A diplomat represents one's home country to another country, often as an ambassador at an embassy or in diplomatic negotiations. Diplomats are usually appointed by the executive branch, which means there's no surefire educational trajectory that can guarantee a career as a diplomat. However, by pursuing a bachelor's degree or graduate-level studies in fields related to diplomacy, students can maximize their diplomatic competence and increase the likelihood of being able to pursue a career as a diplomat.
The social sciences play an integral role in diplomacy. Students will need a basic understanding of individual thinking patterns, which can be provided by courses in psychology. Sociology classes can also help students better understand group and cultural behavior, giving them a broader appreciation of why people act the way they do. Anthropology can aid in gathering information about other cultures. Political science and international affairs courses provide a broad framework for understanding diplomats' roles and the legal structures that they work within.
Speaking a foreign language -- or several foreign languages -- can greatly improve students' chances of success in becoming a diplomat by enabling them to speak with foreign diplomats in their native tongues. According to the U.S. State Department, those familiar with languages such as Arabic, Farsi, Hindi and Mandarin Chinese are in high demand as diplomats.
Diplomats need broad familiarity with the laws in their home country, laws in the country with which they are negotiating and international law. Degrees in international law and pre-law can help develop the framework needed to understand the law, and law school may help to improve your knowledge base even further. It's also wise to remain up-to-date on legal changes by reading legal journals and keeping up with international developments.
Cultural studies -- in fields such as Arabic studies, Asian studies or Latin American studies -- can provide a helpful window into the thinking and belief systems of foreign cultures. If there is a specific country in which a student would like to work, she should consider pursuing a college major, college minor or graduate degree in a field related to that country. Doing so can increase insight into the culture and may also enhance negotiation and communication skills.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.