not be offered another one.
If you are trying to get into a specific department, I do not really have an answer other than to research key people and perhaps see if you can approach them. However, You will still have to go through the whole application process.
8. What departments offer internship?
Any department may request an intern and many do. My memory fails me, but I do recall that the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) usually gets a large chunk of the intern intake. I worked in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) which also seemed to take a large number of interns. The Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) also had many lawyer types interning.
9. What are the alternatives to the UN?
Missed out on UN internship? Don’t fret! There are other often more interesting options!
There are lots of Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) based in and around UN Headquarters. They often do very valuable work in conjunction with the UN and are sometimes even much further advance on particular issues than relevant departments within the organisation. Often interns at NGOs get to a lot more exciting things like lobbying diplomats or organising international conferences on specific issues. You might consider approaching them.
There are also internships available at the various national missions to the UN. These may be of interest.
10. How long does an internship last?
Typically, the UN asks you to do a minimum of ten weeks. It is also very common for people to extend their internships and you shouldn’t be surprised if your supervisor or your department asks you. So if you’re really keen, you may want to make allowances for this possibility.
11. How much work does one do in an average day/week?
Most departments don’t expect interns to do more work than the average working week. You’re looking at a usual 9-5 day job. Although I know of certain Norwegians who worked outrageous hours 🙂
As long as you ask in advance, your supervisor is usually more than happy to give you a reasonable amount of time off to go to interesting things in and around the UN secretariat.
Keep in mind that you’re an intern. Not a slave. You’re paying a lot of money to get to the UN so, therefore, you want to maximise your enjoyment of the experience. But also, there is an agreement in principle not to abuse the priveleges of being an intern so requests to go hang out in the Security Council chamber every day probably won’t be looked on favourably.
12. What are the costs of an internship?
As far as I know, the UN do not pay interns. I’ve heard rumours of external funding, but do not count on this. No one I knew in the programme got outside funding. Everyone was entirely self-funded, including me.
Living in New York is costly. Very costly. Particularly if you like to socialise. Your costs will include flights, food, accommodation, social activities and transport around the city.
The life of an intern is incredibly social, so you should make allowances for ‘doing things’ – whether that’s going to attractions, eating out, bar hopping, or simply having lunch out with your fellow interns.
13. Can I get funding?
Seriously, don’t bank on funding. As I said above, the UN don’t pay interns. I didn’t know a single intern who had received funding when I was there. I wouldn’t even know where to start to try get funding. Be 100% prepared to rely on your own funds.
14. How much should I budget for accommodation?
Accommodation varies but typically budget up to $1,500 USD a month should be enough. I lived in midtown Manhattan for $1050 a month in a two bedroom apartment which was a good deal.
The internship programme director usually gives you a great accommodation list. Look through that in detail. I do not recommend using Craigslist. I had a bad experience as did many other interns I met. Best to avoid.
If you’re desperate, you might try roomarama.com.
15. Where should I get accommodation?
The UN Secretariat is in midtown Manhatten, not far from Grand Central. Therefore, living on Manhatten is probably ideal. I was lucky enough to live a few blocks away, but living that close is largely unrealistic. Many live in Brooklyn, some in Queens. One (crazy) intern lived at the other end of Long Island and commuted in. Most places in Manhatten are expensive to live in. Harlem seems a good choice for those wanting cheaper accommodation. Many interns end up living here. Living in the Bronx or further north will mean an hour+ commute via subway.
In hindsight, if I was going back to intern, I’d love to live in East Village or Lower East Side. Lots of cool stuff happens here.
16. What visa do I need?
Probably the most common question asked by any potential intern.
Unless you’re a US citizen, you’re most probably going to need to get a visa to enter the country. We all know the UN is international territory, but unless you’re planning to arrive via helicopter into the UN Secretariat and camping hobo style on the front lawn, you’re most likely have to enter the United States of Barack Obama.
Visas are a bit of a minefield. My best answer is “whatever the US embassy in your country of residence says you need”. Many come in on the 90 Day Visa Waiver programme available to certain nationals. You have to pre-register with the US embassy for this and it can be done online.
My visa story? I decided it was worth the time and money to get a B2 tourist visa. This meant I had to fill and application form online, provide passport photos, fly to Sydney (where the US embassy is located in Australia) to do a quick interview and give them my passport so they could attach the visia to it.
If you chose to do it in a similar manner, you should give yourself a lot of time to sort this out. As soon as you’re confirmed as an intern, get visa’ing. It would be pretty bad to turn up at JFK without a suitable visa and the immigration official denying you entry.
Getting a longer visa (like the B2) is essential if you’re making plans to extend your internship. If you only plan to stay the 10 weeks, perhaps visa waiver is the best.
With regards to the above, do not take my word as gospel. The US embassy is the ultimate authority on US visas so get in contact with them.
