An ambassador is the highest-ranking diplomatic representative of one nation to another, a role which has been popular from the Middle Ages to the present day. The traditional domain of career foreign service officers, an ambassadorship can also be a political appointment, usually given out by new administrations to political party contributors or heavy-hitters who have gained significant influence in society. In fact, the latter group often gets appointments to plum postings as a gesture from a grateful head of nation; for example to countries such as Britain, prominent countries in Europe and Asia, or to the United Nations.
The long road…
As previously mentioned, the traditional route to becoming an ambassador is to become a career Foreign Service Officer (FSO), which consists of generalist and specialist cadres, a civil servant or taking up administrative roles in US consulates and embassies. A brief description on eligibility and job role is provided for each of these categories.
Foreign Service Officer – General
- Job scope: Follow any of the five sub-categories of operations – consular services, economic services, political services, management services or public diplomacy services;
- Eligibility: US citizens not younger than 20 years or older than 59 years on the date of application; at least 21 years of age and less than 60 years on date of appointment; must be open to postings anywhere in the world where the US has a diplomatic presence, including within the US itself;
- Knowledge of any languages other than English are preferable, though not mandatory;
- Application and selection process: Applications should be submitted online, appear for an eligibility test (Foreign Service Officer Test), provide a personal statement as to why you are the ideal candidate and pass an oral assessment test. Once this process is complete, you will be required to pass a comprehensive medical and security background check, pass a Final Review Panel and then be assigned jobs, based on the area chosen and availability of jobs in that area and number of qualified candidates.
Foreign Service Officers – Specialists
FSO-S’s are qualified professionals in the following fields: IT, Administration, Construction&Engineering, Medical & Health, Information & Languages, Office Management & Security. The eligibility criteria are the same as for general FSOs.
(Source: US Dept of State)
Once you are assigned a posting as a State Dept employee, it is up to you to perform your duties well and make your way up the service ladder, where the pinnacle posting is that of a United States Ambassador.