If you want to represent the interests of the United States in foreign countries, a career as a diplomat could be something you want to consider. Also called a foreign services officer, you will be under the direction of the US ambassador of the country where you will be assigned in. Aside from ensuring that the interests and policies are represented, it will also be your responsibility to observe and listen to the happenings of the country, evaluate it, make an analysis of the situation and report it to the federal government. Doing so will allow the US to formulate policies and approaches that are sensitive to the needs of the people in that particular country.
A career as a US diplomat may seem very prestigious—and it is. However, it can also be dangerous and challenging, especially when you are assigned to an “unaccompanied” post where your family members may not go with you or when you are placed in a war-torn country. Thus, you need to be able to maintain your composure and sound judgment even in the face of the greatest stress and possess the ability to quickly adapt to rapidly changing situations. You also need to be very committed to public service as well.
Why Become A Diplomat
There are many reasons to pursue a career in the Foreign Service. One of the reasons to become a diplomat is because you thrive in positions of great responsibility. You want to be in the middle of the action and change right when it is happening. Another reason is because you truly believe in what the US is doing to promote diplomacy and want to play a role in it. Other reasons to become a diplomat include the opportunity to travel to foreign lands, immerse in different cultures and meet new peoples. It is also a stable and long-term job that offers great pay and benefits.
Diplomat Work Environment
The US Department of State maintains over 270 embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions around the world and diplomats could be assigned in any of these. Training and orientation is done in the State Department in Washington. After that, diplomats are assigned in overseas, sometimes in “hardship” posts which are located in isolated or even dangerous areas. Learning the language and adjusting to the culture of the country where a diplomat is assigned in would help him do his job more efficiently.
According to the US Department of State, government employees receive compensation based on a government-regulated pay scale. Diplomats or foreign service employees are paid using the Foreign Service pay scale which has nine pay grades and 14 steps in each grade. The pay will depend on an individual’s qualifications. An entry-level foreign service officer who only has a bachelor’s degree and does not possess any relevant experience can receive a base pay of around $43,000. Those who have higher educational qualifications and relevant experience can expect to receive higher pay. Aside from the base salary, diplomats also receive a plethora of allowances, incentives and other benefits.
Diplomat Career Outlook
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not specifically provide the employment outlook for diplomats. However, it does provide the employment rate for political scientists, a related profession, which is projected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The continued thrust of the US to develop relationships with other parts of the world should also spur the need for more diplomats.
A bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement to work in the Foreign Service but most require advanced degrees, such as a master’s or PhD. However, the road towards becoming a diplomat is long and challenging. Aspiring diplomats have to pass the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT). Once you pass that, you will be asked to submit a personal narrative, take the oral assessment, get medical and security clearances and hurdle the final review panel. Only after successfully completing all these steps will your name be placed on the Register of successful candidates.