17. More info? Need a question answered?
If you leave a constructive comment below, I’ll do my best to answer with reference to what limited information I have. I also use twitter fairly regularly.
Please don’t email me or leave comments like ‘can you look over my application’ because, I can tell you now, it won’t happen!
Also, if you’ve been an intern and want to add to, expand, or correct any of the above, feel free to also comment or contact me via twitter.
Best of luck!
18. Comments from others, former and current interns and the like
Some have graciously contributed further insight. Here is a selection of messages I have received regarding the FAQ.
Noemi from the UN Interns LinkedIn group wrote in:
I interned at the UN secretariat for 4 months and had a pretty similar experience. I have a few things to add.
- The average length of an internship is 3 months that can be extended to a maximum of 6 months. You basically begin in the department that accepted you, but you can look to change the department you intern once you’re at the UN. I was in the Dept of Public Information and was constantly asking for an internship with the Office of legal affairs and I got one in the end. You just have to send emails with your CV to the different departments you’re interested in. It is best to finish your initial internship first and then look for a new one for the rest of your time permitted at the UN. If after 6 months you still have the money and the disposition to intern. Legally you aren’t allowed but you can ask to be a volunteer, or you can work with NGO’s or your country’s mission to the UN. When I was there I finished my internship with DPI got my internship at the OLA department and then asked for one at my country’s mission to the UN. There are a lot of options for you guys to intern there. The hardest thing is to get hired by them.
- Interning at the UN does in no case guarantees you will be hired by the UN after your internship in fact there is a rule you cannot be a hired as a professional at the UN for 6 months after the end of your internship. The exception is G-level positions – that is executive assistant work or consultant positions that are temporary. They most likely expect you to have at least 5 year of professional experience in the field of the job posting. Basically they appreciate our work but pretty much will not hire us after, which is fair thinking of how many interns go through the UN in the three sessions of internships they have per year (around 750) so it would be hard for them to hire all of as. Anyways don’t go there thinking you’re going to get a job there it most likely not going to be the one in a thousand that gets hired, but it helps with working in some other places.
- Third and final thing I want to add is that the only way to control which department you might end up is to focus your cover letter towards the area of interest you have. If you’re interested in journalism and you want to work for UN Radio, talk in your cover letter about your passion for journalism, radio and so on. This is just an example but I’m sure you guys catch my drift. The only way to get to where you want to go is RESEARCH – do research on the issues your desired department is doing now, main news in the department, possible outside organisations they collaborate with and develop some experience related to those issues, or organisations the more your education extracurricular activities fit in with the department the more chances you will have to get asked to intern for them. Know what you want, do your homework and you will get it.
Best of luck,
A commenter, Isabel, asked in April 2011:
Hello! Thanks for the FAQ, very helpful!
I am interested in applying for the UN Office in Viena, as I am researching crime and UNODC is based there. They don’t have a deadline for applications, and I suppose the process is pretty much the same, maybe less competitive, as there may be less applications than to NY. What do you think?
A friend of mine and former student colleague of mine, Michael Addicott, is presently interning at the UN in Vienna. He had the following helpful advice.
The UNODC in Vienna does not impose deadlines as they take a steady stream of interns all year round. On any given week, you will find new interns about the offices.
My advice is ensure you are thorough with your application. From the other interns I have met, each department takes their interns based on that interns experience, be it professional or academic.
I am doing my internship with the corruption and economic crimes branch due to my Masters course and work experience in banking.
If you are researching crime, I would be very specific about the areas of crime that interest you the most, and the reasons why they interest you.
There was no interview process for mine. It was a case of the department I am in coming forward and requesting an intern, then the intern coordinators find the most suitable candidates. So your task in the application is to make yourself the most suitable candidate for the department you are most interested in. Be sure that your references are informed of your application, because they WILL get an email asking them to fill out a form about you and your suitability. You are likely to be contacted about an internship before your references are though.
I can’t shed any light on the number of applicants they take. I do know, however, that they maintain a database for a year or so of potential applicants, so I would imagine they would receive quite a few, particularly from Europe.
I received an offer approximately a month or two after my application was submitted. If you don’t receive anything within 3-6 months, I would suggest applying again. From what I hear around the office, most departments take interns at least once a year, so keeping yourself at the forefront should eventually get you seen if your application is suitable.
I hope this is some sort of help and that you do end up getting an internship in Vienna.
19. Other resources
Harvard University have a interesting Insider’s Guide to United Nations Jobs and Internships that looks to be a great resource.
Another great discussion thread on internships is located here under the heading “Why the (UN) internship should be unpaid”.
In January 2012, I’ve applied for an internship at the Capacity Development Office (CDO) to be aligned with my Master’s project starting in June 2012.
