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I want to become a diplomat

gianscolere1gianscolere1 - Posts: 976 Member
edited March 2012 in College Life
After watching the movie The Interpreter, my interest in diplomacy has been renewed. I think I have only a vague idea of what this career is truly about (I'm still researching). Nevertheless, I want to know what my likelihood is of working for the US Embassy or the United Nations-- how low? Which educational route (college majors, degrees) is preferred? Which grad schools have the best reputation? I want to shoot for the stars, but what if I don't land a job at either institution? What other options would I have?
Post edited by gianscolere1 on

Replies to: I want to become a diplomat

  • debrycdebryc Registered User Posts: 189 Junior Member
    I've only very recently become interested in diplomacy so although my information is not very complete, I hope the following helps:

    Study abroad for a year. I recently returned from Italy where I studied for my senior year in high school and it has completely changed my outlook by letting me see issues from different points of views. Good programs include School Year Abroad and Rotary International but definitely do research beyond these two.

    To become a diplomat requires going through an intensive job application process. There isn't, however, any standard requirements for it. In fact, the US government encourages everyone from international relations majors to engineers to apply. What is desparately needed right now are people fluent in "hot" languages such as Arabic and Mandarin Chinese that can not only understand them but can debate in them. If you are a diplomat, the US government will also provide language training before sending you off to who knows where (Diplomats are required to agree to accepting assignments to any country and to defend US government policies even if contrary to personal beliefs).

    The best for international relations has to be Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School but it's ridiculously hard to get into. Only 90 undergraduates for example, may have their concentration in it. Another great one is Georgetown.

    I haven't thought as far ahead as getting a job. As I said before, this is very recent for me. However, I do understand that there are many paths to becoming a diplomat. I can go through medical school, become a pediatrician, work for a few years, and then decide to apply as a diplomat or, still travel and learn about cultures by working with Doctors Without Borders. The possibilities are endless.
  • gianscolere1gianscolere1 - Posts: 976 Member
    Hey thanks. Just yesterday. I was reading profiles of recently accepted students at Princeton's WWS. I noticed that almost all of them have had international experience. I was blown away and inspired by their accomplishments.

    The college I'll be attending in the fall has a campus in Rome, which is one of the places I'm considering for study abroad. My other amibitions are to experience rural life in Communist China and observe primitive societies in Australia or Africa.
  • debrycdebryc Registered User Posts: 189 Junior Member
    Those are amazing ambitions. Rome is a crazy place and full of history while Italy has perhaps the greatest concentration of cultural artifacts in the world. You can't walk two feet without seeing another renaissance palace, medieval fortress, or sometimes even Etruscan tomb ^^. For China, the Chinese government is serious about opening up to foreigners. I believe that on Collegeboard there is an application for a free year of university study in China that, though mainly held in the city, also gives you opportunities to do things like live rurally. By the way, have you ever considered anthropology or sociology?

    Note to self: Must read those profiles... who knows, in a few years I might be applying!

    I'm going to be following this thread avidly. It'll be interesting to see who else is considering a career in international diplomacy.
  • gianscolere1gianscolere1 - Posts: 976 Member
    You read my mind. In another thread, I declared that my major would be anthropology/sociology--not a double major, but a mix of the two. The college I'm attending offers that option. It also has a campus in Beijing, but I'm not sure if the program there would allow time for community service (presumably so, since the University is Jesuit). I will look into other options, such as the one you mentioned.
  • LFWB dadLFWB dad Registered User Posts: 1,685 Senior Member

    I would suggest you look into the five US Service Academies. Its not an immediate route to become a foreign service officer, but the military is an important part of any country's diplomacy and an understanding of it is vital.

    Service opportunities in intel and policy delevopment are available for graduates and often your graduate education will be paid for as well. Otherwise, after your five year commitment, you will most certainly have a breadth of experience that would help to make you a better foreign service officer -- something most of your comtemporaries won't have.

    Its sort of an out of the box idea, but one worth exploring. You never know how it might fit if you don't look.
  • murphytmurphyt Registered User Posts: 22 New Member
    hey! I'm hoping to become a Diplomat too. I was thinking more State Dept. than UN/NGO, though. I'm going the more traditional route with a major in International Relations & arabic from Tulane, and then I hope to get into Georgetown's School of Foreign Service. It's really an awesome school with a great reputation, you should check it out. I'm also in ROTC, as LFWB DAD said the military can be very helpful as a shoe-in to government work. The service academies are very difficult to get into, and more difficult to stay in. I would suggest ROTC if your looking for a more regular college experience! good luck.
  • gianscolere1gianscolere1 - Posts: 976 Member
    I'm afraid the military option is out. I don't think I'll survive there. For one, I'm too stubborn. It is, however, an excellent option for many others.
  • willmingtonwavewillmingtonwave Registered User Posts: 3,344 Senior Member
    Me too!
    I'm planning on studying Political Science or History with an Italian Minor. I visited Italy last year and was ENTHRALLED by it. My school has a house on the grand canal in venice so I'm definately doing that. I read on a website (forget which one) that internships are offered in various embassies in the summer. That would probably be something worthwhile. Give me a holler on AIM if you want to talk: willmingtonwave.
  • tlaktantlaktan Registered User Posts: 2,273 Senior Member
    To become a diplomat requires going through an intensive job application process. There isn't, however, any standard requirements for it. In fact, the US government encourages everyone from international relations majors to engineers to apply. What is desparately needed right now are people fluent in "hot" languages such as Arabic and Mandarin Chinese that can not only understand them but can debate in them. If you are a diplomat, the US government will also provide language training before sending you off to who knows where (Diplomats are required to agree to accepting assignments to any country and to defend US government policies even if contrary to personal beliefs).

