How Long Does Diplomat School Take?

Diplomats, formally known as Foreign Service Officers, represent the interests of the United States to other countries in the world. Actually, there is no such thing as a formal school for aspiring diplomats. In fact, the U.S. Foreign Service does not specify an educational level for Foreign Service Officer/Generalist positions.

Many candidates who do aspire to become diplomats hold at the least a bachelor’s degree. Around 75 percent of those who finally got hired to become Foreign Service officers hold advanced degrees. You will have to go through the selection process before you can enter formal training as a diplomat.

With this in mind, it is recommended that those who want to pursue a career as a diplomat prepare themselves by getting at least a four-year bachelor’s degree. Some of the degrees that would help prepare you for this profession include political science, international relations, history and the liberal arts. Since many of the candidates who succeeded in the rigorous applications process had postgraduate degrees, taking up master’s or degrees or going to law school would also be excellent preparations. Master’s degrees typically take a couple of years to complete while law school would need a total of seven years to complete—four years of an undergraduate bachelor’s degree and three years of formal law school.

For individuals who wish to go into Foreign Service, what really matters is successfully passing the lengthy and highly selective applications process which starts with the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT). Once you have passed the FSOT, you will get an email which will ask you to send in your Personal Narrative (PN) to the Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP) for review. The PN actually contains your responses regarding the knowledge, skills and abilities that you have that will be an asset to the Foreign Service.

If you pass this test, you will be invited for an Oral Assessment which will be a day-long activity. You will be assessed on the thirteen dimensions which are qualities that the Foreign Service looks at among prospective candidates. Those who pass the Oral Assessment are then instructed to get medical and security clearances. Passing the background examination will put your application for final review. Passing this will put your name on the Register where it will stay for 18 months. Receiving a formal offer of employment will depend on the needs of the Foreign Service.

Once you receive a formal offer of employment as a Foreign Service Officer, formal “diplomat school” can start. Here, you will be required to attend an orientation program which is known as the A-100 course. This will take five weeks to complete and will be held at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Arlington.

Once you complete this orientation, you will then be given your first assignment and based on that, will be undergoing specialized training in the months that follow. If necessary for your overseas assignment, you will be asked to learn a foreign language for six to nine months. The training that you will undergo in “diplomat school” before you are sent on your first assignment can last from as short as three months to as long as one year.

Career Spotlight: Diplomat

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