I got informed that I need to set the outline for my project with my supervisor during the course of April. However, the status of my application is still “under consideration”. I’ve contacted the Inspira Support Center, which is administering the Online Application Tool. Unfortunately, they weren’t much of a help, as they can’t see particular applications and don’t forward any enquiries to the person in charge. In addition, I directly emailed the CDO but I haven’t received any reply.
Do you have any recommendations how I should proceed?
Marc, looks like you might be stuck between a rock and a hard place. I’d worry that without a direct contact, it’s going to be difficult to find out who you’re working with at the UN, and probably hard to get answers.
If it were me, I’d be talking to my supervisor to let them know that the processes are extremely slow – frustratingly slow actually. Then I would be trying to track down an administration person in the unit where you’re going to be interning – ringing around until you get who you need to talk too. I wouldn’t rely on email – it’s much too passive.
I applied for a fall internship. I got a call from the US Mission NY in regards to an IT position. They told me what the position was troubleshooting and inventory stuff. I have a masters in Comp Sci from PA. On the phone the lady mentioned I got selected and all I have to say is yes, and she will send the documents to DC for security clearance.I did not have any sort of interview, is that how they select candidates? Also, my career goals are around the lines of systems analysts. Would this internship be of any help? I would be grateful for a response so I can really decide what to do.
Yep, this happens. People during my internship group just got directly selected without an interview. So don’t be surprised (also, congrats….).
Can’t tell if an internship would be of specific help to you, the UN isn’t exactly google – remember it’s an international institution, not a tech company. But if you’re after real world experience, it’s a good place to start.
Thanks Darragh. Got to wait for the papers for the security clearance process. Would that process be long?
I am supposed to start my internship in UN headquarters this summer.
The thing is that I am not sure what kind of US visa should I apply. Actually, I am from Uzbekistan, but now studying in France. In offer letter they’ve stated that B-1 visa is the most common one, so I was wondering it’s B-1 visa no matter where you are applying from?
After search in US embassy web site here in Paris, the only visa for internship seems to be J type with SEVIS fee to be paid. So, a bit confused. So did anyone do UN internship applying for a visa from not-native country?
Any feedback would be much appreciated.
Try give the US Embassy in Paris a ring and ask them. Remember the UN is on ‘international territory’ – you’re not working in the US technically.
I got a B-1 visa, but plently of interns just came in on the visa waiver program.
Keep in mind these rules may haev changed since I got my internship visa back in 2009. The US Embassy has the final say!
Thank you Darragh for your prompt reply. I checked with US embassy in Tashkent, and it’s definitely B-1 visa.
By the way, I am now looking for an apartment and for roommate(s) in NY. I’m staring my internship from June till October, 2012. So if any one is interested in sharing an apartment, just let me know.
Alisher – check out this place in NYC. I stayed there along with a heap of other interns. http://www.kolpingny.org/
thanx Darragh, I’ll check it.
I’ve got an important question for you regarding UN internship…UN sent me a e-mail in which they wrote that I was accepted as intern. Anyway in the final step they asked me to transfer money (4.950$) to their bank, because from this year they will help interns in finding accomodation, flights, etc..so I wonder if for you was the same or, instead of, you had to find accomodation, flights, etc..on your own as website seems to say. Therefore I think that it’s a cheat because the bank and the beneficiary are asiatic.
Please reply to me beacuse I’m really worry about it. Thanks a lot!
Federico – that sounds like a scam to me. I seriously would question why the UN would ask interns for money. This never happened to me and for no one I knew donig internships.
Have a look at scamwarners.com for more info on these types of operations.
thanks a lot Darragh…anyway I got some info and I knew that it’s a cheat…
Thanks for ur inf! I registered UN career website and applied three intern positions. Now my three application status are “under consideration”. But they have not contacted me or email me, I just wonder how long will the status of under consideration last? And what is the next status ?
No worries. I’m not sure if I can be of any help. The UN internship programme use a new web interface to notify people which tells people ‘under consideration’. I never had to use this interface, so I can’t be sure. I know it took about 3 months from when I applied til my interview with my department, and then I started two months after that.
I am having my visa appointment on the 9th, and was wondering whether applying for a visa as a UN intern has any positive impact on your chances to have one? I’m kinda worried about it as applying from a foreign country.
What do you think about that Darragh? or other?
Any feedback ‘d much appreciated.
Hi Alisher, the visa office will certainly ask you why you’re entering the US, and you should bring your UN documentation or confirmation letter to show why you are – specifically you’re interning at the UN. The tricky bit is they might think you’re ‘working in the US’ (you’re not really – you’re working at the UN which is international territory). The more documetnation you have, the better. This is what I did and I got my visa.
Well, I think i have enough documents to prove my intention to leave US territory after internship. I hope that’ll be enough (cross the fingers).
