How do you become a diplomat?


All Foreign Service Officers must take a qualifying test similar as the first step to entering the Department of State's diplomatic corps. Credit: AP Photo/Joerg Sarbach

A qualifying test is the first step to entering the
Department of State’s diplomatic corps.
(© AP Photo/Joerg Sarbach)

 

Becoming a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) is one way to serve as an American diplomat. While there is no specific academic degree or professional experience required to become a FSO, all applicants must undergo a rigorous selection process. This consists of a written Foreign Service Officer Test, a written personal narrative, an oral interview combined with role playing exercises, and a medical and security clearance review. The application then goes to a Suitability Review Panel for one last look before an applicant’s name is placed on the Registrar of selected candidates eligible to be offered a position in the U.S. Foreign Service.

The U.S. Department of State also employs many non-FSOs, people with specialized skills such as doctors and nurses, IT specialists, security agents, construction engineers, and English teachers among others. There is a separate selection process for them.

Keeping up with current events around the world is important for any aspiring Foreign Service Officer. Credit: AP Photo/Robert Tong

Keeping up with current events around the world is important for any aspiring Foreign Service Officer.
(© AP Photo/Robert Tong)

The successful FSO candidate demonstrates the skills, abilities and personal qualities needed to be a diplomat.  Diplomats must stay calm in stressful or difficult situations and be able to think on their feet, adjusting quickly to changing situations. They must be able to work with people from other cultures with different values, political beliefs and religions.  Diplomats need strong analytical, organizational and leadership skills.  They must have good judgment and high integrity.  In addition, they must be able to communicate effectively, both in writing and orally.  They must be able to learn at least one foreign language, often several, during their careers.  Finally, they must be resourceful and creative problem solvers.