Careers in the EU and Structure

​Careers in the EU

The EU Institutions employ 40,000 women and men from a wide variety of cultural, educational, and professional backgrounds who are united by their passion for Europe. There are a number of ways in which people can come to work in the Institutions. The following is a guide for those who intend to compete in European recruitment competitions.

Permanent Officials

The permanent officials form the EU Civil Service and are divided in two categories - administrators (AD) and assistants (AST). In parallel, there is a linear career system which consists of 16 levels (grades).

Administrators are typically engaged in drafting policies and implementing EU law, analysing and advising, in the fields of administration, law, finance, economics, communication and science among others. An administrator may find him/herself playing a key role in the EU's legislative and budgetary processes, coordinating the broad economic and other policies of the Member States, taking part in trade negotiations with non-EU countries, or representing the Institutions in international forums. Others might be inspecting the fishing fleets in the Member States, developing or managing a specific scientific research programme, or drafting a decision of the European Court of Justice or the European Ombudsman.

The administrator function group (AD) covers grades 5 to 16. New staff generally enter this group at grade 5.

Assistants are generally employed in a supporting role (secretarial, administrative, financial, communication, policy development and implementation etc). They play an important role in the internal management of the Institutions, notably in budgetary and financial affairs, personnel work, computing, and document management.

The assistant function group (AST) covers grades 1 to 11 (overlapping with Administrators in grades 5-11). New staff usually enters at grades 1 or 3.

New staff are recruited as probationary officials. The probation period lasts nine months at the end of which a report on the performance of the probationer is drawn up. New staff who successfully complete the probationary period, are established as officials.

Officials who perform well are promoted to a higher grade, and so receive an increase in salary. Officials usually spend three to six years in each grade. Evaluation of performance takes place in an annual appraisal and promotion system. Assistants are able to become Administrators of the same grade, if their evaluation supports this, and if they have passed a qualifying examination (certification process).

Throughout their career, employees have the possibility to move from one department or job-profile to another (mobility). In this way they have the opportunity to discover different policies and services in the Institutions and also to broaden their skills and competencies.

Entry requirements:

Every candidate must:

  • Be a citizen of a Member State of the European Union
  • Be entitled to full rights as such a citizen
  • Have fulfilled any obliga​tions imposed by the laws on military service
  • Have a thorough knowledge of one of the official languages of the European Union and a satisfactory knowledge of a second.
In addition, candidates must meet the specific requirements relating to qualifications and professional experience (where applicable), as set out in the Notice of Competition.

Minimum educational requirements vary according to the position. In general, a university degree is required for all Administrator level positions. Relevant work experience may be required in some cases. Linguists (interpreters, translators, lawyer-linguists) are required to demonstrate additional knowledge of languages, beyond the minimum requirements set out above.

Types of posts in AD and AST grades (examples) can be seen here​.

Temporary employment

Contract Agents

Contract agents are recruited to do manual or administrative support-service tasks or to provide additional capacity in specialised fields where insufficient officials with the required skills are available. Contract Agents are employed for a fixed maximum period, often with a shorter initial contract of 6-12 months, depending on the type of the job.

Contract Agent positions are available for a wide range of jobs, requiring different levels of qualifications. They are divided into four functional groups:

  1. Manual and administrative support-service tasks
  2. Clerical or secretarial tasks, office management and other equivalent tasks
  3. Executive tasks, drafting, accountancy and other equivalent technical tasks
  4. Administrative, advisory, linguistic and equivalent technical tasks. 


Temporary Agents (Non-permanent Staff)

Temporary agents may be employed to perform a wide variety of highly specialised or temporary tasks for a maximum period of six years. You can also apply to be a temporary agent by introducing your details into the EU CV online database managed by the Commission's Human Resources and Security DG. Selection competitions for Temporary Agents are generally run by the Institutions and Agencies themselves, rather than by EPSO. Candidates are therefore advised to regularly visit the websites of the Institutions and the EU Agencies if they are interested in such opportunities.

Interim Staff

Some Institutions also employ local staff on a very short term and temporary basis (up to 6 months), through temping agencies. Persons interested in such short-term employment opportunities should contact these temping agencies directly here​.


Each year more than 1,200 young people have the chance to increase their professional skills, develop their personal qualities, and enhance their EU knowledge through the EU trainee programmes. The European Parliament, the Council, the Commission, Court of Justice, the Social and Economic Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the European Ombudsman organise traineeships for young university graduates, each lasting 3-5 months. Trainees will all have completed their first university degree, and so receive tasks similar to those of the lower AD grade officials. The trainee programmes are managed by the Institutions themselves and further details regarding the programmes and application procedures can be found on their websites.

Seconded National Experts (SNE)

SNEs are national or international civil servants or persons employed in the public sector who are working temporarily for an EU Institution. They bring to the Institution their experience of issues with which they are used to dealing, and take back to their home administration a knowledge of EU policies and procedures which they will have acquired during their period of secondment.

SNEs work alongside EU officials, helping to achieve the strategic objectives defined by a Directorate-General or Service. They work under the instructions of an EU official, according to a detailed job description and governed by rules that help avoid any risk of a conflict of interests. SNE are selected through a specific procedure, which does not involve EPSO. Information about current opportunities can generally be obtained from the offices of the Permanent Representations of the Member States to the EU (in Brussels).

Management Positions

The Institutions have their own specific approaches towards recruitment for management level positions. In general, Heads of Unit are appointed from grades 9 to 14, while Directors and Director-General occupy grades 14/15 and 15/16 respectively.