    Let me begin by saying Georgetown's School of Foreign Service has an excellent undergraduate program for a Foreign Service track. Not to say other institutions don't, but I'm going to root for my University here. For Masters and Ph.D programs, the Fletcher School of Diplomacy (Tufts), Woody Woo (Princeton) and the Nitze School (Hopkins) have excellent IR programs.

    That said, I suggest you visit the State Department's website. (I swear, that website changes every time I visit it). It gives you the necessary information on the various tracks (such as Consular, Economic, Political, etc.) that are within an Embassy and required knowledge for the Foreign Service examination and the oral examination.

    I really don't know about the whole "hot languages" thing -- I mean, of course these languages are of great value to those who learn it, but let me just make it clear that if you don't end up studying a "hot language" and learn something else (e.g. Russian, Japanese, which are still pretty hot...) -- the U.S. has embassies all around the world, not just in China, India, the Middle East, etc.

    On a completely irrelevant side note, I really shouldn't wake up at 6:30am.
  • gemstar66gemstar66 Registered User Posts: 766 Member
    How to work at the UN:

    Major in Foreign Policy/International Affairs. Minor in a language. Doesn't HAVE to be a "hot" language, just needs to be common (ex. french, Chinese, Spanish) Go to Grad school for the same thing. Maybe even get two Masters-one in your foreign major, and one in your language of choice. That looks even better. Intern at the UN/some govt sector/other international Org (WHO, etc) during college.

    Then when you graduate stalk the UN for jobs. The website always has job openings, you will just have to keep looking for one/going to interviews until you get one. It will be easier if you know someone who works there already though (met during internship?). People like to use connections, and are more likely to recommend you for something/tell you of a new opening if they know you well.

    If you don't know someone/have a connection, here's a good way to get one. Take the train from grand central station in NYC up to westchester (45 min train ride) during rush hour for a week. Be friendly to anyone in a suit and briefcase. If they have an accent be even friendlier. Within the first 2 days, you will meet someone who works there. Get a business card. Sounds stupid, but it works.
  • SilverCloverSilverClover Registered User Posts: 709 Member
    Be sure you're comfortable, if not fluent, in at least two languages other than your native one. It's pretty much expected for foreign service.

    I too really want to go into foreign service. The most important things are to learn your foreign languages and to travel abroad. I made sure to become fluent in Spanish in high school so I can focus on two more for college (although I'm double majoring in int'l studies and Latin American studies so I HOPE to be sent to Latin America, it's not a sure thing). All my family members who have been in the foreign service through either the State Department or UN tell me to learn French. It's the language of diplomacy and definitely a big plus. Then I'm probably going to study Russian or Arabic.. leaning towards Arabic but who knows. I study Portuguese on my own too, but my college doesn't offer it.

    Also make sure to do an internship. Even a nonprofit works.

    The peace corps is a good idea too, but it is time consuming (2 year requirement) and since you'll probably want to get a grad degree first, it makes it tough because your career will be delayed.
  • anoviceanovice Registered User Posts: 1,376 Senior Member
    I know my school has a triple language major and I know many people in this major who are double majoring in that and international relations or poly sci. Most of those kids want to go into foreign service of some type. Also, the students that I know in that major study abroad for 2-3 semesters and were fluent in one or two languages before even entering college.

    ... but of the two diplomats I know personally, neither went to college for language, international anything, or political science. One is a dentist who got into politics and the other is an engineer who worked internationally and then got into politics.

    Good luck... and I don't think any one avenue is clear choice. It can be done with many different majors.
  • manderz1manderz1 Registered User Posts: 662 Member
    I would de-emphasize the language study...some people on this thread have put a huge importance on knowing foreign languages which is, in actuality, only a small part of a career in International Affairs. Most agencies, the State Department included, don't require extensive language abilities for the Foreign Service-- that being said, it does help to speak others WELL. The only languages that I would NOT take are Italian and German. They have a limited use in places outside of their respective countries. Good ones include the major guys-- French, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Farsi, and the smattering of languages spoken on the Indian Subcontinent.

    With regards to Masters programs, the top two schools in the country as determined by a survey done by Foreign Policy magazine were SAIS (Johns Hopkins) and SFS (Georgetown). For PhDs, it was the usual suspects, Harvard, etc.

    I, like Tlaktan, am in the SFS at Georgetown. Undergrad, Georgetown's program is unbeatable. It's curriculum is highly geared toward skills for the international arena, and I recommend it highly. Plus, the fact that it is in Washington and filled with amazing, like-minded people adds a really nice element to the academic side of school.

    Beyond the State Department and the UN, you can get jobs at all sorts of places--- if you study the right languages, the CIA or the NSA. There are literally hundreds of NGOs and Non-Profits (which don't pay spectacularly, but are great!), and other IOs such as the IMF, the World Bank, the OAS, etc. etc. You can also work in risk analysis or in multi-national corporations.
  • IRvirtuosoIRvirtuoso Registered User Posts: 37 Junior Member
    okay.. on this subject. I am kind of questioning my college selection right now. I too hope on becoming some sort of a diplomat at some time in the future and will be attending Wellesley College and doing MIT Army ROTC. I turned down schools that are better know for international relations (ex. Johns Hopkins, Tufts, U Chicago, the Elliot School at GWU...) because I really liked the alumni connections and other unique elements Wellesley. Do you think going to a school that's not particularly "known" for its IR program will hurt me?
  • IRvirtuosoIRvirtuoso Registered User Posts: 37 Junior Member
    Just read what I wrote, should have started a new posting. Sorry gianscolere1.
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