How to Become an
Ambassador

Two ambassadors with their hands on a table The USA and France flag in the background

If you like to travel, have political aspirations and think you would enjoy living in another country for work, becoming an Ambassador may be right for you. This article will offer advice as to the education and experience that can help you find a job in this field, as well as other resources that may be helpful in your search.

What Does an Ambassador Do?

An Ambassador is a diplomat who represents the interests of their home country in another country. This individual must be able to understand the culture and language of the country they are appointed to, but must represent the views, beliefs and laws of their native country. Most Ambassadors are career diplomats who work for the U.S. Foreign Service, but some Ambassadors are hand picked for political reasons by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Most Ambassadors work and reside in the American embassy officers of their host countries, where they attend political events and meetings, while a portion work for the United Nations or serve on a specific administrative body.

Being an Ambassador requires staying up to date with current events, as well as foreign and domestic policies. Typical responsibilities of an Ambassador include:

  • Representation tasks, such as meeting with international leaders on behalf of the host country

  • Negotiating tasks, such as working out the specifics of treaties, and trade or security agreements

  • Management tasks, such as supervising staff

  • Clerical tasks, such as documenting the details of conversations with leaders

  • Safety tasks, such as being responsible for the safety of American citizens in the country they work in

Ambassador Skills

Working as an Ambassador requires knowledge of foreign and domestic policies, but that is only a small portion of what is required to excel in this role. Individuals who work in this field must live away from home for extended periods of time, as well as travel extensively within the host country, and back and forth between the host and native countries. Being an Ambassador can be extremely stressful, as this individual is essentially a middleman between two governments, which may not agree on issues. An Ambassador has to be an excellent communicator and negotiator, remaining patient, yet being stoic and diplomatic. They must be ethical, trustworthy and honest in order to promote peace and unity between two countries.

Other key Ambassador skills include:

  • Public speaking

  • Excellent interpersonal skills

  • Networking

  • Leadership

  • Problem solving

How Do You Become an Ambassador

Education and Training

There is no singular path to becoming an Ambassador, although most candidates do obtain bachelor’s degree in political science, international relations or history. Taking foreign language classes in Arabic, Farsi and Mandarin, languages that are in high demand for the Foreign Service, is advisable.

Candidates who possess graduate degrees are often able to advance in their careers faster; preferred degrees include:

  • Master of public administration (MPA)

  • Master of public policy (MPP)

  • Master of public affairs (MPA)

  • Master's degree in international relations

  • Master’s degree in political science

In addition to education, related work experience is essential to becoming an Ambassador. Taking on a leadership role in a club, group or initiative on or off campus, working as a translator or interning in a government office can be beneficial to show your qualifications when applying for jobs.

Most Ambassadors start their careers as Foreign Service officers, which requires a passing score on a three-part Foreign Service Exam. Healthy individuals who passed the exam and a security clearance check may then study history and language of the country they want to work in at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute. By bidding on and accepting positions in a part of the world that interests them, candidates gain experience in foreign policy and work their way towards becoming Ambassadors.

Finding a job

An Ambassador’s resume must list expertise in foreign and domestic policy, as well as experience in traveling, working in government-related fields, etc. Utilize JobHero’s resume writing tips to perfect your resume.

Although you can search for Ambassador job openings, most Ambassadors are appointed directly by government officials. It is advantageous to network and form relationships with people who hold these roles to improve your chances of being appointed for a position in Foreign Service.

A good cover letter must express your goal of serving the best interests of the United States around the world, and explain what qualifies you for the job.

Insights from an Ambassador

Get insight from professionals in this career. We talked to ambassadors with many years of experience serving their country, and this is what they had to say about their profession.

What is the common career path for an Ambassador?

Political and government experience is key, as Ambassadors usually rise up through the ranks of Foreign Service. They are later selected from a pool of eligible candidates. The President makes the final decision with the approval of the Senate. An Ambassador may also be chosen from outside of the Foreign Service ranks by the President. There is no career path for this selection method, however, great service to the President and to the Party will merit recognition and consideration for this position.

What should someone consider before becoming an Ambassador?

Given the political nature of the job, an Ambassador should have experience working with the government. It is absolutely necessary that an Ambassador stays up to date with current events, foreign and domestic policies. A lot of time will be spent on traveling, so an Ambassador should be physically and emotionally prepared for long hours on airplanes.

What type of person excels in this job?

People with expressive, articulate and sensitive personalities have a great potential to succeed as an Ambassador. An adventurous spirit, confidence, and optimism are qualities that make a great Ambassador.

What are some of the most important skills for an Ambassador to have?

An Ambassador must have great communication and networking skills and should excel in public speaking. The ability to stay calm and effective during stressful situations and quickly adjust to changes is very important. An Ambassador must have the sensibility to communicate respectfully and effectively with people from different cultures.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being an Ambassador?

The opportunity to travel and visit other parts of the world, learn different cultures and meet people from diverse races is truly a rewarding experience. Representing your own country honorably and working towards bringing harmony and building strong relations between nations is a very humbling task.

How Much Do Ambassadors Get Paid?

From 2010 to 2012, Ambassadors made an average of $149,627 per year, with the lowest-paid professionals earning $119,553, and the highest-paid making $179,700, according to the Houston Chronicle.

In addition to a salary, other allowances are offered to Ambassadors, such as the cost of living allowance; a hardship allowance, which accounts for standard amenities not found in other countries; and a danger allowance, which accounts for the risks the Ambassadors take on by living in a specific country.

Top 10 States for Ambassadors Salary

    Arizona

    $39,448

    Illinois

    $37,209

    Missouri

    $36,736

    Kentucky

    $36,530

    New Mexico

    $36,279

    Tennessee

    $36,196

    New Hampshire

    $32,837

    Nevada

    $32,149

    Utah

    $31,924

    Ambassador Resources

    Below are additional resources to help you understand more about a career as an Ambassador.

    On the Web

    US Department of State Foreign Service Institute (FSI)
    The Federal Government's primary training institution for officers and support personnel of the U.S. foreign affairs community, preparing American diplomats and other professionals to advance U.S. foreign affairs interests overseas and in Washington.

    Office of the Historian
    Historical information about U.S. Ambassadors.

    Blogs

    American Foreign Service Association Blog
    Insight into work and life in the U.S. Foreign Service around the world.

    Diplomatic Mom
    A Foreign Service blog about a tandem couple, their little boy and incomprehensibly large cat currently serving in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

    Twitter

    @USAmbHonduras
    Twitter account of US Ambassador to Honduras.

    @AmbassadorPower
    Twitter account of United States Ambassador to the United Nations.