How to work abroad through the paid UNDP Graduate Programme

Job in the UN for graduates
The UNDP Graduate Programme is a paid opportunity for graduates to work abroad in advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Source: John Angelillo/Pool/AFP

If you’ve ever aspired to work in global diplomacy or development with the United Nations (UN), here’s how you can get started. Landing a paid job in the UN is highly competitive but not impossible and the UNDP Graduate Programme could just be your ticket to a profession dedicated to building a better future in the world-renowned organisation.    

Aimed at training young graduates with the expertise required to build a career that is in line with advancing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), successful applicants will participate in a two-year assignment in one of UNDP’s country, headquarter, or regional offices. It is a paid and fully-funded programme: you’ll receive a monthly salary throughout your appointment and airfares to travel between where you reside and your appointed location. 

The programme is currently launching its second cohort and applications are still open to eligible candidates from all over the world. Here’s what you need to know ahead of submitting your documents: 

Getting a job in the UN: The 2023 UNDP Graduate Programme

How can I apply, and when is the application deadline? 

The call for applicants was opened on September 28, 2022 and will close on October 12, 2022, at midnight GMT. You will need to create a login account on the programme application system before you can proceed with the next steps. 

Am I eligible for the programme? 

You’ll need to satisfy the following criteria to be in the running for a spot in this cohort: 

  • Nationality: You have to be a citizen of a country where the UNDP works to uphold its SDGs. The programme page lists a number of nationalities that are encouraged to apply for this cohort. 
  • Education and work: A master’s degree in a related field with less than two years of work experience or a bachelor’s degree in a related field with a minimum of two years in paid work experience, but not exceeding three years in total. 
  • Relevant experience: Prior involvement in international and sustainable development, business operations, project management, partnerships, digitisation and innovation, data analysis, and management. 

Additionally, candidates who are women, who identify as belonging to minority groups or indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, as well as first-generation university graduates are all strongly encouraged to submit their applications.  

What is covered under this programme? 

As this is a paid entry-level job in the UN, successful candidates will enjoy: 

  • A one-year international professional entry-level contract that is renewable for a second year, subject to the candidate’s performance and programme funding
  • Paid flight tickets from where you live to your assigned location
  • Paid annual leave and paid sick leave
  • Health and disability insurance
  • Pension contirbutions
Job in the UN for graduates

Successful applicants are expected to commit to their position for one year, with the possibility of extension depending on their performance and programme funding. Source: Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP

How are candidates selected? 

Only 40 candidates will be picked for the 2023 cohort, so applicants will have to wade through several rounds of shortlisting before they are named into the programme. 

If your application fits what UNDP is looking for, you’ll be asked to take online tests to assess your competencies in areas such as digital literacy and awareness, adaptability, diversity and inclusion, teamwork, and innovative thinking. Successful candidates will be given the details of their final selection round, which consists of a virtual assessment centre. 

What do I get out of this programme? 

Since UNDP supports multiple development projects all around the world, you’ll obtain invaluable experience collaborating with local communities and stakeholders in finding sustainable solutions in your line of work. 

Under the programme, you’ll be offered your own “Formation” journey that is tailored to boost your strengths, knowledge, and capabilities to dive deeper into the world of international development. Best of all, it serves as a great entry point into a career in the UN that would allow you to work on large-scale projects for a longer period of time.