CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a diplomat.
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If you're interested in becoming a diplomat, it's important to start building a strong foundation in high school. Here are some courses that can help prepare you for a career in diplomacy:
- History: Studying history can provide a strong background in political and social issues, which are central to the work of diplomats.
- Foreign Languages: Fluency in a second language is a key skill for diplomats, and studying a foreign language in high school can give you a head start.
- International Relations: High school courses in international relations can help you understand the workings of global politics and diplomacy.
- Economics: Understanding economic principles and trade policies can help you navigate the complex world of international trade and commerce.
- Geography: A strong understanding of geography can help you understand the geopolitical landscape of different regions and countries.
- Public Speaking: Diplomats are often required to give speeches and make presentations in front of large audiences, so honing your public speaking skills can be beneficial.
- Writing and Communication: Clear and effective communication is essential in diplomacy, and taking courses in writing and communication can help you develop these skills.
Overall, it's important to develop a broad range of skills and knowledge to prepare for a career in diplomacy. Additionally, seeking out extracurricular activities like Model UN or volunteer work with international organizations can also help build your experience and prepare you for a career in diplomacy.
Formal Education Steps
Becoming a diplomat in the United States requires a combination of education, language skills, and experience, as well as a rigorous selection process that evaluates candidates' knowledge, skills, and suitability for a diplomatic career.
- Bachelor's Degree: The U.S. Department of State requires all candidates for the Foreign Service to have at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Although any major can be acceptable, candidates with degrees in fields such as international relations, political science, economics, business, history, or law are often preferred.
- Foreign Language Proficiency: The U.S. Department of State places a high value on language skills and requires its diplomats to be proficient in at least one foreign language. The level of proficiency required may vary by position and region, but in general, candidates must demonstrate advanced proficiency in at least one language other than English. To meet this requirement, candidates may need to take language proficiency tests, such as the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) test, or complete language courses and programs.
- Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT): The FSOT is a written exam that assesses candidates' knowledge, skills, and abilities in areas such as English expression, situational judgment, and knowledge of U.S. government and political systems. The test is usually administered three times a year and candidates must achieve a passing score to be eligible to move on to the next stage of the selection process.
- Personal Narrative and Qualifications Evaluation: After passing the FSOT, candidates must submit a personal narrative that outlines their qualifications, experiences, and interest in a diplomatic career. The narrative is evaluated by a panel of Foreign Service Officers, who determine whether the candidate meets the requirements for the next stage.
- Oral Assessment: The oral assessment is a day-long evaluation that assesses candidates' ability to analyze and solve problems, their leadership potential, and their overall suitability for a diplomatic career. The assessment includes a structured interview, a group exercise, and a case management simulation.
- Security Clearance: Before being appointed as a diplomat, candidates must undergo a background investigation and obtain a security clearance. This involves a thorough examination of the candidate's personal, professional, and financial history to ensure that they are trustworthy and able to access classified information.
- Additional Training: Once selected as a Foreign Service Officer, candidates must undergo additional training that is tailored to their specific position and region. This training may include language courses, area studies, diplomatic protocol, foreign policy, and other relevant topics.
In the United States, a master's degree is not a strict requirement to become a diplomat, but it can be helpful and is often preferred.
The U.S. Department of State, which is responsible for the nation's foreign affairs and diplomatic relations, typically requires that candidates have at least a bachelor's degree in any field, as well as relevant work experience. However, competition for diplomatic positions can be fierce, and having a master's degree in a relevant field can set a candidate apart from other applicants.
Some of the fields that may be helpful for a diplomatic career include political science, international relations, law, economics, foreign languages, and public policy. However, it's important to note that the U.S. Department of State looks for a broad range of skills and experiences in its diplomats, so having a degree in a different field or relevant work experience can also be valuable.
There are several internships available for those wanting to be diplomats. Here are a few examples:
- U.S. Department of State Student Internship Program: This program is open to U.S. citizen undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in a career in foreign affairs. Interns work in a variety of offices throughout the Department of State and gain valuable experience in the diplomatic arena.
- U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Internship Program: USAID offers internships to undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in working in international development. Interns work on projects related to health, education, economic growth, democracy, and human rights.
- National Security Agency (NSA) Internship Program: The NSA offers internships to undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in working in the intelligence field. Interns work on projects related to cybersecurity, signals intelligence, and information assurance.
- Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Internship Program: The CIA offers internships to undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in working in the intelligence field. Interns work on projects related to analysis, operations, and support.
- Department of Defense (DoD) Internship Program: The DoD offers internships to undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in working in national security and defense. Interns work on projects related to policy, strategy, and technology.
