Being a part of an intergovernmental organisation (IGO) can be a deeply fulfilling career path, but it’s a path that can seem unattainable to those unfamiliar with the true scope of work conducted by such organisations.
However, with enough planning and dedication, it’s certainly possible to secure a role within an IGO – regardless of where you are in your current professional journey.
To prepare for such a career move, it’s important to understand what an IGO does and the different subject areas that could call for your specific skills.
What is an IGO?
The term intergovernmental organisation refers to an entity that’s established and run by two or more nations to tackle issues of common interest.
IGOs are formed by treaties which are put together by lawful representatives of the involved nations. As a treaty is a legally binding document in international law, the nations effectively agree to enter into an enforceable agreement between themselves.
These legalities create a clear distinction between IGOs versus a gathering of states such as the G7 – which are not bound by any such terms.
In broad terms, the typical purpose of an IGO is to drive solutions for people across the world to work and live successfully together, while dealing with the social or economic challenges that pose as obstacles to this goal.
Some examples of IGOs include:
African Development Bank
Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency
World Conservation Union
South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
Why work at an IGO?
Most people who choose to work at IGOs do so because of the opportunity to make a real positive impact on communities around the world – whether this relates to the environment, health, economics, equality, or anything else.
While the specifics of your job can vary significantly depending on your specialisation and organisation, you can most likely look forward to a certain amount of unpredictability in an IGO, due to the constant possibility of new developments.
As such, a role in an IGO is perfect for someone who enjoys being challenged. For individuals who enjoy reacting and adjusting to different situations, this can be an incredible rewarding line of work, where their contributions can ultimately help drive meaningful change for others.
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What skills do you need?
As touched upon above, the type of work you’ll take on will depend heavily on your area of expertise and the objectives of your organisation.
Jobs can range from administrative to field-based – effectively spanning across every professional avenue that the organisation needs to cover. Depending on your skill set, you might work as a lawyer, interpreter, medic, conflict specialist, nutritionist, finance officer, press officer – the list goes on!
That being said, there are certainly a few key requirements that employees typically look for when hiring:
A postgraduate qualification. IGOs often look for applicants who hold a Master’s or similar qualification as this helps ensure a high degree of subject-specialist knowledge in the position they’re hiring for.
Experience in your field. Given the emphasis on subject expertise, it’s important to secure at least a few years in a role that can further demonstrate your capabilities. Of course, volunteer experience can be extremely helpful as well.
Proficiency in two or more languages. In this case, the specific language skills required will depend on the IGO and the nations that comprise it – as well as the type of projects you’re looking to get involved in.
Project management and organisation. The constantly evolving nature of work in IGOs means that the ability to manage your projects is crucial. Employers will look for professionals who understand the need for adaptability, and who can see their work through to the end.
How can a Master’s help?
As covered in the previous section, earning a Master’s is an important part of your journey towards working within an IGO.
In addition to the advanced knowledge that a postgraduate education helps you develop, there are a number of other ways that joining a Master’s course can give you a competitive advantage when you start looking for jobs.
Better research skills. Studying at a postgraduate level requires a passion for independent learning and involves developing excellent research skills. As a student at Queen Mary Online, you can expect to receive support from both your tutors and our Library team to further these capabilities, so that you can lead your own assignments and projects with confidence.
A broader network. Building relationships with experts in your subject area not only helps you gain a better understanding of your field, but can even unlock new professional opportunities. As one of our students, you’ll get to connect with your academics and peers, while also joining our global alumni community of over 180,000 people following graduation.
Reliable career guidance. Being able to showcase your strengths, including your interpersonal skills, is another key aspect to securing a role in an IGO. The Careers and Enterprise team at Queen Mary can help you develop your CV, practice for interviews, and even provide application advice as you look for different openings – ensuring you always put your best foot forward.
Interested in humanitarian aid roles too? Our handy guide explains the different paths you could take: