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Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to be British?

Yes. In addition, you must have been a British citizen for at least 5 years prior to your application, and you must have been resident in the UK for the 5 years preceding the date of application, ignoring temporary periods of travel, work or study abroad.

Is there an age limit?

Yes. For Diplomatic Service posts, you should be between the ages of 21 and 52. For the Home Civil Service Administrative Assistant position, the age range is between 16 and 57.

Do you look for people with particular degrees or disciplines?

No. Any discipline or degree is acceptable. For Policy entrants, we have a separate competition for Economics students.

What if I have a degree from an overseas university?

We do recognise some degrees from abroad. When applying you should contact the relevant agency for advice - see the section on 'How to Apply'.

Do you only recruit from Oxbridge?

No! We take the best candidates, wherever they studied. In 1999, 17 per cent of successful policy and operational candidates were Oxbridge, so the vast majority came from universities across the country.

What about recruiting specialists - eg Researchers/Legal Advisers/Translators?

There is no set recruiting 'season' for these posts, or for any other specialists. Vacancies are advertised as and when they occur, and will be posted on the 'Current Vacancies' area on this website. Please note that we do not offer pupillage for Legal Advisers.

I don't speak any foreign languages - does this matter?

No. Knowledge of languages forms no part of the recruitment and selection process. However, we do hope that candidates have language skills - this is a bonus for us. All candidates for the Diplomatic Service sit our language aptitude test, which tells us if they could learn 'hard' languages (eg Japanese, Mandarin and Arabic).

What languages are the FCO particularly interested in?

We are always keen to encourage applications from people with language skills. We would particularly welcome more applications from speakers of difficult languages, especially Mandarin.

Do you offer temporary work in the FCO?

No. But we do have the Overseas Undergraduate Attachment Scheme, which provides students in their penultimate year a summer placement at an overseas post. We also offer work experience for 16-17 year old students. These schemes are unpaid. Contact Recruitment Section for further details.

What are the salaries like?

Starting salaries, inclusive of London recruitment and retention allowance, are as follows:
The salaries seem quite low?

No. In a recent survey, the average starting salary for graduates was £16,000. The package of terms and conditions is also attractive, with a final salary pension scheme and other allowances. For Diplomatic Service posts, we offer a unique opportunity to travel the world, enjoying a varied career.

Are you serious about Equal Opportunities?

Absolutely. We are working hard to ensure that the FCO represents the diverse society that the UK is today. We encourage applications from all groups, but particularly welcome those from women, members of minority ethnic communities and people with disabilities, as they are currently under-represented. All applications are treated strictly on merit. We recruit on the basis of ability, not background.

How long would I spend overseas?

A policy entrant will spend half of their career overseas. An operational entrant will spend two-thirds of their career overseas. Postings vary in length, but you would generally be posted for around 3 years to one country.

Can I choose where I am posted?

To an extent. When you are due to be posted, you can state your preference against a list of available jobs. But all members of the DS must be prepared to serve anywhere. There is a requirement for global mobility.

What about my family?

We offer family-friendly policies such as flexible working, career breaks etc. Overseas, an officer's partner and any children are part of their household; suitable accommodation and allowances are provided. Allowances for schooling may be payable. We also help fund the Diplomatic Service Families Association, which offers support and guidance to families of DS officers.

What training do you offer?

All officers are provided with a comprehensive range of developmental and management training throughout their career. Officers will also undertake specific courses before going on an overseas posting.

Recruitment Section
Personnel Command
Room 2/98
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Old Admiralty Building
London SW1A 2AH
email: Recruitment