Careers in International Organisations

 

In brief

International organisations, also known as multilaterals or international governmental organisations (IGOs), are established, controlled and, typically, financed by member country governments. With a remit to address regional and global problems, they usually work with national governments and seek to employ highly skilled, experienced professionals with specialised knowledge.

LSE alumni are present throughout the sector. It is important to realise that for many graduates, a role in an international organisation is part of their longer-term career plan rather than an immediate post-LSE destination.

It is critical to have a good understanding of how recruitment is managed, the skills, expertise and broader profiles sought, and where you will be able to develop useful experience. 

Where can you work?

The Northwestern University library provides a comprehensive list of IGOs.

Useful Websites

Recruitment sites

CareerHub – jobs board targeting LSE students, including events and networking opportunities.

Cosmopolitalians

Eurojobs

JOBS Europe

Euro Brussels

EU Careers

Internship schemes

OECD

World Bank

UN

NATO

European Bank

Eurodesk opportunity finder

Careers sites

UN Careers

Useful Information

Routes in

Introduction

Recruitment is highly competitive at all levels, with permanent staff often drawn from member countries, frequently with quotas applied for nationals of each member state. Openings are listed on organisation’s own websites so it’s important to check in regularly and read all the information provided as processes are very structured and specific. 

If you’re looking to gain experience

Many alumni are keen to provide guidance and mentoring to current students interested in exploring their work, the opportunities available, and how best to plan their next steps. We strongly recommend that you reach out to them. Establishing and developing your own professional network within the sector will be important throughout your career.

Internship opportunities are often available, both through structured programmes and on a more ad hoc basis. These provide good opportunities to gain insight into the sector, build experience, develop skills, and make the professional connections that are critical. They are often unpaid and are not necessarily a route to permanent employment.

The schemes run by the World Bank and the OECD are fairly representative – run twice a year, there are two applications cycles open to graduates enrolled on relevant Master’s programmes. Some schemes, e.g. NATO, are open to students who have not yet completed their undergraduate studies.

Many EU institutions offer internship opportunities for new graduates. Unlike their permanent positions, these are often open to students of all nationalities. The largest number is recruited through the EPSO-run Blue Book Traineeship scheme (also called stages). As with other formal schemes, this is highly competitive, there are strict language requirements and nationality quotas do apply, but a lot of support is offered to LSE applicants, particularly through the Brussels-based LSE alumni community. Information on other internship opportunities in Europe can be found on Europe.eu.

If you’re early on in your career

Entry level positions for new graduates are relatively rare and requirements are high, often with minimum expectations of a Master’s degree, two years’ relevant professional experience and specific language skills. While some EU opportunities are open to candidates with a bachelor’s degree, the competitive nature of the process means that successful candidates often have considerably more than the minimum requirements.

The OECD’s  two-year Young Associate Programme targets recent graduates who do not hold a Master’s degree and wish to gain experience in the world of multilateral policymaking, research and analysis before going on to complete a postgraduate degree in a top university.

If you have more experience

Many organisations recruit early career professionals through young professional programmes (YPP’s), typically open to Master’s graduates, aged between 27 and 32, with relevant work experience. There are some exceptions, for example the IMF programme targets PhD Economists, but also offers graduates with a bachelor’s degree an opportunity to spend two years as a research assistant before pursuing a career elsewhere.

Annual recruitment to YPP’s is highly structured and demanding. Specific profiles sought can vary each year. Visit the following websites to access details of timings, eligibility, profiles sought and recruitment processes, as well as information on the kind of work, training and development opportunities and answers to FAQ’s. The World Bank, The World Bank Young Analyst Program, The Asia Development Bank, The IMF, UNESCO, WTO, UNICEF New and Emerging Talent Initiative, IMF Research Assistant Program, and OECD.   

Recruitment into the European Union institutions is managed by the EU Selection Office (EPSO) who organise annual open competitions for permanent staff, including administrators, linguists and interpreters.

Several institutions also offer Junior Professional Officer or Associate programmes, typically one to three-year non-renewable contracts, not designed as entry points for career in the organisations but offering exposure to their work. Applicants are generally sponsored by donor countries and recruitment is often managed individually by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of each country. For more information visit UNDP, OECD Young Associates, Other UN JPO Programmes, and European External Action Service.

If you’re changing career

Professionals will often join following a ‘first’ career elsewhere, e.g. as a civil servant in national government, within the NGO sector, or in academia. There is also an increasing interest in those who bring professional experience and specific skills from the private sector. Critical to success is understanding the relevant skills that you can bring to a new organisation and clearly articulating this through the recruitment process.

Not sure what to do next?

We’re here to talk over your career plans with you. It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at, so don’t feel you have to have it all worked out. You can book a one-to-one appointment with a careers consultant on CareerHub.

Job roles

Expertise is sought across diverse topics including health, education, transport and economics. The focus of work ranges from research and policy development, to project management, delivery and evaluation. Each organisation also has its own internal functions and infrastructure, e.g. HR, communications, legal services.

As well as permanent roles, organisations often recruit for short term contracting and consulting positions as needed, and most maintain a register of approved contracting staff.  We’ve outlined roles that are often of interest to LSE students, with links to where you can find more information.

  • Policy officer – operates in advisory roles, concerned with the guiding rules and principles of government. EPSO describes the role of policy officer with the EU. 
  • Statistician – collects and analyses data to summarize information, solve problems and make predictions. The Royal Statistical society outlines the role of government statistician.
  • Economist – uses economic theories and knowledge to uncover trends and provide specialist advice. The IMF provides an overview of what this role means with their organisation.
  • Research Analyst – analyses data to help an organisation make informed decisions. The UNRISD provides a definition of what a typical research analyst does.
  • Humanitarian Affairs Officer – acts as the central point for communication and liaison to support an effective humanitarian response. MSF provides a useful overview of the role within their organisation.
  • Interpreter – converts spoken or sign language statements from one language to another. The UN Interpreter job profile provides further details.
  • Security Analyst – focuses on understanding and defending risks to the security of information, data or people. The UN recruits security information analysts throughout the world.