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Ambassadors work alongside assistants, known as attaches or foreign service officers. While these assistants concentrate on certain areas of government (trade, culture, or the military), ambassadors are the personalities behind the missions--they are the official representatives of the American government, who attend major meetings, banquets and parties, host other diplomats, and get to know many of their host people on a more personal level. They are the members of each foreign mission who are the most profiled in both American and foreign media, and the people most in contact with the President and other heads of government.

Ambassadors are often promoted to this high-ranking position from lower levels of foreign service, but can also be appointed by the President. Also known as diplomats (a more general term meaning those who work in foreign service), ambassadors are known for their non-judgmental attitudes, and their ability to negotiate and compromise, and their friendly feelings towards their host nation.

While ambassadors are primarily in place to smooth relations between the United States and other nations, their other equally important role is to let the American government know about political and economic developments in their host country, help Americans who are travelling abroad, evacuate refugees, or explain and defend the US's potentially contentious foreign policy, all while behaving in a very diplomatic fashion.

Because it means living in different countries, possibly more than one over the course of a career, 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, and ensure that the US and your host country remain friends for years to come.
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  Interests and Skills  
It takes a special person to work as an ambassador. 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, individuals should be confident, and at ease when meeting others. They need a professional attitude, and should be able to complete tasks under pressure and stress. They should love travelling, and not be too prone to homesickness. A quick mind and a second language are also assets to bring to this position, as well as good public speaking skills.

  Typical Tasks  
  • 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
  • Host other diplomats
  • Attend social functions in host nation
  • Meet with host country leaders, as well as other diplomats
  • For an ambassador, the constant self-education about international situations will be an everyday task, as will be revision of American policy in relation to other nations. An ambassador will spend much of the day in meetings, with other members of their staff, as well as with diplomats from other nations and representatives from the host country. An ambassador may 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 would never get to know otherwise.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • As employees of the federal government's foreign services sector, ambassadors work alongside other foreign service staff in other nations, implementing and overseeing policies and programs, and maintaining good international relations. 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 whereever 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 workweeks. Still, when representing the US abroad, no matter where they are, or who they are with, an ambassador must always behave accordingly.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Once they have made it to the ambassador stage, there really aren't a lot of places to move on to. If ambassadors are at first stationed in a conflict-ridden nation, they can apply for ambassadorships in more affluent and peaceful nations, as they get experience and build a reputation. 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. Individuals may move into this position after a long career in foreign service, or they can get it after a long career of knowing the right people through their ties in the military, politics or business. To get it through the foreign service route, they 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 individuals only have a bachelor's degree, but are fluent in Japanese, Arabic, Mandarin, Russian, or Korean, they 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.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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