European Union Official

The Job and What's Involved

The European Union (EU) is a partnership of countries. Officials of the EU work to advance the shared aims of its member states.

There are currently 27 member states of the EU, with a total population of more than 490 million. Within the union they work together in many different ways, such as promoting trade, tackling international crime, providing aid to developing countries and raising standards for consumer goods.

Officials work within nine different institutions:

- European Commission
- European Parliament
- Council of the European Union
- Court of Justice
- Court of Auditors
- European Ombudsman
- European Data Protection Supervisor
- European Economic and Social Committee
- Committee of the Regions

EU officials carry out similar work to those in the civil service of national governments. They are employed on a wide range of projects, from the Common Agricultural Policy to scientific research programmes.

Most officials are broadly grouped into administrators and assistants.

For administrators, there are opportunities in general policy work and in specialist fields such as law, IT and finance. Tasks might include:

- Drafting policy papers or new legislation
- Implementing EU programmes and monitoring their progress
- Managing IT or communications projects
- Interpreting and applying EU law
- Taking part in negotiations with non-EU countries

Because of its multilingual environment, the EU employs linguists to provide interpreting and translating services for the institutions. The European Commission also recruits specialist staff in science and research.

Assistants carry out roles in the internal management of the institution. They may work in fields such as finance, personnel or librarianship. They also carry out secretarial and clerical work.

EU officials generally work 37.5 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, they are expected to be available for work at all times. A flexitime system allows them to claim time off for any work outside normal office hours.

Most officials are based in Brussels. There are also EU institutions in Luxembourg, and offices and agencies in all the EU countries and throughout the world.

Most of the work is office based. Officials may travel to other EU countries, or to countries hoping to join the EU.

Salaries for new assistants start from around £27,000 a year.
Administrators may earn between £44,000 and £72,000, depending on their seniority and role, and managers in charge of a unit in an EU institution can earn up to £135,000.

Salaries are paid in euros. Basic earnings can be supplemented by EU allowances. Anyone leaving their home country to work for the EU is entitled to an expatriation allowance at 16 per cent of their basic salary.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Around 40,000 officials work for the EU. The European Commission is by far the biggest employer of the institutions.

Vacancies are filled by open competition organised by the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO). There is fierce competition for most posts. There are often several thousand applicants.

Opportunities are listed on the Competitions pages of the EPSO website, and in the Official Journal of the European Union.

Education and Training

Many opportunities are for graduates, who can apply for posts at administrator grade. Graduates with some professional experience can enter at higher grades.

Degrees may be in almost any subject. Economics, business administration, law, languages, IT and political science subjects are all useful. For a degree, entry requirements are usually at least two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C) or equivalent.

Several of the institutions offer traineeships, which give graduates a chance to experience the EU working environment. These placements normally last three to five months. Again, there is very keen competition for places.

Those without a degree can apply for assistant posts. They usually need to have at least two to three years' work experience, which may include specialist training.

Candidates must be citizens of an EU member state. They need to be fluent in at least two official languages of the EU. There are far more demanding requirements for linguists.

Advertisements for linguists will be published in March, for administrators in September and for assistants in December.

The application process can be lengthy, taking six to nine months. It usually has several stages:

Pre-selection tests cover verbal and numerical reasoning. For some posts there are also specialist tests.

Shortlisted candidates then take a written examination, and finally an oral examination. Some or all of these tests may be in the candidates' second language.

The highest-scoring candidates are placed on a reserve list. This does not guarantee a post. Any institution with a vacancy may use the list to select candidates for interview.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

New entrants undergo induction courses and on-the-job training to help them perform effectively. EU officials often take on wide responsibilities at an early stage.

Officials are expected to keep up to date with changing legislation and the affairs of EU countries. As well as job-specific skills, they can take advantage of training in management skills and additional languages, to help them progress in their careers.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An EU official must have:

  • Fluency in at least two of the EU's 23 official languages.
  • A thorough knowledge of the European Union, its history and how it works.
  • Strong oral, written and numerical skills.
  • An ability to communicate well with people of different cultures.
  • Initiative.
  • A logical mind.
  • An organised approach.
  • Good time management skills and the ability to prioritise tasks.
  • IT and administrative skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

EU officials advance automatically up the salary scale every two years. They can generally expect promotion every five years. Some advance more quickly.

Staff recruited to the EU are able to change jobs between the different institutions, gaining experience and promotion.

Get Further Information

European Commission Representation in the UK,
8 Storey's Gate, London SW1P 3AT
Tel: 020 7973 1992

European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO),
Office C-80 00/40, B-1049
Brussels Tel: 0032 2299 3131,
or Europe Direct (freephone) on 00 800 6789 1011

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