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Careers Centre

Brussels related careers

Introduction

Working in Brussels can involve a range of careers within and beyond international organisations. Although there are opportunities within NATO, the European Commission and European Parliament, opportunities exist in the think tanks, political consultancies and trade associations that have sprouted around the EU institutions. The website EurActiv estimates there are 10,000 European public affairs specialists in Brussels and lists some of the most well-known. Although competition is fierce, there a number of opportunities available within international institutions, business associations, charities, translation and recruitment companies. Knowledge of European institutions is a useful starting point for employment with such companies as they exist to influence EU policy.

Belgium is regionally divided into a Dutch speaking community North of Brussels, whilst most of the country South of the capital speaks French. The city itself is bilingual but German is also a formal language due to the German speaking minority on the South East of the country. The working languages of the European Commission are English, French and German so bilingualism is a necessary asset. Besides EU institutions and NATO HQ, other international organisations like the World Customs Organisation and Eurocontrol have offices in Belgium.

For more general pages on related careers sectors refer to the following Careers A-Z pages:

How to get experience

The European Union

Traineeships (Stages)

The best way for recent graduates to get experience in an EU institution is through this programme, which has a regular intake of stagiaires (trainees) for paid or unpaid work experience placements of up to 5 months. You cannot apply for a stage until after you have graduated, as you need to send a copy of your degree certificate with your application (if you are currently studying for a postgraduate degree, you can apply before you have completed this degree and send the certificate from your undergraduate degree). Traineeships are open to all including those citizens from outside the EU as long as they have had no prior experience in an institution. Common job profiles are law, public administration, translation, communications, audit, external relations, interpretation, as a lawyer linguist or an economist. In addition, you need a thorough knowledge of English or French to apply.


Here is a quick guide to some of the most popular internships available. Check individual websites for up-to-date details of application and start dates.

 

InstitutionDurationPaid?Application deadlineStart dates
European Commission 5 months Yes - approx 1100Euros 31 January
31 August
1 October
1 March
European Parliament 5 months (paid)
up to 3 months (unpaid)
Various Various Various
European External Action Service 9-18 months 2300-3000Euros See website See website
European Council 5 months Mostly 31 August in the year before the traineeship 1 February
1 September
Court of Justice 5 months Yes 1 October
1 May
1 March
1 October
Court of Auditors 5 months Usually around 1100Euros Ongoing Various
Economic and Social Committee 5 months Yes 30 September
31 March
16 February
16 September
Committee of the Regions 5 months Yes, approx 1000Euros 30 September
31 March
16 February
16 September
European Ombudsman 4-12 months Yes 30 April
31 August
1 September
1 January
European Central Bank Various Yes See website Various
European Data Protection Supervisor 5 months Yes, approx 950Euros 1 October
1 March
1 March
1 October
European Movement International 4 months No See website See website


Other Traineeships

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation)

NATO Headquarters (HQ) introduced its Internship Programme in 2004. The aim of the programme is to provide a small number of current or recent students with the opportunity to intern with the International Staff at NATO Headquarters in Brussels and in a few other NATO bodies.

There is one call for applications per year in Spring with two starting dates, in March and in September the following year. Internships will in principle last 6 months. Further details.

EUROCONTROL

Europe’s international organisation dedicated to air traffic management works with the Commission, European Space Agency and National Authorities and offers traineeships to recent graduates ranging from 2-12 months. Further details.

Think Tanks, NGOs, Political Consultancies

Various political organisations offer opportunities to recent graduates but many are unpaid. Below are a list of some Brussels think tanks, NGOs and political consultancies that sometimes offer internships:

TEFL

Teaching English as a Foreign Language can also be another way to gain general work experience in the city through the British Council in schools or through gaining a TEFL qualification. Post graduate qualifications are another common route taken to gain knowledge of and convey a commitment to EU affairs. Many universities offer courses in specific European subjects including, The College of Europe, Sciences Po, LSE and UCL.

EU - sample tests

The European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) sample tests can give you an idea of the type of questions and level of difficulty you will face in a competition. EPSO is the central point for applications to the EU, equivalent to the UK’s Fast Stream. The recruitment process can take around 9 months in total and includes the following:

Don't be discouraged if you are unsuccessful with your application first time round; learn from the experience and use the intervening time between applications to gain useful experience to make yourself a stronger candidate.

Key links and resources