How To Become A U.S. Ambassador
A United States ambassador is a diplomat who represents and communicates with other nations on behalf of their own. Often, a U.S. ambassador will work with the United Nations (UN), an international group of the Earth’s nations who work together to promote goodwill and prevent conflict through diplomacy. U.S. ambassadors represent the interests of the U.S., while promoting diplomacy and UN initiatives. U.S. ambassadors also work on behalf of U.S. citizens in foreign countries.
A U.S. ambassador will attend to UN business and keep the nation’s leaders apprised of events and dialogue. The ambassador will represent the U.S. in the work of these initiatives but will also help provide supplies, funding, and human aid to make sure these endeavors are successful. Such programs include education and culture; peace and security; drug abuse and trafficking; poverty and hunger elimination; environmental issues and resource sustainability; mental, physical, and social health; economic development; human rights; and family planning.
To become a U.S. ambassador, it is important to possess a number of qualities:
- Cooperative attitude
- Willingness and desire to help
- Excellent communication skills (in many languages)
- Diplomatic mindset
- Knowledgeable and respectful of many cultures and customs
- Outstanding advocacy skills
- Adaptive and flexible
Why Become A U.S. Ambassador
The role of a U.S. ambassador is crucial to the betterment of human life and the sustainability of the planet’s resources. More so now than ever, we live in a tightly connected world, and the work of a U.S. ambassador can affect millions of lives with one initiative.
Recent and current issues with global warming, disease outbreaks (Ebola, Zika virus), wars, and refugee crises will only make the demand for U.S. ambassadors increase. Not only is it important to help people in other countries, but being an ambassador is a great opportunity to strengthen U.S. relations, while helping to encourage democratic human rights. They may also be involved in trade and military discussions.
U.S. ambassadors are also important to the American citizens who are working and traveling abroad. If a citizen needs assistance with a visa, passport, or other documentation, then the U.S. embassy in that country and the ambassador are there to help.
U.S. Ambassador Work Environment
An ambassador can work all over the world. Most of the time, ambassadors work in U.S. embassies in the country of the government they are working with. A U.S. embassy is considered American property, and their primary function to act as a liaison between the two countries. Some ambassadors will work in multiple countries in a specific region.
Travel is common in this job. Not only do they travel among various embassies (depending on the region and assignment), but they may also travel to the U.S., to other countries for diplomatic meetings, to the General Assembly of the United Nations, and to other locations for meetings, speeches, and fundraising events. Every day is a new day in the life of an ambassador.
U.S. Ambassador Salary
U.S. ambassadors are considered foreign service officers. Salary is dependent upon years of experience, education, and geographic location. The scale is somewhat like that of the military. Entry level and non-senior positions range from $28,545 and work up to $134,776. The senior foreign service pay range is from $124,406 to $187,000, per year. Benefits also vary but are desirable.
U.S. Ambassador Career Outlook
While there is always a need for diplomats and ambassadors, it may not always be simple to get a job as one. Ambassador positions are appointment based. It is often necessary to work as a translator, interpreter, or intern first. Securing a position in the foreign service register is the next step. Political and advocacy work will help secure an ambassador appointment. Openings for these posts are like a pyramid: Entry-level positions are the most available, while senior positions are least available. Location and program may also change the availability for jobs as some nations and initiatives require more diplomatic services than others.
U.S. Ambassador Degree
There is no one way to become an ambassador but years of service, education, and receiving a public appointment are all necessary steps.
Step 1: Earn an education. There are no specific educational degree requirements for a foreign service officer, but it is important to specialize if you want to eventually become an ambassador. A bachelor’s degree in political science, international relations, history, and foreign languages are important. Make sure to learn languages that will provide the most opportunities for you.
Getting a graduate degree in a specialized field will improve your chances of getting the right experience for an ambassador appointment. Popular degrees include a Master of Public Administration, Master of Public Policy, and Master of Public Affairs. Some may wish to earn their doctoral degree, in which anthropology, political science, or sociology are good choices.
Note: During your studies, it is important to seek out opportunities that will improve your diplomatic skills. Speech classes, courses in communication, government clubs, and leadership roles will help you advance.
Step 2: Gain work experience. Many entry-level positions consist of jobs as translators and interpreters. Not only will this work help you become fluent in a language, but it will help you with learning about other cultures. Teaching, internships, and working for organizations (like the Peace Corps) are excellent ways to earn experience and bolster your resume.
Step 3: Become a foreign service officer (FSO). Many steps are required to become a FSO.
- Pass an exam. This test will assess what you know about history, global affairs, politics, statistics, computers and technology, and management. You must demonstrate a competency in written communication and mathematics.
- Complete the writing requirements. Once you’ve passed the written exam, you must create a personal narrative with references.
- Pass the oral assessment. Once you have passed the written exam, you will take the oral assessment in Washington, D.C. Here, you must demonstrate competency through a group negotiation exercise, a case management exercise, and a structured interview.
- Pass security clearances and a physical exam. Once you have passed all portions of the above assessments, you will be invited to apply for your security clearances and undergo a medical examination.
- Enter the FSO registry. You will automatically be added to the registry once you have completed and passed all the steps above.
Once you have been entered into the FSO registry, you can search for many government jobs. These positions include diplomacy and consulate officers. Check the U.S. embassy site for job opportunities.
Step 4: Become a U.S. ambassador. Ambassador positions come through appointment, as you will represent the President of the United States. It is important to get involved in politics and humanitarian work to get ahead. Make connections, get to know people, and work to help others.