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How to Become a Diplomat

If serving your country and making it count matters, becoming a diplomat is just right for you. Read on...
Loveleena Rajeev
A diplomatic career treads a long and arduous path, but is extremely rewarding in terms of a profile, monetary benefits, and political powers. There are two definitions for a diplomat; an official engaged in international negotiations and a person who deals tactfully with others.
Both these definitions actually sum up what a diplomat is and what is expected out of him/her. Being a diplomat is not a new concept. During ancient times, Emperors would send out envoys or representatives of the state to establish trade and military alliances, and to ensure that the interests of the state was served best.
Present day diplomats too serve the same purpose. They are appointed by the state to represent and build diplomatic relations with other states, to help build a negotiable relation between two states, while protecting nationals as well as interests of the sending state.

Requirements for Becoming a Diplomat

The Treaty of Vienna determines the ranks of diplomats; ambassadors, chargé d'affaires, envoys, and ministers, and is a standard for most countries accepting this treaty. Traditionally, to become a diplomat, one has to join the United States Foreign Service.
To join the foreign services, certain criteria need to be satisfied:
  • The applicant should be a U.S. citizen.
  • The individual should be at least 20 years old, and no older than 59 years of age on the day of submitting the application.
  • At least 21 years old, and not yet 60 on the day of being appointed as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO).
  • Should be available at all given times for worldwide assignments, including Washington, D.C.
Within the department, there are many specialized departments. Technically, there is no education or experience criteria to join the foreign services, as one is enrolled only on the basis of the Foreign Service Written Exam, where one is trained and educated in matters of foreign diplomacy, current affairs, and state and international legislation. 
The exam is held annually with plenty of prior announcements. A good strong educational background (not necessarily from an Ivy League college), a good social record, and a keenness to serve the nation do help when the list of applicants get filtered. 
Before taking on this exam, one must brush up on past, present, current state and foreign affairs, as the exam covers topics that are wide ranging; US government and cultural affairs, management and economics, world history, current international affairs.
Although a proficiency in one or multiple foreign languages is not a criterion, it will enhance an applicant's chances of being selected. Once the written has been cleared, it is time for some oral exams, which are more to check personality, oratory, and tactful styles. Clearing the FSWE is a big achievement, as a very small number of people get through.
Once all the exams have been cleared, an applicant is subjected to a thorough background check. Needless to say, a good record, with no police record, should be on your resume if you want to get into the foreign services.
In certain cases, US ambassadors and diplomats are not part of the United States Foreign Service. They are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. These diplomats are usually successful business lawyers, executives, foreign affairs experts, analysts, professors, and are appointed for specific purposes. It helps to have good political pull.