How Can I Get a Job With the World Health Organization?

How Can I Get a Job With the World Health Organization?

Are you interested in working for the World Health Organization (WHO), the official international public health agency of the United Nations? If you are a healthcare professional looking for an exciting UN public health job, a career in the WHO may be a great place to work. The WHO champions health and a better future for all.  This international organization is dedicated to the health and well-being of all people. Guided by science, the World Health Organization is the leader in the global effort to give all people everywhere an equal chance at living a healthy life. Read on to find out more about WHO and public health jobs for the World Health Organization. 

Who is the World Health Organization?

The WHO was founded in 1948 as the United Nations agency to promote health by connecting nations and partners. Their goal is for all people, everywhere, to attain the highest level of health.  

What does the World Health Organization do? 

With the lofty goal to promote and protect health, to make the world a safer place, and to serve vulnerable people, the WHO has a number of ways to get the job done. Their ambitious “triple billion” targets seek to ensure that one billion more people have universal health coverage, protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and well-being. 

For universal health coverage, the WHO seeks to focus on access to essential services and primary health care, and improve access to essential medications and health products. The WHO also works towards financial protection and financing, training health workers, and advising regarding labor policies. In addition, they work to improve monitoring, data, and information gathering. 

For health emergencies, the WHO helps prepare for emergencies by identifying, mitigating, and managing risks, as well as preventing emergencies and supporting the development of tools needed during health emergencies and outbreaks. WHO works to detect and respond to health emergencies and support the delivery of health services in emergency settings. 

For health and well-being, the WHO addresses social determinants of health, and prioritizes health in policies and in healthcare settings.   

What kinds of health issues does the WHO address through their work?

The WHO works to address non-communicable disease prevention, mental health promotion, antimicrobial resistance, and the elimination of communicable diseases. It plays a leading role in preventing the spread of communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, smallpox, measles, and diseases spread through global pandemics. The WHO also emphasizes scientific research, health education and promotion, nutrition counseling, and obesity prevention.

What types of opportunities are there for a career with the World Health Organization?

The WHO needs a strong workforce to carry out their vision to improve the health and well-being of people everywhere. The four areas of employment include public health, management and leadership, operations, and emergency. 

There are a variety of employment opportunities currently available through the WHO. These public health opportunities include working in biostatistics, epidemiology, health education, administration, accounting, finance, information technology, communications, and media.

What kind of work environment is there at the WHO?

The WHO is committed to providing a work environment that is respectful and shows care for employee well-being. The hiring policies at the WHO ensure that there is a diverse group, and they strive for gender balance and inclusion. They encourage qualified applicants from underrepresented countries, people with disabilities, women, and younger applicants to apply. The WHO works to be responsible and take steps to prevent and respond to harassment, discrimination, and abuse of authority in the workplace. 

What kind of people may enjoy a successful career with the WHO? 

WHO employees enjoy the prestige and excitement of working for this international organization. They are typically nimble and work at the country, regional, and headquarters levels to seek the highest level of health through evidence-based programs that promote and protect health. Many are bilingual and have at least a master’s degree in their chosen field. 

What education credentials do you need to work for the WHO?

Interested in pursuing a public health career within the WHO? The WHO is proud of their results-oriented public health experts that drive the WHO programs in all areas of health and emergencies.

If you want to pursue a public health career within the WHO, studying such areas as community health, public health, or health education on the undergraduate level is a great place to begin. Because the WHO is an international organization, candidates benefit from knowing an official UN language, such as French.  Knowing German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Urdu, or Hindi is also beneficial. Language fluency will influence international assignments. Knowing multiple languages boosts your chances of landing a World Health Organization job. Pursuing a master’s degree in your field of study will further increase your opportunities. Prospective WHO workers typically have at least a master’s degree, but the likelihood of landing a job with the WHO may increase with a PhD or other doctoral degree.

What are the different levels of professional work for the WHO?

International Professional (IP) Officer jobs with the WHO require proficiency in English or French, and a working knowledge of a second official UN language like Arabic, Chinese, Russian, or Spanish is required at this level. 

International Professional and Higher Graded levels run from P1 to D2, with work experience and education varying for each level. P1 requires one year of relevant work experience and first university degree. This graduated system goes from P1 to P6/D1/D2, with qualifications increasing up to 15 years or more of professional experience and a master’s degree. 

National Professional Officer (NPO) requirements are similar to those for the International Professional Officers, but with emphasis on professional work at the national level. Graded levels run from NO-A with one year of relevant professional experience and first university degree to NO-D, with seven years experience and a master’s degree. 

General Service (GS) positions require strong command of an official UN language and a working knowledge of a second. Knowledge of a third is an advantage for applicants, with requirements dependent on the station of duty. Graded levels run from G3, with a two-year experience requirement and the completion of a secondary, technical, or commercial school program to G7, with a 10-year or more experience requirement and the same educational requirements. 

How much can I make working for the WHO?