I am in the same position as you are. I am an Indian national doing my Masters in the UK. I start my internship on June 8th in the Department of Public Information. My Visa interview is scheduled on the 11th of May. I think I have sufficient documents but I am a bit worried since I am applying from a third country. But I cannot leave for India in the midst of my course. Also, I have been rejected a B2 visa twice before on the grounds of lack of strong ties with the UK. Could you please email me on email@example.com after you are done with the interview and tell me how it went? Good luck for your interview, I hope you get it.
Why not just go in on the usual 90 day visa? Do you qualify for that?
The best way to prove you’re leaving by the way probably is a return flight ticket!
I’ll be doing my internship in DKPO and I’d like to know what were your tasks when you were there. I know that my knowledge of French will be drawn upon but I really hope I won’t be spending much of my time translating documents from French to English.
Many thanks for your answer,
Well, I was working in ITS – the training service specifically. I did some administrative tasks, wrote some reports, as well as did some IT work (as in specifications, not like IT support) as I have some background in IT. DPKO is pretty big so I would wager you’d probably be in some area totally different to me. But congrats anyway! Hope it all goes great.
I appreciate your quick answer; it’ll be in a different department indeed. Yeah, let’s hope everything goes well! Thanks again.
Hey, guys doing internship this summer, why not meet everybody here in NYC and make best of our time in NYC? Looking forward to meeting you soon. Thanx darragh for your advices!!!
Do you have an idea what is it like to intern in a national mission to the UN? Is it worth it?
I haven’t done one nor met anyone who has, but I presume the experience would be roughly similar.
I am going to do an internship for the mission of Lebanon. However, the mission did not send me any accommodation list. Do you have an idea about how can I have access to the list you talked about? If not, do you know how can I find a good studio in Manhattan?
Thank you for your help!
Hi Sam. I’ll drop you an email with a suggestion (to the email address you used when filling out this comment). one bed studio in new york will cost a fortune.
I’m interested in interning at the UNESCO office in NY. Do you know anything about their application process/internship experience? Did you meet people who interned there during your time in New York? Any information you have is greatly appreciated.
Thank so much!
Hi Kathy. Sorry, I personally don’t. I knew one or two at UNESCO and I get the feeling they applied direct. I’m not in touch with them anymore, unfortunately. Sorry I can’t be of more help.
Thank you so much for your kind suggestions. I just received an email about the phone interview from UN HR, is there some tips about the phone interview? What kind of questions will be asked?
Look forward for your respond~ Many thanks! Sincere
Hi there. I’d suggest reading at least the exec summary of the last annual report of the area you’re interviewing for. Have some idea of the purpose of the institution as a whole and the role of your department within it. I always go to interviews with an idea of identifying the problems each job involves solving and how I can help solve them. That gives your interviewer the impression that you understand the role, and understand how you’re going to fit in. Best of luck.
Not sure if anyone has experienced this. I received two offers from the UN for internships from two different offices. I’ve tentatively accepted one, but haven’t signed a contract. Now I’ve received another offer from an office that’s more in my field of study – and which I would prefer. It took a month and a half before I heard from this second one, so I’d given up the idea of receiving an offer.
Now I don’t know what to do. Would it be wrong to pull out of the first one and accept the second one?
Just had a question – not sure if anyone has experienced this. I receieved an offer of an internship at one office and have tentatively accepted it, but haven’t signed a contract yet.
Now I’ve received an offer of internship from a second office which is much more relevant to my field of study.
I hadn’t expected to receive two offers – and this second one came nearly two months after I applied.
Now I don’t know what to do. I feel obligated to stick to the first one, since I’ve tentatively accpeted it, but feel that the second one might be a better opportunity for me in the long run.
Any ideas? What is the protocol on this kind of thing?
(I tried to submit this comment earlier – but apparently it didn’t go through. If it shows up twice – I’m sorry!)
If you haven’t signed off on the original offer, I’d go with the one you like the most. Tentative acceptance is exactly that – tentative. I’d go with your gut feeling on this!
This exact same thing happened to me as well, but I had already completely accepted by the time the second offer came in, so I stayed with the first department. It was fine for me as my colleagues were really quite good to work with, so I have no regrets.
Hey Guys :
I was wondering if i can get any insights of the selection process. I am hoping to get a place at the end of February 2012.
So far I have received few emails telling me that I already passed to the next step of the process. For some reason they are asking me to have a test ( Excel & Word) , which im very surprise because i have not found any information or anyone who have done it before maybe its a new thing or is just for the department that im applying,
If i pass this test i will be on the list for a possible interview.
At the moment i dont know what to expect, im quite worried about the test .
Does anyone know what the test is about ?? Do i have any chances to get a place??
I’ve never head of those specific tests, but then again, my internship was over 2 years ago now.
