Diplomatic service officer

diplomat

Career outlook for

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

Currently employed in Scotland

Jobs forecast

This information is supplied by LMI For All, where data is currently available for Scotland.

What's it like?

You would represent the United Kingdom in another country and help to develop UK foreign policy. You’d help British citizens if they have serious problems when they are abroad.

You would work for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) either in the UK or abroad.

You would promote and protect British interests and citizens overseas. You’d give advice and support to Governmemt ministers to develop UK foreign policy.

You could have political, commercial or consular responsibilities.

This means you might:

  • Report on political and economic developments in other countries
  • Represent the United Kingdom to a foreign government and media
  • Help UK companies to trade overseas
  • Encourage foreign companies to invest in the UK
  • Help British citizens in other countries
  • Handle visa applications from people who wish to come to the UK

Your day-to-day work would depend on your role. For example:

  • Policy officers research issues and help to develop policy and strategy
  • Executive assistants draft letters, handle accounts and invoices, and provide clerical support
  • Administrative assistants provide clerical support

If you are a UK-based policy or operational officer, you might be responsible for one country or geographical area. Or you could work on a specific foreign policy issue that affects many countries.

Working conditions

Hours

You will normally work 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, when overseas, your hours and conditions may vary according to the culture and climate of your host country. Some jobs may involve being on call 24 hours a day.

Travel

When you first start work with the FCO you would spend between 18 months and three years in London, before your first posting overseas. Most overseas postings last between three and four years.

UK employment status

Full-time

Part-time

Self employed

Here are some of the skills needed for this job. Sign in to see how your skills match up.

  • Communicating with people
  • Taking the lead
  • Being tactful
  • Using other languages
  • Communicating ideas through writing
  • Finding solutions to problems
  • Planning and organising

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Qualifications

To gain entry as an operational officer at level B3, you usually need a degree (SCQF level 9/10). If you have a second-class honours degree (SCQF level 10) in any subject you can enter through the Civil Service Fast Stream (recruits between September and November each year).

To join the Foreign & Commonwealth Office as a diplomatic economist, you need to apply through the Fast Stream scheme. You must have, or expect to gain, a 2:1 degree or postgraduate degree in economics (SCQF level 10/11) or an economics-linked degree, where at least fifty percent of the course is focused on economics.

To enter a degree usually require Highers and National 5 qualifications or relevant college or work-based qualifications at SCQF level 6 or above.

With qualifications at SCQF level 7 or above, such as Advanced Higher or HNC/HND’s, you may be eligible for Advanced Entry to 2nd or 3rd year of some degrees.

Some universities have integrated masters courses combining degree and postgraduate study into one 5-year programme.

It's also possible to enter this role as an existing civil servant without a degree. You can join the civil service in entry level jobs, or through their apprenticeship scheme.

The civil service offers six fast-track apprenticeship schemes, lasting around 18 months. These are open to anyone with suitable school level qualifications or equivalent.

Useful subjects

  • English (required by most courses)
  • Maths (required by most curses)
  • Languages
  • Business
  • ICT
  • Administrative subjects
  • Social studies such as economics and politics

You will also need

  • To be a British citizen (those with dual nationality may apply) who have been a resident in the UK for at least 2 out of the last 10 years
  • Have, or expect to have, a 2:2 degree or higher in any subject

Existing civil servants can apply without a degree.

Exceptions to this rule, such as having served overseas with HM Forces or worked with UK Government, are listed on the FCO website.  

You will have to take tests and attend an interview. You will have to go through medical and security checks. The application process can take up to a year

Helpful to have

It helps to have an aptitude for learning languages.

The FCO is particularly interested in applications from those who can communicate in languages such as: 

  • Cantonese
  • Mandarin
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Arabic
  • Farsi

Experience of living or working abroad can be helpful.