Ambassador to Burkina Faso?
January 9, 2011 4:02 PM   Subscribe

Studying business and economy but want to work in an embassy?

Im having second thoughts about my bachelor program and, given my international background and the fact that i´m multilingual, I was thinking about aiming towards a career in foreign relations/embassy work.
Where do i start? What are some good resources to find out what I need and what I can expect?
Is it still possible to branch out after a bachelor degree in business and economy or what is the career path for this type of job?
posted by freddymetz to Education (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am assuming you are located in the US. You can take the foreign service exam no matter what your major field of study is. Their site should be plenty of information to get you started.
posted by Nomyte at 4:19 PM on January 9, 2011

I know nothing about embassy / statework gigs; however I do work with economists. If you want to work as an economist, I'd reccommend a masters - which generally is a bit more math inntensive than a bachelors in economics. If all things go according to plan, I'll be working on mine next fall.

We do applied economics, meaning we build ecconometric models of our business based on external and internal factors. We examine our business and its place in the industry from the big picture. From that, we provide an analysis of what the effectiveness of our business decisions as well as a few modeled scenarios for the business.

I write code: Lots of eViews, SAS, and VBA. I clean data, do a hefty amount of research, write sales decompositions, and build econometric equations. Its fun stuff... On occasion we test the effectiveness of a completed market test. I love my job - I am responsible for telling people the truth - whether they want to accept it or not.

We're big picture, providing steering instruction, and a heavy dose of reality to management. We then test our own performance against the model.

Economics is not for the fain of heart, there are a lot of reasons economics is referred to as the dismal science.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:09 PM on January 9, 2011

I hate to say this, but there are a limited number of positions in this kind of field and it usually helps to know someone who can help you get the job. It's very far from being a meritocracy and there are a lot of people who want the same thing.

So if you know influential people, I would start working them now or start making friends who can help you. I don't know anything about foreign service in Germany or anything else about Germany, so this might not be helpful to you.

I tell most people who plan to major in economics to do accounting instead. There's a higher payout, at least in the US.
posted by anniecat at 5:21 PM on January 9, 2011

A friend of mine has done this in the US. Her experience was that it doesn't matter too much what your major is, if you've gotten good grades. Foreign language skills help. You need to take the foreign service exam, score well, and pass a background check. The background check will ask about your drug use, problems with alcohol or gambling, family trouble, anything that could make you liable to blackmail -- so one thing you can do to prepare is to be good, don't get mixed up in unsavory stuff.

Someone at your college/uni probably can advise you about this - for example, you might talk to the career center, or to the professor who is head of undergraduate studies for the political science or international relations department. See what they can tell you about previous students who've followed this path, and what coursework they recommend you pick up in your remaining time in school.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:39 PM on January 9, 2011

In general, work in the diplomatic service in every country requires some very specific training and skills. Seconding everyone who says "Speak to people who know what those specifics are for Germany." I could tell you what they were for the US, but that isn't going to be terribly relevant to you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:59 PM on January 9, 2011

I'm in a similar field, and I can tell you from experience that the market is incredibly tough for these kinds of jobs now. A bachelors in foreign affairs/international relations doesn't do a lot of good for the jobs you'd want. I would focus on honing technical skills rather than getting a degree in something where connections are far more valuable. If your connections can't get you directly into an embassy, focus on accounting, stats, computer science, or some kind of communications. Every international affairs entity needs people to do these things.
posted by msk1985 at 9:20 PM on January 9, 2011

I can't speak for other countries, but Canadian embassies and high commissions employ what are known as 'locally engaged staff'. These employees perform all the duties of a foreign service officer, depending on their position, but without the job benefits. There are no specific qualifications to get these jobs, and writing the government exams isn't necessary. I have friends who did this straight out of their undergrads in a few embassies and it was invaluable experience for them when they applied to the foreign service.

These jobs are open to anyone who is legally allowed to work in the country in which the embassy is located. If this exists in other foreign ministries, I would suggest that you target where you'd like to work, find some embassies that match your linguistic abilities, and just get in touch.
posted by fso at 7:37 AM on January 10, 2011

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