As far as I can see, internships and how people get them are determined by the departments which are looking for interns. Obviously, in this case, they need someone with proven skills in Ms Office. So while I’ve never heard of it, I don’t think it’s an unreasonable request.
well i passed the test now i got an email to arrange a phone interview. does any one have any idea of what kind of questions they normally ask??
well i passed the test now i got an email to arrange a phone interview. do u now what sort of questions do they ask ??
I did a phone interview. Basically it was just like a job interview – they’ll ask you about your motivation for applying, whats skills you have that are relevant to the internship, how you can solve problems specific to the the department you’re working on, and so forth. I’d read up on the department you’re applying for and if they have a annual report, read the executive summary. Good luck.
woo thanks for answering. i had the interview this morning , but i dunno how long i will have to wait for to get a final answer 🙁 .. im exited and at the same time very nervous 🙁 … did u get an answer straight away?
Excellent, good luck! I think it took about a month for me to find out post-interview. So be prepared to wait!
what did u say u have a second interview ?
Nope, I only had one interview.
Cool and what r u doing now ?? if might i ask?? How long ago did u finish the internship.
My process has been very quick, everything has been happening really fast, just two weeks ago i got the email that i was on the list of possible candidates
Hi Carolina. Sorry for taking a while to reply. I work at a university doing business analyst work regarding international students. I finished my internship in early 2010.
Cool and what r u doing now ?? if might i ask?? How long ago did u finish the internship.
My process has been very quick, everything has been happening really fast, just two weeks ago i got the email that i was on the list of possible candidates 🙂
I’m a Chinese student who currently pursuing a master degree in US. I have been looking for UN internship since I was a sophomore, lol. Finally, I am a graduate student and eligible for a try.
I want to apply to multiple departments to make it more possible. My problem is, if I was declined by one department, will this affect my application to other department? Can I applied to several positions in one single department?
It’s really confusing, hope you can help me. Thank you!!
Hey Veronica. I suspect it won’t. When I was doing my internship, there was a central office intern office but that was usually for helping interns who had been successful rather than coordinate interviews, but departments searched for their own interns independently. I doubt there would be much contact between them. (however, don’t quote me on that). I’d say apply away!
Thank You for reply!!! I will try my best!
No worries – best of luck and let us know how you went!
Hi Darragh, first of all thanks for the useful tips. Just a question, which I hope wasn’t already asked: I wanted to apply for an internship in the summer of 2013, around which month would you advise sending in the cv? The sooner the better, or would october/november be too early?
I’m not referring to internships with a deadline such as those that crop up in the un career page, but open internship from organization (such as OECD) which accept interns at any time. thanks a lot!
Hi Niclas, thanks for commenting. I’m not sure if I can be of much help, having only done the usual UN internship.
That aside, the spring internship program at the UN (Jan-March) asked for applications 4-5 months prior to the actual start of the internship. Interviews were 2-3 months prior to the start, so that might give you an idea of the timeline.
I don’t know when the spring internship starts, but I’d aim to send in a CV and good cover letter about 4-5 months prior to.
Hey! I’m currently enrolled in a Master’s programme in law, and I really want to apply for a UN internship in New York. However, I can’t find anything about grade requirements. Is my CV more important than grades, or how does this work?
I have a dual citizenship (Norwegian and US), will this be beneficial?
re: citizenship – well, if you’re dual, I presume you don’t have to worry about visas! Which is a great thing.
I think CV is definitely more important than grades. While grades will take on some importance, remember most of the stuff you will be doing will probably be administrative so showing you have specific skills relevant to office environment will be the most important. But feel free to mention your great grades!
I’m unsure if there are grade requirements. When I was doing mine two years ago, I think it may have been simply that being enrolled in a postgraduate course was enough.
This is probably a really stupid question, but here goes. It says that you have to be currently enrolled as a graduate in order to apply for an internship. Does that also mean that you must take on the internship during your masters, or do you then do your internship after finishing your masters?
Thanks in advance
To clarify, the rules are, as far as I know, you have to be enrolled in a post grad course to be eligible – meaning you have to be currently doing one of these programs and not have graduated. You can’t do an internship after you have graduated.
Could you give more information about the selection process? How does it work? Is there some kind of interview or only the on line application via Inspira? Are some supporting documents required at the latter stage of selection process?
Thanks a lot!
Hi Simona. I’m not sure if I can help you re inspira. I did my internship before the UN introduced that system.
I outline the selection process in point 5 above:
I’m afraid that’s really all the advice I can give. I was shortlisted, then did an interview 2 months later, then informed I was successful a month after that. Sorry :/
Firstly, thanks for all the information you have been providing – I have looked at your site a couple of times throughout the selection process and it helped clear a few matters up.
