UN Job List Intro Part2: UN System job hunting – Contract Types, Grades and Levels

This is part 2 of a series of posts on job hunting in the UN System.

Read part 1 on the PCD Network.

Read part 3 on the PCD Network.

As usual and before I start, I would like to remind you that I’m not speaking on behalf of the UN and can’t help you with any individual requests.


The last post was all about a big outline of the UN System, how to find out which UN organisations are hiring (check http://unjoblist.org/analytics/ to find out) and how much to learn about the UN organization you want to work for (the more the better, you should try to find-out as much as possible).


This post is about job levels and contract types in the UN system. The post itself is not really new in fact much of what I describe has been outlined earlier. Anyways, here is the essence of what you need to know:


Contract Types

The contractual reform in the UN system cut back on many different contract types. But the UN still knows different contract types and the distinction between staff contracts and non-staff contracts still exists.


So let’s start with the Staff Contracts. As the word “staff” implies you will find these kinds of contracts for functions that are at the heart of what the organization is doing.


Continuous Appointment (CA)

As far as I know Continuous Appointment (CA) contracts are not implemented yet. However, it is expected that these contracts will be quite similar in nature to the old “Permanent Contracts” that the Secretariat offered. The standard way to get into a Continuing Appointment is if you are participating in the UN Young Professional Programme (YPP). You will not get a CA contract right away but are then eligible to reviewed for a CA after some time. Outside from the YPP I have not heard (yet) of CA contracts yet (this may change at any time – remember, I’m not a professional HR person). More about the YPP is here: http://careers.un.org/YPP


Fixed Term Appointment (FTA)

The most common “regular” staff contracts are the Fixed Term Appointments (FTA). These are the jobs that you will find in a lot of places in the system. The duration of Fixed Term Appointment (FTA) contracts is usually a year or two. Even though FTAs do not carry any expectation for renewal there is no limit and/or break in service in case the organization decides to extent an FTA.


Temporary Appointment (TA)

Temporary staff contracts for up to a year minus one day of duration are Temporary Appointment contracts. This contract type may be closest to what used to be  “Assignment for Limited Duration” (ALD)  or “Temporary Fixed Term” (TFT) but is strictly limited in terms of duration (both ALDs and TFTs don’t exist any longer). Temporary Appointments carry a “break in service” blackout period to prevent a series of TA contracts.


Non-staff and Consultant Contracts

In the non-staff or consultant category things get complicated. First of all there is a very wide variety of contracts available. These contracts are typically called “Consultant Contract”, “Special Service Agreement (SSA)”, “Individual Contractor (IC)” or “Individual Contractor Agreement (ICA)”. The conditions for these contracts can be quite different from organization to organization. Also more and more organizations see these non-staff contracts as non-HR contracts and administer these contracts under the organizations procurement rules. Typically these contracts carry very few employee benefits. Consultant contracts are either time-bound or per deliverable and often short-term. Many organizations do have break in service rules to prevent longer-term employment on non-staff contracts but all of the non-staff contracts carry benefits since allow for more flexibility than staff contracts.


Contract Levels

Within all these contracts different job grades (sometimes also called “job levels”) exist. The International Civil Service Commission defined grades from ICS-1 to ICS-14 (let’s end at ICS-14 for simplicity reasons). And within these levels there are two big categories. The first is the General Services category up to ICS-7 and then the Professional category usually starting at ICS-8. General Services Jobs often times don’t require a Master’s degree whereas jobs in the Professional grades often require a Master’s degree. However, there is no rule without exception: Sometimes a Master’s requirement can be waived if there is long relevant experience etc.

General Service jobs are national jobs which means that these jobs are usually reserved for nationals of the country the jobs are located in. Professional category jobs can be international and national. National professional jobs are often times called “National Officer” (NO). If you are on a national contract you can expect to stay in the country and you will not be required to move. If you are on an international contract you can be re-assigned to any other place in this world, a fact that is sometimes forgotten about and that can lead to conflict if an organization actually tries to re-assign internationals. International jobs are open for all nationalities from all countries.            


