I Want To Work In … the Diplomatic Service


Introduction: what do you need to work in the Diplomatic Service?

You want to work in the Diplomatic Service? So do very many other graduates! The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) regularly appears in the top ten in surveys of “employers graduates would most like to work for” and its Fast-Stream recruitment scheme receives almost 100 applications for every position.
So the competition is fierce, but there are a number of myths about the Diplomatic Service that put many people off applying:

You do need to be a British citizen

What does the FCO do?

  • Diplomacy: the art of letting someone have your own way.
  • Diplomat: A person who tells you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip.
  • After all is said and done, more is usually said than done.

What do diplomats do?

“For me, a Diplomat is someone who enjoys building relationships and understanding cultures; someone who is adept at gathering information and influencing decision-makers; and someone who takes pride in promoting national interests and keeping people safe”.
Nikesh Mehta http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/nikeshmehta/

Profile of a diplomat from Target Jobs https://targetjobs.co.uk/careers-advice/job-descriptions/279305-diplomatic-service-job-description

Some Kent graduates in the FCO:

How to apply

The main entry route for graduates is through the Civil Service Fast Stream.

Applications are accepted between September and November each year – see www.gov.uk/government/organisations/civil-service-fast-stream for further details of the various schemes, eligibility and the application process.

Recruitment through the Fast Stream is competency-based, using the Civil Service Competency Framework.

Civil Service Values

Relevant experience is not required: these competencies can be gained and demonstrated through all kinds of experience including part-time and casual work, extra-curricular activities and study.

  1. “In the first year you get a policy job in London and in the second year you get a more operational job. The idea is that you get lots of experience and become an all-round officer before being sent overseas”
  2. “I worked in the Gulf Team as a country desk officer, which involved formulating policy advice, briefing Ministers before meetings, and responding to interest from the media, the public and parliament.
  3. In November last year I started a corporate role in the Finance Directorate, where I work closely with HM Treasury as well as colleagues across our UK-based and overseas network. I will be applying for my first overseas posting in the next few months”

Fast-Stream trainee

For other opportunities, see Working for FCO
Almost all posts require you to be willing to work abroad for up to two-thirds of your career.

Work Experience

In 2016 the FCO offered the following work experience schemes:

  1. The Civil Service Fast Stream Summer Diversity Internship Programme (SDIP). The scheme gives people from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to see what a career in the Civil Service is like. Candidates must be from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background, or be socio-economically disadvantaged or have a disability (a 6-9 week summer placement for 15 students).
  2. The FCO’s Graduate Internship programme for recent graduates from any academic background interested in developing a career in international relations (up to 9 months placement for 43 recent graduates, from June 2016 to March 2017). Graduates were recruited in spring 2016 and the successful candidates included a law graduate from the University of Kent.

For further details see Working for FCO

The FCO on social media

The FCO is an enthusiastic user of social media, showing the importance of “digital diplomacy” for communication, policy and service provision. Follow @FCOcareers on Twitter for vacancy updates.


Diplomatic services in other countries

Madame Fu Ying, the current serving vice foreign minister of the People's Republic of China, completed an MA in International Relations at Kent in 1985. She was the Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom from March 2007 to 2009. From 2004 to 2007 she was the Chinese ambassador to Australia.  https://www.kent.ac.uk/alumni/community/inspirational-alumni/government-public-service/ying-fu.html

A very large number of Kent students are nationals of countries other than the UK and are not eligible to apply for the British Diplomatic Service. Check what arrangements apply in your own country: a high-flying diplomatic career is open to you too!



Further information

Diplomatic Service


Last fully updated 2016