International organizations bring together representatives from different countries to address issues and challenges that affect nations across the globe. There are two types of international organizations: intergovernmental (public) organizations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). When discerning whether or not to work at an international organization, ask yourself the following three questions:
- Why am I interested in an international organization versus another type of organization?
- Which issue(s) am I passionate about working on?
- Who are the organizations doing work in those areas?
You also want to consider some broader questions about working in an international context. Do you want to travel abroad as part of your service? What locations or settings appeal to you? How long do you want to do this type of work? Are you trying to develop language skills or other skills? Be sure to check out our volunteering, teaching and working abroad page for more information on finding finding opportunities outside the U.S.
International organizations are vast and complex, so doing appropriate research is key. For example, the United Nations offers the United Nations Internship Programme and other UN funds and programmes such as United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have separate internships with their own application processes.
For more information, these external sites are very helpful:
- Devex – search for jobs and internships and information about the field of international development
- InterAction – an alliance of 180+ NGOs whose website includes resources and job postings
- International Organization Careers – international organizations as designated by the Department of State
- NGO Global Network – NGOs associated with the United Nations
- Passport Career – Passport Career is your online career resource for exploring opportunities around the world. Whether you are seeking a job, an internship, volunteer work, or are studying abroad, Passport Career provides extensive guidance, strategies, tools and support to help you make your career move.
- Uniworld Online – Uniworld Online provides contact information for headquarters, branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates of multinational firms.
- Union of International Associations Yearbook – A comprehensive resource of over 70,000 international organizations, compiled by the UIA whose mission is, “to maintain and provide comprehensive, up-to-date, and reliable information on international associations, their activities and concerns, and their meetings activities.”
- Vault Guide to International Careers – Create an account with your Georgetown email address for access.
- Vault Guide to Nonprofit Jobs – create an account with your Georgetown email address for access.
- Worldwide NGO Directory – search for NGOs by region of the world
Networking is also critical as speaking directly to people in various areas of the organization helps students learn about all of the moving parts, get their names noticed, and makes it easier to locate opportunities. Organizations may not list internships, so interested students should contact departments directly to inquire about possibilities. Furthermore, connecting with people who have lived in an area or served in a multinational organization will help you tremendously. Be sure to set up informational interviews and follow up on meetings with potential networks.
Select Multinational Associations
- Society for International Development-Washington chapter (SID Washington)
- Union of International Associations
- United Nations Foundation
- Young Professionals in Foreign Policy
The process for applying to multinational organizations can be different than many other fields. Pay attention to job locations and nationalities. To be eligible to work or intern at inter-governmental organizations, students must be citizens of a member country. In some organizations, such as the UN, the number of opportunities available to citizens of a particular country is proportionate to how much money that country contributes to the organization (i.e. the more money a country gives, the more opportunities are available for citizens of that country). In some cases, some of the organizations can bypass current U.S. immigration policies, as detailed in the International Organizations Immunities Act of 1947 (new window).
It is important to be aware that some inter-governmental organizations (ex. World Bank) only offer internships and full-time employment opportunities to those who are currently enrolled in or who have completed graduate degrees. In this case, undergraduates should seek out opportunities at other NGOs or non-profits to gain field experience, enhance their portfolio of international experiences, and be most competitive for these positions in the future.
Students can also look at opportunities in short-term consultancies, which are very common for certain inter-governmental organizations and can be a great foot in the door to more permanent work. To be competitive at international organizations, students should gain experience in other countries.
Humanitarian Alumni Career Panel
Four Georgetown alumni share their experiences working in the humanitarian field. Learn more about the skills needed, values upheld and opportunities available in the field from experienced professionals who have worked with such organizations as USAID, UNICEF, the Peace Corps, Refugees International, UNDP and UNAIDS.
Preparing Application Materials
Some international organizations may actually prefer to see a CV, or curriculum vitae. For more information on creating a CV, please see our CV guide. Regardless of whether you write a CV, or a resume, use strong action verbs and focus on your skills and accomplishments to show (not just tell) an employer that you have the required abilities. Be concise. See our resume section for more tips and advice.
Be energetic, intelligent and aware when writing cover letters or personal statements. Use specific examples to demonstrate your skills and abilities. Much like careers in government, a connection to the mission and purpose of an international organization is often as important as the individual skills and talents you bring to the team. The purpose of a cover letter is to convince someone to interview you. For more on cover letters, see our cover letter tips.
Key Employers/Sample Internships
- CARE International
- Carter Center
- Catholic Relief Services
- Inter American Development Bank
- International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent
- International Monetary Fund
- Oxfam International
- United Nations
- The World Bank Group
- World Health Organization