I have just found out that I will be completing an internship between Nov.19th-Jan.25th (this year) and I thought that this site would be a good opportunity to get in contact with any other UN Interns who will be looking for accommodation during this period and would consider shared-accommodation.
I am a 24 year old Australian male who is normal in all the right ways but not too much that it makes me dull, haha.
Thanks again Darragh, I appreciate your contribution!
No worries Dominic. Congrats on the internship and best of luck with finding accommodation. I’ve actually got an old UN internship accommodation guide floating around, would you like a copy of it?
Thanks for the offer Darragh, you’re a legend, but I have received the UN accommodation guide and am starting to investigate. Thought it would be worth looking at other options too. Best of luck and thanks again.
I would also like a copy… 🙂
Hey, when you get the chance could I get a copy please. Thanks for all of the info! I’m starting my internship on Jan 7th in the Office of Partnerships.
I was hoping if you can send me a sample cover letter (via email) for my UN internship application.
Hi there Evelyn. I’m sorry – I can’t. A cover letter will be like any other cover letter you would do for a job – there are heaps of examples on the internet. They’re your best best.
Thank you for all the information. I read everything with great interest. I am from Uruguay and currently enrolled in a Master’s Program in International Affairs here in France. I just got accepted at the UN for an internship. Since I have never stopped studying (As soon as I got my Bachelor’s I started my Master’s), I have little professionnal experience (I’ve had very interesting internships but I have not worked for more than a year in total) and I’ve been accepted very quicky without any interview. I don’t understand since I have literally zero experience in the field in which I have been accepted. Is this normal? Thank you for answering!
Hi Sandra. congrats on being accepted! I really hope you enjoy your experience. And you shouldn’t fret about how you got in or how quickly you were accepted – trust me, many people I knew in the internship program had the exact same experience. In some cases, departments just hire off CVs without interviews. Actually, I have a feeling that being interviewed was less common when it came to finding potential interns.
Hi everyone, thank you so much Darraugh for this blog!! I live in the Caribbean, an island called Trinidad and Tobago. I have been selected for the Summer period internship. The letters says that I will be in NY but i would have to make short shuttle stops to the other head quarters ie special post allowance would be given to me. Is this common?
Hi Casandra. I haven’t heard of that before…hopefully you don’t have to pay for all these flights between posts. Can’t say with any certainty really, but congrats on getting in.
I hope so. The letter says that I will received meal/transportation subsidization as well as overtime and special post allowance…… Any idea what this means? I suppose it is because I would have to go to the other headquarters. I am super excited but really confused.
Hi! I was selected to be an intern at UN Women from Jan-July 2013, and was hoping that anyone had advice of cheap accommodation, or suggestions on who I could approach to rent a cheap room/apt. As most interns, I have a very tight budget, and the cheaper the better! Thanks so much for your help!
Hi Tica. I believe in the FAQ it might give you a heads up. Did the UN send you an accommodation guide? My tip is to avoid craiglist.
Thank you for answering! I’ve already sent the letter signed to the UN. You won’t believe me, yesterday I got accepted from another internship also in an international organisation that belongs to the UN system. Of course, it doesn’t look as impressive as the UN in a CV but the internship is much more interesting.. Despite the fact, I think the best thing to do is to honor my word and stay with them. What do you think ? It’s not a very easy decision as you can see lol
Hey, I have a brief question about the timing of internships. I am just wondering how strict the requirement that you are enrolled in a postgraduate program during the internship is.
For instance, I am currently in the middle of a 12 month masters which finishes in September 2013. Thus, I would only be able to apply for an internship for fall 2013.
However, I will have just graduated so won’t be in a postgraduate program at the time of the internship. Does that mean I can’t be considered?
When do other people who are doing a masters of 12 months do their internships?
Sorry Daniel, I missed this question in my moderation queue.
You might be able to swing it with the graduation loophole. Usually they’re pretty strict though and require proof you’re enrolled. The other option would be to defer your second semester (and thus still be in enrolled) and do the internship mid-masters.
You’d probably have to confirm this with the UN intern office (if they still have one). I’d just try your luck…if you get in, you get in!
Darragh, thanks for helping spread information about UN internships. I am about to conclude a 3 month internship at United Nations Development Programme headquarters in New York (DC-1 building) and have also been trying to help people find information. For anyone interested, I have listed much of the info, resources, and insider knowledge that I have gained on my blog: marissawilson.wordpress.com
Hi Marissa. That’s some handy information there…do you mind if I link to your blog in the FAQ body above?
Hi, Darragh, thank you so much for your sharing. I am from China, but I am now doing my master degree in US. I have looked through all the comments and replies on this page, and feel less confident of my application. It seems some of the applicants have already got their internship. Are there any chances for me get in UN? I haven’t finished my cover letter yet.
