Opportunities and challenges of working at the United Nations

UN Volunteer Specialists / Experts

Did you know that many senior managers at the UN started off as UN Volunteers (UNVs)? UNV positions are recognised as valuable UN work experience and provide experienced professionals an opportunity to take their career to the next level. 

UNV specialists/experts - or simply UNVs - are professionals with several years of experience in their field of expertise who have applied for specific assignments lasting from 3 months to 4 years.

The average age of a UNV is 38 years. 


Given the fast recruitment process, around 45% of UN Volunteer specialists/experts are deployed to peacekeeping or humanitarian aid missions with entities such as the Department of Peace Operations (DPO) or the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA). In fact, UNVs compose up to one third of the personnel of some UN peace missions. 

UNV Specialists / Experts

Why you should consider a UNV assignment 

  • You will gain direct exposure to the UN system and valuable field experience 
  • Living cost, family allowance, travel, health and live insurance or other expenses are fully covered 
  • You may apply even if you have no prior experience with the UN or in the field 
  • There is no upper age limit for candidates 
  • It may be a starting point for a career with the UN 
  • It is your chance to engage in non-profit work and sustainable development 

Why, you ask, would I ever leave a stable position in Switzerland? Because the UN is the only organisation that addresses such a wide range of global issues to such an extent.

A former Swiss UNV Specialist  


An evaluation conducted by cinfo in 2014 shows that 50% of all former Swiss UN Volunteers still work for the UN, while 90% stayed in the sector of international cooperation.
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  • A university degree (Bachelor’s or Master’s) or a higher technical diploma 
  • At least 3 years of relevant professional experience (see professional backgrounds in demand) for Specialists and minimum 15 for Experts 
  • Minimum 27 years old for Specialist and 35 for Experts 
  • Good working knowledge of one of the UN working languages (English, French, Spanish) 
  • Technical skills relevant to the field of expertise 
  • Availability for short-term assignments 
  • Demonstrable interest in questions related to international cooperation, development, human rights, peace promotion or humanitarian politics 
  • Willingness to serve in hardship duty stations 

How to apply

To be eligible for a UN Volunteer Specialist position, you need to register with your full profile in the UNV database and apply for positions that you are interested in. Take a look at our tips for completing your profile to increase your chances of being identified for a position. You will be directly contacted by the recruiters if they find your profile suits the position you applied for.