Job descriptions and industry overviews

Diplomatic service: job description

21 Jun 2023, 15:37

Diplomats represent UK interests overseas. They're based in London and at embassies, consulates and high commissions around the world.

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What do diplomats do? Qualifications and training | Key skills

While the tasks you undertake will change according to your specific department, your responsibilities may include:

  • organising and managing diplomatic and ministerial visits
  • dealing with press queries from the press, other departments, members of the public and contacts abroad
  • attending events to represent UK interests
  • making sure information and advice surrounding travel is up to date
  • researching and analysing events overseas and their impact on the UK.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into a diplomatic service career for both university graduates and school leavers. Requirements vary depending on the specific role; you may be asked for GCSEs, A levels or a degree. Across the board, however, relevant work experience (particularly involving communication with people from various backgrounds) will be beneficial and you will be expected to meet nationality and residency requirements. Graduates can join the Diplomatic Service via the Civil Service Fast Stream, or they can apply for individual roles. On the Fast Stream, you'll be employed by the Foreign and Commonwealth and Diplomatic Office (FCDO) and initially work in the United Kingdom for two or three years. You'll be assigned to a department where your skills fit best. Pay is around £28,000 for a graduate. If you're an economics student or graduate, you could join the service via the Diplomatic Service Economics Fast Stream. This is a two-year graduate scheme (although it may be extended to last three years) in which you'll explore different areas of work and build a range of skills. The Fast Stream application process begins in the autumn. Dates vary from year to year, so keep an eye on social media for news. Once you complete either of the Fast Stream schemes and pass a series of security checks, you'll generally be offered a permanent job. Recruits may then be expected to work abroad for two to four years, although this isn't mandatory. You can also join the Diplomatic Service by applying for individual roles at the FCDO that interest you. Entry-level roles tend to be at administrative officer or administrative assistant grade, and your starting pay is likely to be around £18,000. You don't need to be able to speak a foreign language to join the Diplomatic Service, but an aptitude for languages may help you: if you're posted overseas, you'll be expected to be able to communicate in the local language.

Work experience in public service

There's intense competition for Fast Stream places. Applications are online and involve a range of tests and interviews as well as an assessment centre. There's also a security vetting process.

Key skills for diplomats

You'll need excellent interpersonal skills, a mature attitude and the ability to accept responsibility. You should also be adaptable and resilient – officers tend to move to a different post in London or overseas every two to three years and must be able to cope with the high levels of disruption. You'll also need:

  • an aptitude for language learning
  • willingness to get actively involved in the local community and undertake a range of social activities while abroad
  • good communication skills
  • interest in current and international affairs
  • tact, diplomacy and neutrality
  • organisational skills.

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