Engineering Companies

Can Engineers Work For The UN?

Written by Maria Ahmed | Engineering Companies | Friday 27th December 2013 21:50:00 GMT

Yes they can! Find out which UN agencies are most likely to hire engineers, and how you could make like Miss World and contribute to world peace…

UNOSAT satellite image of a disaster area, provided free to aid agencies

UNOSAT satellite image of a disaster area, provided free to aid agencies

The whole world wants to hire engineers, and the United Nations is no exception.

The UN was created in 1945, in the aftermath of World War II, to promote international cooperation and prevent another conflict.

The UN and its specialized programmes and agencies now employ 44,000 people around the world working on peacekeeping, promoting human rights, economic and social development, protecting the environment and providing humanitarian aid in disaster and conflict zones.

There are opportunities for engineers across the United Nations, but some UN bodies are more likely to hire engineers than others.

1. IAEA - The International Atomic Energy Agency

The IAEA is the international organisation that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for military purposes.

Examples of roles: Nuclear Waste Technology engineer, Unattended Monitoring Systems engineer.

The former head of the IAEA, Hans Blix, went on to head the UN weapons inspection commission which was looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2002, before the US invaded the country. You may be called on to enter a conflict zone as a weapons inspector.


UNOSAT is a free satellite mapping service for the humanitarian community. In the last 10 years it has produced satellite image analysis for emergency response to 270 different natural disasters and complex emergencies. The images support the relief work of UN agencies, the Red Cross, NGOs, and governments of affected countries.

Examples of roles: Satellite engineer, environmental engineer

Check out the video on their homepage to find out more about how UNOSAT works

3. UNOPS – The United Nations Office for Project Services

It’s not very well known, but UNOPS is the agency other UN agencies call on when they need to get things done on the ground. Its work covers building roads in El Salvador, shelters in Haiti and schools in Afghanistan.

Example role: Senior Project Engineer (Roads and Bridges) in the newly independent state of South Sudan. A civil engineer with seven years of relevant experience, you’ll be responsible for reviewing the country’s road system and designing new and upgraded routes. You'll be based in the capital city if Juba. Read the full job description here

4. UN HABITAT – the United Nations Human Settlements Programme

UN-HABITAT is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities. As an engineer you’ll work on how to make the fast-growing mega cities of the developing world safer, greener and inclusive for all their residents.

Example roles: Structural engineer - designing low cost housing units for slum dwellers, transport engineer - working on affordable mass transit systems. 

5. Everywhere in the UN

Like the rest of the world, the UN has huge demand for IT engineers, programmers and software developers to develop and maintain the complex systems that keep the organisation running.

For a first hand account of a career as an engineer in the UN, check out this interview with Byron Perez. Perez is a satellite engineer who has served in Guatemala and East Timor. He now manages satellite telecommunications for the UN Peacekeeping department

Opportunities in each UN agency vary, but typically you’ll be hired as one of these

  • Independent contractor
  • Full-time hire on a fixed-term or temporary contract
  • Trainee on an established training scheme, where there is scope to experience different roles and country postings
  • Junior Professional Officer – many UN agencies have a JPO programme, run with financial support from specific member States, who fund a traineeship for an engineer from that country.

Check the websites of the agency you’re interested in to find out what’s on offer!


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