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- Skills and Training
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Roles and Work Environment
“Training in international affairs prepares you to solve problems through diplomacy, defense, and development work. You can help manufacturers, communication firms, consultants, energy companies, and others move products and ideas around the world. You can build the capacity of students and organizations through international education and cross-cultural training. You can stop conflicts, fight disease, and slow environmental degradation.” (From APSIA) Roles in international affairs and diplomacy exist in the public, private and nonprofit sector. Below is a sampling of roles you might find:
Examples of International Affairs & Diplomacy Jobs:
- Civil Service Officer
- Foreign Affairs Specialist
- Foreign Service Officer
- Intelligence Analyst
- Peace Corps Volunteer
- Research Associate
Opportunities international affairs and diplomacy can be found across nonprofits, NGOs, multinational companies in the private sector and multilateral organizations as well as within departments and agencies in government. Here are few examples of organizations where you might find opportunities:
Examples of International Affairs & Diplomacy Organizations:
- House Committee on Foreign Affairs (government)
- Human Rights Campaign (nonprofit)
- The Fund for Peace (nonprofit think tank)
- US Department of State (government)
- US National Security Agency (government)
- World Bank (multilateral)
- Unilever (private)
Skills and Training
Professionals in international affairs and diplomacy train in a wide variety of disciplines from an even broader mix of academic backgrounds and experience. Therefore, we do not recommend one academic track over another in general. Overall, organizations advise that you do your best in all your academic pursuits. The best way to prepare is to be a well-rounded student and take classes in a variety of subjects.
You first job after graduation will be one of many steps to building your career as a diplomat. Review this article to learn how to build a career in foreign relations.
Examples of coursework relevant to a career in international affairs & diplomacy:
- Foreign Affairs
- Gender Studies
- Cultural/Ethnic Studies
- Foreign Languages
- Religious Studies
- Media Studies
Examples of places to develop your skills or research graduate programs for international affairs & diplomacy:
- Master a Language: Many academic programs exist at UVA to help you become multilingual. There are also several language houses on Grounds that will help you build a stronger connection to the UVA community while also gaining valuable transferable skills that are highly valued in Global Development.
- +Acumen: Led by a UVA alumna, take free courses on everything from Human-Centered Design to Social Impact Analysis.
- Many professionals in this field pursue graduate work to gain access to roles or advance in their career. The Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs is helpful to learn more about relevant graduate programs.
Many opportunities in the federal government that require a security clearance and background check will recruit in the fall or sometimes for full-time, a full year in advance.Timelines vary, but overall most international affairs and diplomacy opportunities in think tanks, NGOs or nonprofits normally hire interns and full-time employees based on immediate needs. Some positions may become available in late spring/early summer, so you should continue to look for opportunities throughout the academic year and beyond. Review the Public Service and Government Community page for examples of recruiting timelines of PSG industries.
Background Checks & Security Clearances
Background checks and security clearances are required for some government positions, especially with the U.S. Department of State. Making yourself aware of the specifics that go into clearing these checks, and the various levels of clearance required, is important to help you as progress through your educational career and plan to embark on one of these careers.
One of the best ways to gain experience in this industry is through volunteer work in the community, exploring service learning opportunities in the classroom, and involvement through student organizations. Below are some ideas for how to find these opportunities on Grounds and within the Charlottesville community:
- Consider programs and student organizations that help you to explore new cultures and backgrounds:
- Studying abroad is another great way to gain experience in an international context. Many global development organizations like to see that you have had experience working with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Consider studying or interning abroad.
- These are institutes that seek to expand understanding of the presidency, policy, and political history, providing critical insights for the nation’s governance challenges. These centers regularly sponsor conferences on important issues, and host public debate series to present substantive policy discussions to educate and help elevate public discussion. Many also offer internships for undergraduate students.
- UVA is also home to many centers for research and learning that can expand your connection to various parts of the globe.
- Public Service at UVA - Learning in Action: Get connected to the “front door to public service” at the University to find ways to integrate your classroom experience with your interest in service, search UVA student organizations by issues of interest, find volunteer opportunities, and learn the timeline of when major PSG events and programs happen at UVA. You can also sign-up for a monthly newsletter.
