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What does a Diplomat do?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated Feb 02, 2024
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A diplomat, or envoy, represents her country worldwide in a variety of positions and capacities. She is expected to be diplomatic and maintain the utmost poise and decorum at all times. Much of the job involves international travel and interaction with foreign dignitaries, as well as assisting citizens of her own country visiting foreign countries, refugees and foreigners seeking sanctuary. All of this is done in the context of positively characterizing and defending her country’s political and social positions. She must also report back to her country of origin on the political climate of the countries she visits.

Diplomats not only have to be up to date on international current affairs, but also be savvy at discussing potentially incendiary topics with everyone from world leaders to ordinary citizens. This position requires the ability to assist in the development of foreign policy based on personal observances and carefully scrutinized political climates. Envoys regularly negotiate treaties and agreements that affect international relations.

Although no two people in this job have the same workday, some duties are common to all of them. They spend a lot of time in meetings, some dealing with local issues and others that may affect world peace. Every meeting, regardless of its importance in the realm of international relations, must be reported upon and fully documented. They also commonly update foreign country leaders on trade policy changes and other issues that significantly affect world relations.

A career in this field can be exciting and rewarding, as it involves meeting intelligent and intriguing people from many cultures and lifestyles. It can, however, be stressful. Since envoys typically travel about 50% of the time, exhaustion is a common complaint, as is yearning for the company of friends and family and craving favorite foods from home. Contributing to harmony among nations is rewarding, but can often pale in comparison to the strain of feelings of loneliness and alienation.

Based on the intensity of the position and the required knowledge and education, landing a job as a diplomat is a challenge. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in international relations, political science or a related field is a good start, but being fluent in at least two languages is almost always a prerequisite. Extensive personality and character tests are often part of the screening process, as an individual can rarely anticipate the situation on the horizon and must be counted on for stability, discretion and integrity.

A diplomat has little down time; she must always be ready to step forward with confidence and charm regardless of her opinions or feelings. Working well under pressure and meeting constantly changing deadlines regardless of the environment are requirements. Most importantly, a love of adventure, meeting new people and experiencing different cultures must be a large part of the person’s personality.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon321888 — On Feb 25, 2013

What a big decision to make. As an International Relations student, I am trying to make the final leap towards a career choice, a 'final decision' of sorts. So much to consider. Thank you for your insight.

By anon311474 — On Jan 01, 2013

Can I ask you a question that is bothering me a lot?

I want to be a diplomat and I think I fit quite well the description you've given but I've also known diplomats must have some economics knowledge? Is that true? I can't understand economics, I've tried a lot and I will try all my life but so far, I don't get a lot.

By anon288367 — On Aug 29, 2012

I want to be a diplomat, but the thing about my family and friends -- I wouldn't get to see them for years? I'm scared I'd turn into a cold, heartless person if I didn't get to see them.

By anon268664 — On May 15, 2012

Why are people even arguing about whether it is written in female tense or not? This is nothing essential in our lives. I doubt anyone could be a diplomat being prejudiced and distracted from what is important like that.

By anon247875 — On Feb 15, 2012

What would be wrong with just writing in the plural tense, i.e. 'They are expected, as inferred by their job title'?

We don't need to do things like this just because 'we're in the 21st century' and 'there will be some female diplomats' and we don't want to be seen as sexist.

Let's be honest. I'm sure there will be more male than female diplomats, anyway.

By anon223566 — On Oct 19, 2011

@anon77764: How is female tense lazy, poor writing? It would be lazy, poor writing if the author used plural pronouns with singular proper nouns, or vice versa. When were you born, anyway? 1929? I don't know if you know this, but we're living in the twenty-first century, not the 1950s.

Anyway, I like the idea of being a diplomat. Thanks for writing this article, Ms. Damewood. It answered a lot of questions I had.

By anon134741 — On Dec 15, 2010

I am a high school student and just a few minutes ago looked up: what does a diplomat do? Such a small question with a complex answer that could have taken ages to find.

However, this was what popped out to me first and I am thankful that I did click on the link - thanks! I love the fact that you wrote it in a female persona; I kind of imagined that I would be the "she" in this article later in my life. Can't wait to travel the world and immerse myself in all types of cultures! Thanks a lot!

By anon112453 — On Sep 20, 2010

@anon106179. I know you cannot disclose any information on your job but i am a student and i just finished my A Levels and currently on a gap year. I am looking for work experience or any type of voluntary work that could i could do during my gap year. I going to study International Relations at university so i can one day make it as a diplomat. If you can help me, i would really appreciate it. Thank you.

By anon106179 — On Aug 24, 2010

I am a diplomat (i can't say what country) and I found your report to be very accurate and well written and thought out, the best job description i have ever read.

You're right: a diplomat can spend years at a time without seeing family, so you're bang on about the loneliness of the decision maker.

All i can tell you is, the work I and the others do and continue to do saves many innocent peoples' lives without them even knowing a diplomat has had to intervene.

By anon96641 — On Jul 16, 2010

I guess these people forgot what this article is about - diplomacy. It helped a lot, thank you!

By anon81105 — On Apr 29, 2010

very rare to see something written in female persona. mostly its in male. It's not lazy or poor writing, but empowerment to women in a small way.

To the author, kudos -- again. P.S I am a man.

By anon80020 — On Apr 25, 2010

Kudos to this being written with the female tense. It surprised me at first but then I shook my head and realized that it's 2010, this should not surprise me. Thank You!

By anon77764 — On Apr 15, 2010

why is it in female tense? that's either lazy or poor writing?

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