There are several certifications that diplomats can obtain to enhance their credentials and demonstrate their expertise in various areas. Here are some examples:
- Certified Diplomatic Professional (CDP): This certification is offered by the International Association of Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs (IADFA) and is designed to recognize the professional accomplishments of diplomats. It covers topics such as diplomacy, international relations, negotiation, and protocol.
- Certified International Trade Professional (CITP): This certification is offered by the Forum for International Trade Training (FITT) and is intended for diplomats who work in trade promotion or trade policy. It covers topics such as global trade, market research, and export strategy.
- Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS): This certification is offered by the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists and is intended for diplomats who work in financial regulation or enforcement. It covers topics such as money laundering and terrorist financing, regulatory compliance, and risk management.
- Certified Protection Professional (CPP): This certification is offered by ASIS International and is intended for diplomats who work in security and risk management. It covers topics such as physical security, crisis management, and business continuity.
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): This certification is offered by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium and is intended for diplomats who work in cybersecurity. It covers topics such as access control, cryptography, and network security.
There are several professional associations for US diplomats, including:
- American Foreign Service Association (AFSA): The AFSA is the professional association for the United States Foreign Service, representing over 16,000 active and retired Foreign Service employees. The organization advocates for the interests of its members, provides support and assistance, and promotes the values of the Foreign Service.
- Association of Black American Ambassadors (ABAA): The ABAA is an organization that supports and promotes Black American diplomats and works to increase diversity in the Foreign Service. The organization provides mentoring and networking opportunities for its members and seeks to raise awareness of the contributions of Black American diplomats to US foreign policy.
- Association of Women in International Trade (WIIT): The WIIT is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the professional advancement of women in international trade and business, including those in the diplomatic corps. The organization provides networking opportunities, educational programs, and advocacy for policies that support women in these fields.
- Diplomatic and Consular Officers Retired (DACOR): DACOR is a private club for retired US diplomats, with a focus on promoting camaraderie and continuing professional development. The organization offers a variety of events and activities, as well as support for retired diplomats and their families.
- Diplomatic Security Foundation (DSF): The DSF is a non-profit organization that supports the work of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which is responsible for protecting US diplomats and diplomatic facilities abroad. The organization provides training and resources for diplomatic security professionals and raises awareness of the importance of this work.
- International Career Advancement Program (ICAP): The ICAP is a program for US government employees, including diplomats, that provides career development and networking opportunities. The program offers mentoring, training, and access to events and resources to help participants advance their careers.
- The Council of American Ambassadors (CAA): The CAA is a non-profit organization composed of former US ambassadors, with a focus on promoting diplomacy and international understanding. The organization provides a forum for discussion and exchange of ideas, as well as support for current and future ambassadors.
- US Diplomacy Center Foundation: The US Diplomacy Center Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports the work of the US Diplomacy Center, which is responsible for telling the story of American diplomacy and the role of US diplomats in the world. The organization raises funds and awareness for the Diplomacy Center's exhibits and programs.
- Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP): The YPFP is a non-profit organization that supports the professional development of young professionals in the field of foreign policy, including those interested in a career in diplomacy. The organization provides networking opportunities, educational programs, and mentorship to help members advance their careers.
There are a number of online resources available for US diplomats, including:
- Foreign Service Institute (FSI) Online: The FSI provides online courses, materials and resources to support the professional development of US diplomats. Courses cover topics such as language training, leadership development, and cultural awareness.
- Diplomatic Courier: The Diplomatic Courier is a digital magazine that covers topics related to diplomacy, foreign policy, and international affairs. It features articles written by diplomats, scholars, and experts in the field.
- State Department Virtual Presence Post (VPP): The State Department VPP provides online resources and information about US foreign policy and diplomacy in countries where the US does not have a physical embassy or consulate. This includes information about visa requirements, travel advisories, and cultural events.
- Diplomatic Language Services (DLS): DLS provides online language training and resources for US diplomats, including courses in over 85 languages and customized training programs to meet the specific needs of individual diplomats.
- US Diplomacy Center: The US Diplomacy Center is a museum and education center dedicated to the history and practice of US diplomacy. It offers online resources and exhibits related to US diplomatic history, foreign policy, and diplomacy today.
- DipNote: DipNote is the State Department's official blog, featuring articles and commentary on US foreign policy and diplomacy. It includes contributions from diplomats, experts, and officials from across the US government.
- Foreign Policy Association: The Foreign Policy Association is a non-profit organization that provides online resources and educational programs on US foreign policy and international affairs. It offers courses, webinars, and events featuring experts and scholars in the field.