The WHO’s remuneration package includes competitive salaries and benefits that are in accordance with the United Nations Common System, which is established by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC). This system has three categories of staff: Professional or higher categories (IP), National Professional Officer (NPO), and General Service (GS). 

Staff at the Professional or higher category (IP) are paid based on worldwide salary scales established by the General Assembly of the United Nations, based on ICSC’s recommendations. They utilize a common job classification system to structure salary scales at this level. 

Staff in the General Service (GS) or National Professional Officer (NPO) categories are paid according to local salary scales. Job classifications are differentiated by levels of responsibility, providing a framework for comparison at the local pay rate. 

What kind of benefits can I expect working for the WHO?

Employees of the WHO at the IP, NPO, or GS level are eligible for 30 days of annual leave when working full time, or pro-rated equivalent. Most medical appointments are covered by the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Scheme and the WHO worldwide medical insurance, which includes dental insurance. An additional financial benefit is that salaries, grants, and allowances paid by the WHO are generally exempt from income tax in most countries. 

Other WHO employee benefits vary according to contract type, but may include Dependency allowance, education grants, home leave, maternity/paternity/surrogacy or adoption leave, settling in grant, relocation grant, hardship allowance, mobility incentive, rental subsidy, and repatriation and/or end of service grant.

Are there different kinds of employment types when working for the World Health Organization?

When offered a position with WHO, the position will either be a Fixed Term Appointment or a Temporary Appointment. 

Fixed Term Appointments are for those employed by the WHO as an international professional (IP), a national professional (NP), or general service staff, and they are for one or two years. Appointments may be renewed according to the staffing needs of the organization and employee performance. 

Temporary Appointments are for those employed by the WHO as an international professional (IP), a national professional (NP), or general service staff with the purpose of meeting short-term program needs. Temporary Appointments may be renewed for up to 24 months, followed by a mandatory break in service for more than 30 days. 

What is International Staff Mobility when working for the WHO?

International Professional staff that are on fixed-term contracts adhere to the WHO’s geographical mobility program. A mobile and competent workforce helps the WHO make a measurable improvement in public health at the national level. Mobility helps make the WHO more diverse while improving performance in three particular ways:

  1. Increased talent pool
  2. Brings new perspectives into discussions and decision making
  3. Brings voices of people with health challenges more directly into the discussion

The mobility program is implemented vigorously but fairly, with attention paid to the retention of women leaders and people from developing nations at senior positions. 

Mobility is part of the wider UN system, and the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) has mobility at the center of their career-management pillar in the Framework for Human Resources Management.  

Does the WHO employ Consultants?

The WHO does offer consultant contracts to perform specific tasks within a specific timeframe, such as a research assignment or translation assignment. These contracts may last up to 24 months, with pay rates in accordance with the established pay ranges for internationally or nationally contracted consultants. Internationally contracted consultants may receive a living expense stipend.  

Does the WHO offer Special Services Agreements (SSA)?

The WHO does use SSA contracts for short- or long-term assignments on a specific project or activity. An SSA is a contractual agreement between the WHO and a national or resident of the host country. All rights and obligations are in accordance with the contract. These contracts typically do not exceed one year, but they may be renewed. 

Does the WHO offer programs to help me get my foot in the door?

The WHO Talent Programs are designed to find talent and may be a foot in the door to work for the WHO. Programs are competitive. 

The Junior Professional Officer Program (JPO) and Specialist Development Program (SDP) both seek young professionals, allowing them to gain practical experience at an early stage in their careers. Positions are available at the WHO’s headquarters and at regional and country offices. Requirements for these programs are specifically related to nationality, age, years of experience, computer skills, and education. The ability to work professionally with people who have different national backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, and languages is essential. 

Does the WHO have an internship program?

The WHO’s internship program offers a wide range of opportunities for students and recent graduates looking to gain valuable hands-on work experience. The WHO has a competitive internship program, with internships lasting from six to 24 weeks. Candidates may apply within six months of completing their last qualification. Applicants must be at least 20 years of age, and be enrolled in or have completed their education. Qualified candidates enrolled in an undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate program in public health; a degree related to the medical or social field; or in a management, administrative, communications, or external relations-related field may also be eligible for consideration. Interns may be eligible for financial support. All interns are expected to make their own travel arrangements to and from the internship location. 

Can I volunteer to work for the WHO?

Volunteer opportunities with the WHO through United Nations Volunteers (UNV) are available in a wide range of areas of expertise that are designed to improve health at the national and regional levels. If you have an undergraduate degree, work experience, and an interest in volunteer work around the world, check out how to become a UNV. UNV’s support the WHO through promoting health and safety while serving the vulnerable.

What is the interviewing process like to be considered by the WHO?

Be prepared for knowledge-based and language examinations. Start preparing to get ready to face the competition and get a start working for the World Health Organization today.

Where can I find out more about getting a job with the World Health Organization?

Check out their website at to find out more.

Geoffrey Nevine — IT Services and IT Consulting

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