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How To Become A Diplomat

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If a person is passionate about international politics and travel, they might be a good fit for a diplomat. This position involves representing the interests of a state around the world and engaging in dialogues and negotiation with other political representatives. How does a person become a diplomat?

What do diplomats do exactly?

The first step to becoming a diplomat is knowing what responsibilities come with the position. Depending on where you’re from, diplomats can be divided into different paths with varying tasks. As an example, one type of diplomat might be focused on human rights and humanitarian concerns, while another is focused on economics. In the United States, there are five different paths for diplomats: consular officers, political officers, economic officers, management officers, and public diplomacy officers.

Consular officers – This position helps evacuate Americans from other countries, facilitates adoptions, and addresses identity fraud and human trafficking.

Political officers – A political officer monitors their host country’s political activity and negotiates with government officials.

Economic officers – This position works with NGOs, foreign governments, and international businesses on a variety of policies, such as economic, environmental, and technology policies.

Management officers – This type of officer is in leadership and responsible for embassy operations, including budgeting and security.

Public diplomacy officers – This position works with academics, think tanks, government officials, and others in order to promote their state’s interests and build up support.

Within the diplomat career field, there is also a ranking system. According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, ambassadors are the top diplomat and head of the embassy. Positions beneath the ambassador include envoys, special envoys, ministers, chargé d’affaires, and so on. The names can vary slightly depending on the state.

A diplomat’s career path

No matter what country you’re from, you will need to receive a solid education if you want to be a diplomat. The first step is to get a bachelor’s degree. Good majors include political science, economics, sociology, international relations, history, and anthropology. While going to college, anything you can do to build up your knowledge of foreign affairs will serve you well in the future, so read newspapers, online journals, and so on. It’s also wise to study foreign languages, especially the language of the area where you are most interested in serving in the future. You are not guaranteed to be placed in your dream country, of course, so studying a few languages is smart.

After a bachelor’s degree, you should pursue a graduate degree. Research schools carefully because there are many places that offer programs in foreign affairs and other relevant subjects. You should be sure the program also offers opportunities for internships and other resources since experience outside the classroom is very important.

What skills should a diplomat possess?

While getting your degrees and gaining experience, there are certain skills you should focus on. The US Department of State actually lists thirteen specific skills they’re looking for in a good candidate. No matter where you’re from, it’s important to keep the following general skills in mind:

Negotiation– Diplomacy requires a lot of negotiating, so a good diplomat will have excellent persuasion and debating skills, but they’ll also be able to listen and compromise when necessary.

Team management – Diplomats are part of teams representing their states, so being able to work with others (and lead, if that’s part of the job) is essential to success.

Cultural awareness– Diplomats work in other countries, so being aware of cultural differences and similarities is crucial. Having respect and understanding helps ensure successful negotiations and projects.

Research and analysis – Depending on the specific position, a diplomat’s job can involve a lot of research and analysis of data, such as political and economic trends. A good diplomat is able to understand what’s going on and solve problems.

Foreign language – Most diplomats know at least two languages. The more languages a diplomat knows, the better for their career. Even if they aren’t fluent in a language, they are able to learn and improve when necessary.

Written communication – To be professional and credible, a diplomat needs excellent written communication skills. A good diplomat’s writing is clear, thorough, mechanically-correct, and persuasive, when necessary.

Becoming a diplomat

When you get your degrees and experience, how do you actually become a diplomat? The process varies depending on where you’re from, but there will be multiple steps and vigorous evaluation. Diplomats represent their states’ interests around the world, so the state wants only the most qualified candidates. In the United States, the application process includes an online application, an in-person interview, extensive evaluation, a medical exam, and a background check and security clearance. While applying, a candidate must also choose a specific career track from one of the five options. The Foreign Service exam consists of a written test, negotiating exercise, and an oral interview. Once an applicant has passed the final review, their names are put on a register that ranks candidates. They are hired as needed.

Why become a diplomat?

A diplomat gets a very unique and rewarding look at how the world works. They are able to experience other countries and cultures in a way most people can’t. While diplomats can be placed in dangerous areas, they are usually treated with respect by both their own state and their host. Best of all, a diplomat is in a position to help make the world a more just and equal place.

Take a free course on Diplomacy, Human Rights or International Relations to learn more.

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Global Peace Careers is a website dedicated to career related information in the sectors humanitarian aid and action, international development, peace and conflict studies, negotiation, conflict resolution, diplomacy and international law. On our website we collect and distribute information about entry level jobs, paid internships, affordable master degrees, free online courses and other opportunities.

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Disclosure: Global Peace Careers may be compensated by course providers.