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The US, like most countries, sends representatives, known as ambassadors to other nations around the world, in order to represent the American government, facilitate relations between nations, and act on behalf of the US during times of international negotiation and crisis. Each ambassador brings along an entourage of assistants, a staff of educated, worldly Americans who concentrate on certain areas (like military, press, trade, or cultures), defending policy and implementing programs, as well as advising the ambassador overseas. Diplomat is sort of the blanket term we use to describe everyone involved in foreign service - everyone from a first year culture officer to the long-standing American ambassador to France are known as diplomats. Diplomats are known for their non-judgmental attitudes, and their ability to negotiate and compromise - diplomatic is now an adjective, used to describe someone who is good at mediating disagreements and getting people to come to consensus.

The main functions of diplomats are to let the American government know about political and economic developments in their host country, help Americans who are traveling abroad, evacuate refugees, or explain and defend the US's potentially contentious foreign policy, all while behaving in a very diplomatic fashion.

Not all diplomats work abroad all the time. They can work up to half of the time in Washington, the rest traveling to different countries. In Washington, they assist in developing foreign policy, and spend time studying all areas of the government, as a diplomat may be sent to Norway as the military representative, but may work in Uganda on behalf of American trade policies.

All this constant moving around is difficult for many people, so diplomats are generally very adaptable, with a near-unquenchable thirst for travel and discovery. The challenges can be invigorating, stressful, and rewarding, especially when you are able to bring about peace and partnership between your host nation and a neighboring one.
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  Interests and Skills  
It takes a special person to work as a diplomat. For one thing, it takes someone who is a citizen of both the US and the international community - it is a job that demands a respectful, open mind, and a dedication to international relationships. It requires an adventurous, adaptable spirit, an organized negotiator who can work through red tape and bureaucratic protocol patiently and effectively. If interested in a diplomatic career, you should be confident, and at ease when meeting others. You need a professional attitude, and should be able to complete tasks under pressure and stress. You should love traveling, and not be too prone to homesickness. A quick mind and a second language are also assets to bring to this position.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Work in the US and abroad, developing and administering the US's development assistance programs
  • Review political and economic development in the US and host country
  • Assist in developing foreign policy
  • Write regular reports about activities
  • Negotiate treaties and agreements with other countries
  • Meet with local authorities in host country
  • Provide information and advice to other government departments on international issues
  • Keep American government and industries informed about host country' s trade policies
  • Communicate America's position on a variety of platforms
  • Protect the interests of American citizens overseas
  • The typical tasks for a diplomat will differ from country to country, department to department, and rank within the foreign service. The constant self-education about international situations will be an everyday task, as will be revision of American policy in relation to other nations. A diplomat will spend much of the day in meetings, with other members of the ambassador's staff, as well as with diplomats from other nations and representatives from the host country. A diplomat will spend a lot of time writing reports, letting people back home know about what's going on, as well as working with international organizations to implement programs. It is most definitely a career that offers many opportunities for travel and for meeting interesting, intelligent people you may never get to know otherwise.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • As employees of the federal government, diplomats will work either in Washington, developing foreign policy and programs alongside other members of the foreign service, or they may work in other nations, implementing and overseeing these policies and programs. During their time away from the US, diplomats can find themselves in any number of interesting and different locales - wealthy, well-fed nations to poor, war-torn countries. They will be posted where ever the US is interested in establishing or maintaining a relationship. They will spend time at American embassies, high commissions, and consulates. The typical workday for a diplomat varies, depending on where they are working, and the political climate of the host country. A volatile nation on the brink of war will require long days and emergency meetings, whereas a peaceful, settled nation will allow for regular, 9-5 workweeks with weekends and evenings off. Still, when working representing the US abroad, no matter where they are, or who they are with, a diplomat must always remember that they are representing the US, and behave accordingly.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Promotions for diplomats are based on annual performance evaluations. Each diplomat must spend a minimum amount of time at each level. Training, travel, and development courses are available at each level so that a diplomat can expand their experience and develop skills before moving on to the next level of responsibility or department. Eventually, a dipomat can become the head of a department, or become a full-fledged ambassador abroad. Those who do not want to remain in foreign service can always move on to work in law, work with an international non-profit organization, work with the World Bank, or work as a professor of international relations and politics.

  Educational Paths  
This is not an easy job to get. You will need a bachelor's degree in either international relations, politics, economics, commerce, business administration, or law, as well as a master's degree in any field. If you only have a bachelor's, but you are fluent in Japanese, Arabic, Mandarin, Russian, or Korean, you may still be considered for the position. It is also a good idea to try for an internship at an embassy or foreign service office in the US before applying.

If you fit these criteria, and you pass a competitive series of tests, you will be accepted as a probationary foreign attach´┐Ż. This probationary period lasts for five years, and it is spent in Washington, with the possibility of some time abroad. During this time you will undergo training, including language training if your second language skills need help. After five years, you will be evaluated in order to become an official diplomat.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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