Education and Training Requirements

High School

In order to pursue any work that involves foreign government, you need a good, well-rounded education. Talk to your school counselor about the classes that will be most helpful in preparing for college. Courses in American history, Western civilization, government, and world history are important, as well as classes in math and economics. English composition will help you develop writing and communication skills. Any foreign language course will give you a good foundation in language study—many ambassadors know more than two languages. Journalism courses develop writing and editing skills and keep you informed about current events.

Postsecondary Training

Many ambassadors and FSOs hold master's degrees and doctorates in international relations, political science, or economics. Many also hold law degrees. As an undergraduate, you should take general-requirement courses in English literature, foreign language, composition, geography, and statistics, along with courses for your particular major. There are many undergraduate majors relevant to foreign service, including foreign language, economics, political science, journalism, education, business, and English. You may also want to consider programs designed specifically for foreign service and international relations. For example, the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service ( has undergraduate and graduate programs designed to prepare students for careers in international affairs. Many luminaries have graduated from the school, including Bill Clinton in 1968; former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has served as a member of the school's faculty. Postgraduate programs, especially those in political science, are also very useful.

"Career Ambassador" is the highest rank for senior officers of the Foreign Service, but you don't have to be an FSO to be an ambassador. If you do choose to pursue work as an officer, the Foreign Service offers internship opportunities to college students in their junior and senior years and to graduate students. About half of these unpaid internships are based in Washington, D.C., while the other half are at U.S. embassies and consulates overseas. Interns may write reports, assist with trade negotiations, work with budget projects, or process visas or passports. The U.S. Department of State offers the Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program, which provides funding to graduate students preparing academically to enter the Foreign Service. Visit for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no certification or licensing requirements for ambassadors.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Ambassadors are usually already successful in their careers before being nominated for an ambassadorship. They also have some connection to top officials in the U.S. government. To achieve such success and good connections, you must be very intelligent and knowledgeable about government and politics. It is important to earn good grades, so as to earn admission to top schools, where such connections can be made. You should be comfortable in a leadership role and extremely ambitious and motivated—those who serve as ambassadors have often achieved success in a number of different areas and have held a variety of powerful positions. You should be flexible and adaptable to new cultures and traditions. You must be interested in the histories of foreign cultures and respectful of the practices of other nations. Good people skills are important for dealing diplomatically with officials from other countries.