- Madison House: A nonprofit in Charlottesville supporting UVA students who wish to make an impact in the local community, Madison House partners with 160+ community-based organizations to provide volunteer and leadership opportunities to students. You can participate as a volunteer providing direct service or try out your leadership skills as a Program Director. Find out how to get involved today by exploring their Volunteer Programs.
- Opportunities in Public Affairs (Access through your Handshake account)
- Peace Corps
- UN Careers-Internships
- UN Job List
- US Department of State Programs
- Daybook: Jobs and internship opportunities in Public Policy, Government Relations, Public Affairs, Political Campaigns, Non-Profit, Law, Communications, and Foreign Affairs. Once registered for a free account, you will be able to view current opportunities and apply directly through the site.
Applying and Interviewing
Resumes and Cover Letters
First impressions are critical in the job search. Developing and executing the best documents possible will help to ensure that you put your best foot forward and increase the likelihood of progressing to an interview. Make sure to check out the Resumes and Cover Letters sections of the website for helpful advice and sample resumes and cover letters.
The Federal Resume is required for many positions in the federal government. Many government agencies utilize the platform usajobs.gov to post their opportunities including the U.S. State Department. This website will allow you to create an account and within your account you can utilize their resume building tool to create your federal resume. For specific information on how to write federal resumes, check out the resources below.
- What should you include in your Federal Resume?
- Creating Your Federal Resume and Samples
- Federal Resume Guide
- Sample Federal Resume (see pages 32 and 33)
Pro tip: Additionally, use the resume building tool within your usajobs.gov account to create a resume. Then print a copy of this resume and bring it to the Career Center to be reviewed by a counselor.
If you have never interviewed before, make sure to check out the Interviewing section of our website. Interviewing with the federal government has a lot of similarities to interviewing with any industry, but there are some unique aspects that you want to make sure to expect. You can also conduct a mock interview with a career counselor for practice. Most interviews will contain some mixture of questions about your past experiences (resume-based) and your ability to handle typical workplace situations (behavioral). For full-time positions, depending on the size of the organization, you should expect to start with a 20-30 minute phone or virtual (e.g., Skype, Google Hangout) screening interview, then a longer virtual or in-person final interview. A thank you letter should be written after every interview with an employer. Send the note by email within 24 hours after the interview.
Foreign Service Officer Test
While there is no specific academic degree or professional experience required to become a FSO, all applicants must undergo a rigorous selection process . This consists of a written Foreign Service Officer Test, a written personal narrative, an oral interview combined with role playing exercises, and a medical and security clearance review.
The State Department indicates that, “the FSOT measures your knowledge, skills and abilities, including writing skills that are necessary to the work of a Foreign Service Officer. It is administered online at designated test centers in the U.S. and abroad and takes about three hours to complete. It includes three multiple-choice sections:
- Job knowledge: Questions will cover a broad range of topics including, but not limited to, the structure and workings of the U.S. Government, U.S. and world history, U.S. culture, psychology, technology, management theory, finance and economics, and world affairs;
- English expression; and
- A situational judgement section that will present scenarios (i.e., descriptions of situations) that a candidate might encounter on the job as a Foreign Service Officer.
In addition, you will be given 30 minutes to write an essay on an assigned topic. You must pass the multiple-choice tests in order to have your essay graded.”
The application then goes to a Suitability Review Panel for one last look before an applicant’s name is placed on the Registrar of selected candidates eligible to be offered a position in the U.S. Foreign Service.
Many resources exist to help you prepare for the FSOT:
- Learn about the process.
- Take a practice test designed by the US Department of State.
- Review free practice questions and tests.
- How to Ace the Foreign Service Officer Test
Because many opportunities in International Affairs & Diplomacy can be found in the federal government, it is possible to know the hiring ranges for entry-level roles:
Additional Industry Resources
Blogs and Industry Research
- Think Tanks - What are they?
- Careers in International Affairs
- Center for Strategic & International Studies
- Diplomacy 101
- How do you become a diplomat?
- Land your Dream Job in Diplomacy and International Relations
- Path to Foreign Service
- So, You Want to Be a Diplomat?
- United Nations Development Programme
- U.S. Department of State's List of Think Tanks