Diplomatic service officers work for the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) to protect and promote UK interests and support British citizens and businesses throughout the world

As a diplomatic services officer, you'll specialise in the practical side of diplomatic work, dealing with foreign policy and service delivery overseas. You'll also have opportunity to influence international and diplomatic development.

The FCDO deals with a variety of issues, including:

  • conflict resolution
  • counter terrorism
  • trade and investment
  • forced marriages
  • human rights
  • climate change.


Tasks vary depending on where you're working. For example, you could be based in a small or remote embassy, in a large embassy in Paris or Washington, or in the FCDO's London offices. However, you'll typically need to:

  • draft and proofread written reports
  • liaise with high commissions and embassies
  • organise and ensure the smooth running of ministerial and diplomatic visits, from transport arrangements to entertainment
  • answer general written correspondence by letter or email
  • analyse and interpret written material
  • handle queries by telephone from other departments, members of the public and overseas contacts
  • deal face-to-face with queries from the public
  • update travel advice and information
  • manage staff, including overseeing staff performance and carrying out annual appraisals
  • handle departmental or project budgets
  • update and complete personnel details, accounts and other admin tasks
  • support and assist colleagues with their policy work
  • undertake other specific activities related to your particular department.

Overseas, your role will be similar, but you’ll also need to:

  • assist British exporters and individuals
  • work as an entry clearance officer, assessing visa applications and conducting interviews
  • undertake specialist project work, depending on where you're posted.


  • Starting salaries for both the graduate Civil Service Diplomatic and Development Fast Stream or the Diplomatic & Development Economics Fast Stream are £28,000.
  • An additional location allowance is paid for placements in London.
  • Successful completion of the scheme and promotion could see your salary rise to around £48,000 within five years.

You will be able to join the Civil Service pension scheme. Other benefits may include professional qualifications, language learning opportunities, flexible working, season ticket loans, access to sports and social activities, and childcare assistance.

For those posted overseas, benefits may include hardship allowances for posts where living conditions are considered difficult, education allowances for children, travel expenses and rent-free accommodation.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You're likely to work a standard working week of between 37 to 40 hours. However, some of the work may involve being on-call.

Hours may vary for overseas posts, depending on where you work.

What to expect

  • You'll be based in FCDO offices in London or in embassies, consulates or high commissions all over the world.
  • Once qualified, you'll change roles every three to four years. However, you won't be sent anywhere you've not asked to go and will apply for each role based on your own preferences and career ambitions.
  • The work can be challenging, but also rewarding as you can make a real impact on international relations.
  • The FCDO is keen to recruit people from a range of different backgrounds and encourages applications from diverse communities.


You can join the Diplomatic Service directly, by applying directly, if you have the right skills and experience.

You'll usually need A-levels and at least a second-class degree, although if you're an existing civil servant, you can apply without a degree.

Another option is to enter via the highly competitive Civil Service Fast Stream. For entry onto the two-year Diplomatic and Development Fast Stream, you'll need to have (or be expecting) at least a 2:2 degree, degree apprenticeship or higher. You must also be a British citizen (dual nationality is acceptable) and have been resident in the UK for at least five of the last ten years, to include a consecutive 12-month period.

You can also apply for the three-year Diplomatic & Development Economics Fast Stream, if you meet their entry requirements.

The application process involves online assessments (comprising questionnaires, numerical test and work based scenarios), a half-day assessment centre conducted virtually online (consisting of three scenarios: leadership, team and written), and a final selection process.

If you're unsuccessful, it's possible to apply again the following year. It can take two or three attempts to succeed.

Before starting on the scheme you must be granted United Kingdom Security Vetting (UKSV) clearance.

For details of the current recruitment policy, including recruitment freezes, see Working for the FCDO.


You'll need to have:

  • an interest in foreign affairs, other countries and cultures
  • integrity, honesty and objectivity, and the role demands political impartiality
  • a results-driven approach to work
  • constructive and innovative thinking
  • a proactive and project management approach to work
  • resourcefulness
  • the ability to build and develop productive relationships
  • decision-making skills
  • attention to detail
  • commercial and financial awareness
  • the ability to work under pressure and to take on responsibility
  • flexibility and the ability to deal with the unexpected
  • a commitment to learning and improvement.

As civil servants are politically impartial, you'll also need to show qualities such as integrity, honesty and objectivity.

Work experience

Although pre-entry experience isn't essential, it's helpful to evidence any experience that shows you have skills in project management, contract management, accountancy, economics and managing change.

Volunteering is another good way to demonstrate relevant experience, and especially that which involves foreign culture and use of language skills.

The FCDO offers a range of paid work experience opportunities each year. These opportunities are usually aimed at students from backgrounds under-represented in the FCDO, for example the Civil Service Summer Diversity Internship Programme (SDIP) and the Early Diversity Internship Programme, and at those who have specific skills needed by the FCDO to carry out their work effectively.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.


As a diplomatic service officer, you'll be employed by the FCDO, which is based in London and has around 17,300 staff in its diplomatic and development offices worldwide, including 280 overseas embassies and high commissions.

Around one third of FCDO staff are based in the UK, and work in the UK and postings overseas. The other two thirds are employed locally by a British Diplomatic mission overseas (embassies, consulates or high commissions). If you're employed overseas, you'll usually need to be able to speak and work in the main local language of the country you're living in.

Look for job vacancies at:

Recruitment freezes may sometimes be in place, meaning you can only enter the Diplomatic Service via specialist programmes.

Professional development

In your first two or three years completing the Diplomatic and Development Service or Diplomatic & Development Economics Fast Stream, you'll have the opportunity to work in both the UK and overseas. During this time, you'll get to understand how the FCDO and diplomacy works and will have access to the Diplomatic Academy, the learning and development hub for all FCDO staff. During your first year, there will be five weeks of required learning in the basics of how the FCDO works and diplomatic tradecraft.

There's an element of flexibility to your training and you'll spend time in both operational and policy roles, in addition time spent in an overseas posting. For example, you could spend a year in an operational role followed by two years working in policy that could include a period of time overseas. Alternatively, you might spend a year in an operational role, followed by a year in a policy role, followed by a third year in an overseas posting. You could also spend time undergoing priority hard language training.

As part of your operational training, you could work in a minister's office, in the consular department or media office or on a range of issues, including financial and commercial.

Training in policy can include being a policy lead on key issues such as climate change or counter terrorism or working as a desk officer for a particular country.

You're encouraged to carry out professional development throughout your career. This can include training in IT and foreign languages, and you’ll be offered good facilities and opportunities to develop these skills. Learning on the job is an important part of developing your understanding of Diplomatic Service operations. It will also enhance your ability to take on new information and deal with different situations, which is important for work both in the UK and overseas.

Career prospects

If you've entered through the Civil Service Fast Stream, your first 2 to 3 years in the FCDO will be clearly structured. Following this, you'll usually change roles every three to four years. Your career will be made up of a combination of overseas postings and work in London. When planning overseas postings, you'll be able to state your preferences against a list of available roles, and the FCDO will try to match your request with the needs of the office.

With around 17,300 diplomatic posts in diplomatic and development offices around the world, including 280 overseas embassies and high commissions, the scope for postings is broad. Most overseas jobs involve working in the missions on consular, management and immigration-focused work. However, opportunities are also available to work on information, political and commercial projects.

As your career progresses, you could choose to focus your skills either on a particular region of the world or on a particular area of work, such as bilateral work, multilateral work, consular support, project management or media and communications.

Promotion depends on merit, individual performance and the availability of posts. On average, operational officers can expect to spend four to five years in this grade before promotion.

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