Employment opportunities for Bulgarian university graduates
While most Bulgarians are well aware of the country´s accession to the European Union in 2007 and have at least heard of the presence of EU offices in Sofia, comparatively few are fully aware of the presence of many other international organizations (IGOs) in Bulgaria. In fact, at least 11 organizations currently maintain a presence in Bulgaria through representative offices, or through fully operational representations. These are mostly stand-alone offices, but they are also sometimes integrated into Bulgarian government departments.
Other than working with Bulgarian government departments and NGOs, these IGOs also offer interesting employment opportunities for young Bulgarian university graduates, both within Bulgaria and abroad.
Most employment opportunities require a perfect knowledge of English, ideally supplemented by fluency in at least one other language, such as Spanish, French, or Russian. Also, these organizations generally prefer candidates who are specialized in one of the organizations´sectors of activity, rather than those graduates who only studied more general subjects, such as international relations. An ideal combination of university subjects is international relations, plus a sector specialization, including, for example, public health, private sector development, public sector management, or education sector development. Prior experience in working with an international NGO is appreciated, as is experience in living and working in another country for at least one year.
List of IGO Offices in Bulgaria
We are starting this list with the organization that has been in the news because of the ´Novel Coronavirus´ since 2020: WHO.
The World Health Organization (WHO) cooperated closely with the Bulgarian health ministry in trying to minimize the spread of the virus and in providing advice on the treatment of patients. It also did so on a worldwide basis.
The World Health Organization Country Office in Bulgaria was established in 1990. The organization seeks to improve health for all by setting guidelines and standards in healthcare, building partnerships with national and international organizations; signing cooperation agreements with local institutions, and working to ensure that in situations of crisis, there is a coordination of public health measures taken at all levels.
The main challenges WHO is focused on in the next 5 years are concerned with mental health. Another important priority is the utilization of technologies for broader access to healthcare. Through vaccination campaigns, WHO seeks to reduce inequalities in vaccination coverage between and within countries, among other factors as a consequence of the COVID pandemic. The struggle to develop healthier lifestyles is also an important topic on which the organization’s team is working globally.
WHO occasionally hires staff in administrative departments, but mostly expert staff for highly qualified medical and technical tasks. Some staff are based in Sofia, but most are based in Geneva and in WHO regional centers throughout the world.
You can contact WHO Bulgaria every day from 9:00 to 17:30 – HERE
Address: National Center of Public Health and Analyzes, 15, Academic Ivan Evstatiev Geshov Blvd., floor 5, office 26, Sofia, Bulgaria, 1431
Tel: +359 2 851 08 89
The World Bank opened its office in Bulgaria 30 years ago.
The WB office in Bulgaria manages the Bank´s investments in projects that, among other things, aim to encourage effective cooperation between local institutions in the provision of public services, with the goal of narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor and eliminating poverty.
Bulgaria has involved the World Bank in certain areas of its national development programme. For example, NextGenerationEU is a project that works towards a greener Europe, including improving water quality, and the environment, moving towards a broader use of technology for a more sustainable world, improving mental health for everyone, and by supporting tourism, culture, and art.
Recently, the Bank has increased the size of its Sofia office by several dozen staff, in the context of the creation of a regional corporate support department, focussing on IT services. The Bank continues to hire highly qualified IT specialists in Bulgaria. Competition for most WB jobs is intense, with several thousand candidates applying for each vacancy.
More information about the organization’s activities can be found HERE. You can reach them by phone on weekdays from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Address: Advance Business Center, 2 Samara Street, Sofia, Bulgaria
Tel: +359 2 969 72 29
UNICEF is the United Nations Children’s Fund and has been operating in 190 countries and territories for over 70 years. UNICEF’s priority is to ensure the rights and well-being of children and adolescents. This includes their health and development, education, their lives after separation from their families, eliminating violence against children, supporting children involved in pre-litigation proceedings, and improving the fates of refugee and migrant children.
A difference needs to be made between the United Nations-affiliated UNICEF organization, and so-called ´National UNICEF Commissions´, which promote UNICEF´s activities in its member countries and raise funds, mostly through the annual sale of greeting cards.
Opening hours of the Bulgarian office are from 9:00 to 18:00 on Thursdays and from 9:00 to 15:00 on Fridays. See more HERE
Address: 87 Knyaz Alexander Dondukov Blvd, Sofia 1504
Tel: +359 2 969 62 08; +359 2 969 62 01
The UNHCR office in Bulgaria was established in 1993. The mission of UNHCR is to save lives by granting protection for refugees through the provision of legal support, interim accommodation, and psychological services. Another part of their work is to provide safe access to education and employment for people affected by international conflict.