Hi Eden. Glad to be of help.
It depends on which internship session you’re applying for. UN hosts three per year – Spring, Summer and Winter. Many people here would have applied for different sessions, so it’s never too ‘late’ in a technical sense. Usually the documentation for which session will have a deadline attached to it as well. So I would say, keep at it and make sure you get your application in on time.
So it is will be fine if I submit the application before deadline, even if it’s just one day before the deadline?
Well, so long as you make the deadline, I think you’ll be fine. I mean, like any job application process, no one checks when exactly the application comes in, so long as it’s in prior to the deadline.
Thank you so much!
i applied for several internship positions with the UN Bangkok, UNDP in NYC and the regional office in canberra.
i have submitted my application over a month ago and it doesnt seem to be progressing. it is still “under consideration” whenever i check inspira.
does it usually take that long?
also, im mid-30’s just wondering if age is a factor in the selection criteria for internship.
btw im from sydney
Age isn’t a factor I believe – so long as you’re currently enrolled as a student in tertiary course (I recall it being a postgraduate course in my time, but they may have changed rules on that).
I didn’t use the inspira system so I can’t corroborate the status notification but generally, yes, it does take a while. I waited three months before hearing anything, and then a further month after my phone interview to find out if I was selected. So yep, you gotta be patient.
Im in my final semester of postgrad in Uni Syd.
Im just confused about the requirement that the intern needs to be enrolled in postgrad while doing the internship. I am enrolled for the first semester of 2013. But if the internship is in nyc or bangkok for example, i wont be able to attend classes if it starts at the same time as uni.
Did u have the same problem?
Not really – I started in January, and interned til late March. I missed about 4-5 weeks but managed to stay up to date.
You could always defer or try negotiate something with your department/lecturers. You got to measure up the cost/benefit. If I was in your situation, I suppose I’d defer and do the internship. I managed to actually get credit for a subject for doing the internship.
oh defo the benefit of doing the internship with the UN will outweigh any cost.
I’ll just patiently wait for the result and go from there.
thanks a lot. you’ve been a great help mate.
hopefully i get in. fingers crossed.
I think you’ll probably be fine! And good luck.
sorry darragh for posting this in your page. it’s just that a lot of current intern applicants visit your page.
my question/comment is more for your readers.
i just want to find out if anyone has received any news on their applicaion.
i have been waiting for three months now and mine still says “under consideration” in inspira.
i can’t move on with my other plans. it’s getting frustrating. lol.
I’m a current intern at DESA in NYC and an admin on the interns facebook group. The “UN HQ Interns NYC 2013” facebook group is a venue for posting intern social/cultural/networking events and where interns can voice concerns and support each other without worrying about their supervisors seeing their comments.
Unfortunately, we are having trouble reaching new interns in New York, and interns that are not working in a main UN building (for example, in the missions) to let them know about this resource. You are one of the first sites that turn up when someone searches for information about UN internships, so I was wondering if you could add something in your write up about it. This is the link http://www.facebook.com/groups/590809277601699/ and you can also find it by searching “UN HQ Interns NYC 2013” on facebook. Its always a shame when interns are not able to participate because they don’t know about the group.
Thanks for your help!!
i was wondering what happens to students currently in their IB diploma or A levels and need internship to get into university? i was told i needed it in order to study urban planning.
Hi Agasaro – unless the rules have changed, UN internships are for postgraduate students only. I’d advise trying to confirm this via the team that runs the programme at the UN.
Thanks for your blog and the information you provide.
I am a Master student in International Business and I got a proposed internship at the UN at Bangkok. Have you hear any good/bad stories or rumors about the quality of internships in Thailand vs NY?? (the guidance/ the responsibilities/ etc…)
And I have another question^^. After having done this UN internship, how do you perceive UN vs OECD as organizations? I got a proposed internship at OECD also, and I am looking for the cons and the pros vs UN.
Thanks so much for trying to help!
I can’t speak for Bangkok. I know someone who did a UN internship in Cambodia and thought it was great. I love New York but I have a feeling that you’d be doing a heap of interesting work in Bangkok. You’re a lot closer to the ‘developing’ world and issues of human development – I’d personally be sorely tempted to do Bangkok. Have you got an offer from NY as well?
Also, with regards to point two, sorry – I’m not sure I can answer with any confidence. I think perhaps the more diverse your internship profile is, the better. You shouldn’t expect to get a job at the UN if you simply intern there for a while – it’s rare – if that’s what you’re thinking.
Hopefully that helps.
Thanks a lot Darrah. Finally, the UN internship was in India and I am leaving very soon. Cannot wait to get a great experience there!
Good luck in everything.
I am from the Philippines and a US green card holder. Working for UN is my dream job! I am really passionate in humanitarian, administrative, and project development.
