Human Rights Officer: Job Description, Duties and Salary

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a human rights officer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and salary expectations to find out if this is the career for you.

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Human rights officers address and attempt to stop violations of human rights around the world. They gather information regarding human rights violations and coordinate efforts to intervene if necessary. A human rights officer can expect to earn just under $40,000 a year.

Essential Information

A human rights officer (HRO) monitors, reports on and attempts to redress violations of the civil, social, cultural and political rights basic to humankind, as initially defined by the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Most work for the United Nations, which maintains 12 country offices and 12 regional offices throughout the world. A few are employed by other organizations and governments. The job can involve gathering information on human rights violations, visiting victims, interacting with government leaders and attending trials. A master's degree in law, public administration or other relevant field is generally required.

Required Education Master's degree in law, public administration or related field
Other Requirements Foreign language proficiency, experience in human rights issues
Number of HROs Employed by the U.N. 235 (2016)*
Salary $39,074 (FS1 pay grade with a year of experience, 2016)*

Sources: * United Nations.

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Job Description

Human rights officers work, to a large extent, for the United Nations. Others may work for the U.S. Department of State or specific international organizations. HROs receive and investigate complaints of human rights, for such abuses as discrimination of minorities or women, unjust imprisonment, violence against children, and religious intolerance. The positions of United Nations' HROs vary from those that are entry level to those classified as chief of field operations. The UN also has a specific program for HROs as volunteers.

The United Nations has 193 member states. In 2016, they employed about 235 human rights officers in 24 country and regional offices in such places as Liberia, South Sudan, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Herzegovina and Haiti.


To qualify as an HRO, a master's degree is usually required in an area such as law, peacekeeping management, public administration, political science, or international relations. Skills in foreign language are essential, particularly for the region in which the HRO works. Knowledge of and experience with social, cultural, and economic human rights issues is important.

Job Duties

The numerous duties of HROs include identifying human rights violations, gathering information and facts, interviewing those violated and the violators, and visiting displaced persons and prisoners. It also includes observing trials and elections and monitoring demonstrations. Sometimes it is necessary to intervene with local authorities on behalf of victims. Work with other organizations, such as the International Labour Organization, United Nations Children's Fund, and the International Criminal Court, is often necessary.


Examples of United Nations gross salaries for field service personnel as of 2016 are as follows:

  • For the FS-1 level with one year of experience: $39,074
  • For the FS-2 level with one year of experience: $43,893
  • For the FS-3 level with one year of experience: $49,404

As a human rights officer, you'll have the important job of recognizing and stopping human rights violations around the world. You'll need to be observant, capable of speaking a foreign language and knowledgeable about a variety of human rights issues in order to be a successful human rights officer.

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