Currently, the crisis in Ukraine is a major focus of the organization’s work. An important role of UNHCR is to inform and engage Bulgarian society in a way that fosters tolerance and respect for the rights of refugees.
The organization works every day from 9:00 to 18:00. See more HERE
Address: 2, Pozitano SQUARE, Perform Business Center Building, 6th F, 1000 Sofia, Bulgaria
Tel.: +359 2 980 24 53 / 54
This organization maintains a project office in Sofia for the coordination of regional activities, addressing the reduction of drug trafficking and crime prevention.
The main issues the office deals with are combating corruption, prison reforms, crime prevention, drug abuse prevention, addiction treatment, countering terrorism, as well as human and migrant trafficking.
Address: 15 Acad. Ivan Geshov Blvd, Floor 8, Room 20 and 22, Sofia 1431
Tel: 02 831 30 79, 02 832 61 37
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is the agency for sexual and reproductive health. Its mission is to create a safe environment for pregnancy and to make sure that every young person’s potential is unleashed. Another important goal is to promote gender equality and to empower women, girls, and young people to take control of their bodies and futures.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has a mission in the country, which carries out regular consultations, coordination, and interaction with the Ministry of Finance, as well as with the World Bank Group.
Tel: +359 2 9145 15 09; +359 889 30 90 96
Working hours are from 9:00 to 17:30.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) deals with international labour standards and decent work for all. The main objectives of the ILO are to advance socio-economic progress, raise standards of living, and improve working conditions through the protection of social and economic human rights.
The UNDP Office in Bulgaria was established in 1992. Apart from general horizontal social and economic development support, UNDP focuses its work in Bulgaria on environmental issues, such as soil degradation, as well as human development.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which cooperates closely with UN specialized organizations and agencies, has a mission in Bulgaria that includes migration management, crisis response, international cooperation, and work on the Global Compact for Migration. The organization assists certain categories of people with the return to their countries of origin.
Address: 77 Tsar Asen Street, Sofia 1463
Tel: + 359 2 939 47 74
Organizations linked to the activities of the UN
The United Nations are supported by a range of NGOs which, as such, are not part of the UN system, but cooperate closely with UN entities.
The Global Compact is a platform for knowledge sharing and dialogue with the active participation and support of companies, UN specialized organizations, business associations, NGOs, and trade unions to promote corporate social responsibility and ethical business standards. Global Compact Network Bulgaria has been operating within the Global Network since 2011. The Bulgarian Network brings together companies that have developed projects of public importance having a positive impact on the sustainable development of business and the public.
Address: Filip Kutev Street, Sofia 1407, Bulgaria
Tel: +359 2 42 82 015 ; +359 882 173 188
The Regional Centre for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in South-Eastern Europe (UNESCO) was opened in 2012. Its main mission is to contribute to the protection of the intangible cultural heritage of the countries in the region. You can read more about the Centre’s mission and objectives HERE.
Address: UNESCO Regional Center 7 Lachezar Stanchev Street, Iztok District, Sofia, Bulgaria
Tel: +359 2 444 21 03
The United Nations Association in Bulgaria has been working for the public since 1948. The organization was founded to support Bulgaria’s membership in the United Nations, which began in 1955. Through its activities, the United Nations Association in Bulgaria implements and promotes the ideas, principles, and decisions of the United Nations. Some of the main areas of the organization’s work include human rights education, promoting the UN Sustainable Development Goals, discussions and publications on global issues, etc.
Address: 67 Alexander Dondukov Boulevard, Sofia
Bulgaria is well served by both a permanent presence of International Organizations, and by temporary, mostly project-based missions. However, not enough is currently being done to inform the wider Bulgarian public about the work of these organizations, which in turn leads to well-qualified Bulgarian students and graduates not knowing enough about job vacancies offered by these organizations. Bulgarian university career offices will no doubt try to increase awareness of these international employment opportunities, especially since Bulgaria is not well represented among the staff of several IGOs.
Contributions to this Article
We thank Kameliya Grigorova, Maria Stoyanova, Hristina Stoyanova, and Marian Karagyozov for their valuable collaboration on this article.
Dr. Peters is a retired Administrator of the European Parliament, and a former staff member of WHO, the IMF, and the World Bank.
Kristin Krasimirova is a graduate of UNSS, director, and editor-in-chief of UNA News Bulgaria (2019-2022).