I will graduate on May this year with my bachelor’s degree in Florida USA. I really want to be intern after college graduation, however, I need to be enrolled in Master’s degree in order to be intern in UN. So my question is, can I apply for internship when I’m on my first semester in masters? Does the name of the university or the degree matters?
Another thing, I been doing non-profit voluntary works. Does my voluntary works a plus in applying UN internship?
Thanks a lot,
Unless the rules have changed since I did it, all you need is some kind of documentation from your university showing you’re a currently enrolled post-grad student. I don’t think it matters how far through your degree you happen to be.
And yes – all relevant experience counts! So put it on your CV.
Thank you Darrah for your prompt reply. I will enroll for masters on fall this year and will try to apply for UN internship next year. Hopefully everything goes fine. I will post in your blog again if I have more questions 🙂
I apologize if I misspelled your name…it’s Darragh and I always forget to put “g” on it 🙂
Thanks again Darragh.
Ha! All good. And you’re not the first 🙂
I wanted to know how do students manage their college studies along with the internship?
I am due to begin my MA in International Relations from September 2013 and I want to apply for an internship after finishing the course. Is that possible?
Hi there Trisha.
It depends on your university. I managed to fit it in personally. Other people have deferred a semester while doing internship, or managed to negotiate with lecturers regarding assessment and all that while at the UN (which is what I did).
It’s possible – you’ll just have to speak to your program/course coordinators to work something out. Hopefully, they’re flexible.
Oh, okay Darragh 🙂
I will be doing my masters from King’s College London. I’ll ask the course coordinators about the procedure 🙂
Thank you very much for your reply 🙂
First of all, thanks for the blog. It’s really helpful!
This is a question perhaps not for you only. I have applied for several internship positions for the summer, and my status is still “under consideration”. I’m not sure if this is a polite way for rejection or not. Since I will need to plan ahead for the summer, I would love to know how long is the typical application process. I would really like to hear others’ application experience, especially I was wondering if anyone else has already got the interview/offer.
My perspective on this is: the UN isn’t the most super efficient organisation and the intern process can take aaaaaages. I’d remain optimistic until you hear otherwise.
Love your post, been a lot of help,,,
I was also wondering, I just got an intern offer from UNOD in Vienna ,,,, Could I inquire what my exact task would be or would I have to wait until I am there to find out…
They also want me there for 3 months which I am afraid won’t work for me, would asking to be there for less time blow my chances of the intern???????????
I don’t think you should have an issue asking what your tasks may be. Just make sure to frame your questions correctly.
As for the duration, it’s you call on this, but if they’re under the impression you’re going to do three months, when you’re not, then that might be an issue you should talk to them about.
Great website! Thanks for sharing so much of your experience with us 🙂 I wanted to get some more info on the phone interview. I just got an e-mail from an intern at the UN letting me know that I had been selected for a phone interview.
What kind of questions did they ask? And how do you excel at the phone interview?? Did they do a language test on the phone? Was your interview with an intern (which has actually happened to me before, an initial screening and then the higher ups decide if they want to speak to me) or with a UN employee? Basically, what can I expect during this phone interview? Thanks!
Hi Eve. Woah, it was some time ago that I was interviewed (2009 I think!)
From what I remember, they asked me about what I was studying, qualifications, what skills (office skills and computer skills) I had. They also quizzed me on the department where I was going to work and the team to see if I had done my background reading of where I was potentially interning.
No language test – I don’t think language is required for the UN. My interview was with two UN employees as well.
Hope that helps.
Hi, thanks for all the advice!
I wanted to ask you: The Intern has to be enrolled in a graduate study programme.. how does it work, going to NY for 2 months leaving behind the master / undergraduate course ? Is there any agreement between University and UN?
I’m enrolled in undergraduate Business and Management, then I’ll choose the graduate programme. I’m Italian, I can speak fluent English, and I’m studyng French.. I won’t have any relevant job experience by the time I will apply… Do I have any chance?
Hi Luca. As far as I know, you have to be enrolled in a graduate program to intern at the UN – that’s pretty much all you need to qualify (unless the requirements have changed since 2010). I think you’ll have a chance regardless of formal business/job experience. If you have good computer skills, I think you’d be as strong as any other candidate.
In response to your first query – usually there wouldn’t be an ‘agreement’. I know in my experience I negotiated with my lecturers to work ‘externally’ in a form. I kept up with readings and did assessment even though I wasn’t physically at university. This worked for me and I still ended up getting good grades. But you’ll have to sort that out with your own university.
I know that it might be irrelevant question to this forum but I could not find an answer to my question elsewhere, which is “Does OECD pay its interns??? If yes, how much?”
Please help, thanks in advance.
Given that UN doesn’t pay interns, I have a feeling similar international institutions wouldn’t either.
The above link says ‘no’.