In terms of what job grade to apply to within your area of expertise I would strongly recommend reading the job vacancy very carefully. Please make sure that you satisfy all the requirements and assume that there are thorough checks. So if you are required to speak French for a job and you don’t speak French it’s not a good idea to apply. The same thing can be said for years of experience. If a job requires 7 years of experience, there should be no way around that requirement. To give you an idea of what you should aspire to, let’s look at the example of International Professional jobs. These jobs are often following a logic where a P1 (ICS-8) does not require much of experience (but these jobs practically don’t exist any longer), P2 (ICS-9) require 2 to 3 years of experience, P3 (ICS-10) 5 years, P4 (ICS-11) 7 years and so on. How years of experience are counted varies. Some organizations say that you need to have the years of expertise after your master’s other organizations require “relevant” expertise which also can be before your master’s but needs to be “relevant” to your job.


Now to get a sense for how the jobs are distributed, head over to the UN Job List and play with the UN Job List Advanced Search - you can search for different job levels there.


This is a complicated field. And in my experience there is not a single rule without some agency specificities. So treat the information given above as a broad framework that outlines the basics. Once you found a job (and we will talk about how to find this job in the next post), make sure you understand EXACTLY what the organization you apply with requires.


If you have further ideas on how to enhance this post or if you have a question about how this system work, feel free to comment below. Thanks!

Views: 23264

Tags: UN, contract, grades, job, jobs, levels, types, vacancy


You need to be a member of Peace and Collaborative Development Network to add comments!

Join Peace and Collaborative Development Network

Comment by Yasmine Mahmoud Ahmed Fakhry on September 11, 2012 at 5:09am

Hi Sebastian! Thank you for sharing such valuable information. Actually I have opened the website many times before and I applied to a few jobs but I find it really confusing and I am not sure if it really works that way. I have a friend of mine who was appointed to work in the United Nations office in Geneva because he knew someone there, so I am not sure if applying online would have the same effect as having acquaintances! 


Comment by Yekaterina Badikova on June 18, 2012 at 1:20pm

Hi Sebastian!

Your posts about the UN jobs and job hunting are really great!  Perhaps, I won't open anything new for a pro like you are, but maay I share my personal experience about working for the UN and more...

(1) There are many organizations OTHER than he UN but still international [and intergovernmental] ones, and some of them use the UN or similar salary scale. IOM (International Organization for Migration) and OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) are just some. I believe the general  priciples of the UN recruitment are applicable to those organizations. Therefore,  those who use your posts about UN jobs as bases to develop their job hunting strategies, can be recommended to consider the similar strategies when unting for a job in a UN0like organization even IF this organization doesn't believe to the UN system.

(2) I do agree with you and can confirm with my own experience that consultancy jobs with UN (and IOM, and OSCE) provide no (or, rarely, minimal) benefits for an employee. And the consultant is often treated as a vendor rather than a short-term laborer. I even used to argue with sme organizations in order to make them changing the contract terms like "the 100% of fee will be paid AFTER the completion of the cotract task". Sometimes this was successful, and sometimess not. Generally, this is true that a consutancy or similr short-term contracted positiin allows more flexibility in the contractor's life.  For instance, I often have been cntracted simultaneously by more than one organization. And, accordingly, earn more than one contrct fee. BUT this also means that I am doing more than one job simutaneously, and my working hours are ot less than 12 per day, and there are almost no weekends. Comparig with my previous job as  a fixed tern contracted international employee, I can state that , as a consultant, I am doing more job for the same money, and without any guaantees like future pension, or medical insurance, or vacation.

So, working s a consutant or epert of similar under an short-term contract with UN is quite similar to entrepeneurship. The consultsnt is investing his/her time and knowledge and skills, and, similarly t an entrepreneur, never knows whether his/her investment will  return. :-)



Sponsored Link

Please Pay What You Can to Support PCDN

Please consider Paying What You Can to help PCDN grow. We encourage you to consider any amount from $1 and up. Read the SUPPORT page prior to making a payment to see PCDN's impact and how your payment will help.

Sponsored Link

Translate This Page


PCDN Guidelines and Share Pages

By using this site you're agreeing to the terms of use as outlined in the community guidelines (in particular PCDN is an open network indexed by Google and users should review the privacy options). Please note individual requests for funding or jobs are NOT permitted on the network.

Click BELOW to share site resources Bookmark and Share
or Share on LINKEDIN




© 2016   Created by Craig Zelizer.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service