A Guide to Become an Aid Worker for the UN

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A United Nations aid worker can work in a variety of capacities from dispensing vaccines to constructing houses in many of the poorest nations around the world. An aid worker must be prepared for participating in a grueling work environment as well as to be exposed to the extreme hardships of the people they are serving. These workers can even find themselves in dangerous situations. According to UN regulations, there are no specific pathways set forth that detail how to become an aid worker. However, their field positions are ranked as FS-1 to FS-7. Aid workers are placed in specific positions according to their skillset and experience. One factor to keep in mind is that individuals seeking to become aid workers need to put a great deal of effort into networking in order to find a viable global position. This article will address some steps on how to become an aid worker for the UN.

1. Get Educated  


The first step in this process is to get educated by attending an accredited college or university and earning a bachelor’s degree. Hone your focus and course of education on humanitarian studies which are applicable to work you will be doing in the global field. Take courses in the following fields: social sciences, nursing, cultural studies and languages. Additionally, you should consider attending lectures, conferences and webinars on global aid work. Take the time to do online research and ascertain and learn as many credible facts as you can find. Contact people who are currently involved in this field and ask them specific questions on how they got started and what they did to prepare themselves for the journey.

2. Get Busy

While you are in college, you should begin to get busy by volunteering with various organizations. Volunteer your time at a local soup kitchen or at a shelter. Find ways to serve in your own community before you ever make that move to serve abroad. You should also consider volunteering with an organization that provides international aid. Even if you don’t yet qualify to go out into the field abroad, working in one of their offices, can still give you invaluable learning experience. A second factor in this step is to seek part-time employment while in school and then full-time employment upon graduation. Seek work in your field of study and begin to gain experience as you start to fill up your resume. For anyone who wants to serve in a volunteer capacity and truly make a difference, he or she needs to have a servant’s heart. However, that is not the only qualification you will need to become a foreign aid worker. Cultivating a strong resume filled with actual work and volunteer experience is vital to succeed in the UN.

3. Get Involved

In this third step you will need to expand your horizons and begin to think of traveling abroad. You can complete this step in two ways. One is to travel abroad in a tourist capacity so you can first learn various cultures and become accustomed to living in other countries, especially those that are more impoverished where you will want to do aid work. A second part of this step is to then volunteer with an organization like GlobalVolunteers.org that serves in the following areas: North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. It is vital to remember to keep an open mind, learn to appreciate other cultures and hone your foreign language skills. Additionally, you can seek out internships through various global aid organizations where novices are trained and prepared for fieldwork abroad.

4. Get Connected

This final step is just as important as the rest. You need to learn how to genuinely cultivate professional relationships with those individuals you have met working in your field. There may be people in management or other colleagues who have connections to the UN. Focus on cultivating genuine relationships rather than simply “because you need to” in order to get connected. There is a fine balance that you need to walk in this instance. When you make and cultivate these connections, be sure to ask for reference letters from several people in leadership positions who can vouch for you, your work ethic and field experience. The last part of this step is to begin the job search process. When you are searching for available positions in the UN as an aid worker, look for openings which are labeled at the bottom tier of FS-1. All of their positions are tiered and this one is for novices in the field. You can search for available positions at UNJobs.org.

Becoming an aid worker for the UN takes time and discipline. However, for those with a heart to serve, the rewards are well worth the effort. Follow the four steps as outlined in this article and you will make your journey easier to complete.