Staff categories and benefits

UN staff are 'International Civil Servants' and classified into various categories, each reflecting different levels of responsibilities and remuneration.

UN staff contracts either fall in the 'Professional and higher categories', or the 'General Service and related categories'.

Professional and higher categories

UN staff categorised as 'Professionals’ (P) or ‘Directors’ (D) are generally recruited internationally and expected to serve in different duty stations throughout their career with the UN.

General Service and related categories

Staff falling within the 'General Service' (GS) or related categories carry out support functions, including administrative, secretarial and clerical work. They are largely recruited from the area of the office's location but can be of any nationality. As a result, they are not expected to relocate to other duty stations. While moving from a 'GS' to a 'P' level position is possible, it rarely happens.

Contract types

There are three types of staff contracts:

  • Temporary Appointments (TA) for less than a year, seasonal or peak workloads, and specific short-term requirements. They cannot be renewed beyond 2 years, but staff with TAs may apply for a subsequent FTA.
  • Fixed-Term Appointments (FTA), usually for 1 or 2 years with possibility of renewal
  • Continuing Appointments for an unlimited period of time

The UN system rarely offers long-term employment with open-ended contracts (Continuing Appointments). Most UN staff serve on FTAs or TAs, which provide opportunities for interesting assignments and movement across the globe.

Salaries and benefits

The pay level for staff of professional and higher categories is based in accordance with the highest paying national civil service. The base salary is supplemented by a post adjustment that varies according to the cost of living in the duty station and the US dollar exchange rate.

Staff may be entitled to other allowances and benefits such as education grants for their children, rental subsidy, medical insurance, and relocation expenses, which may add up quite substantively to the base salary. UN salaries, grants and allowances are income tax exempt.

To calculate the estimated salaries and benefits of international UN staff members, use UNDP’s salary estimation tool.

Social Security 

Expatriating and/or leaving a national employer for a multilateral organisation such as the UN means that you quit the national social security system. While the UN provides for a pension scheme and health/life insurance, it does not offer unemployment insurance. Below please find a couple of useful links on the topic: 

Please note that cinfo does not have the competence to further advice on social security matters pertaining to Swiss staff working in multilateral organisations.

Career development

Career development and promotions modalities vary in each UN organisation.

For example, some UN organisations (such as WFPWorld Food Programme and UNHCRUnited Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ) have a rotation system for staff members, which offers certain job security. Others have such rotation systems only for senior management, or do not have any career development planning systems at all.

While some organisations such as UNICEFUnited Nations Children's Fund allow their interns and consultants to apply for staff positions in the same organisation, others, including the UN Secretariat, require interns and consultants to take a break in service and are not eligible to apply for a staff position within 6 months after completion of their contract.

To advance within a UN organisation, you will normally need to submit an application for your next career move or promotion. Therefore, your own career planning initiative is key. Look out and apply for vacant positions advertised internally and externally. While career development within the same organisation is easier, moving across UN organisations is more and more encouraged.

Do you need help with your application documents or assessing your potential? Take a look at our various support services.

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