The Foreign and Commonwealth Office recruits multi-skilled generalist staff at four different levels. Below you can find an outline of the different responsibilities, roles and routes of entry for each level. To see if we are recruiting for any of these positions at the moment, check our current vacancies or subscribe to our news feed (what’s this?).
Administrative Assistants are the first level of administrative support within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The role will be challenging at times, so you’ll need plenty of initiative, good interpersonal skills and to take pride in delivering good service. Some tasks undertaken by Administrative Assistants are routine: handling critical filing, payment processing and similar duties. Administrative Assistants join the home civil service and spend their careers at this grade in the UK.
At this level, we look for people with all-round IT, administrative and organisational skills, including running electronic and paper filing systems, data-entry, customer service and invoice processing.
The starting salary for Administrative Assistants as of April 2009 is £15,604, plus a £3,000 London Location Allowance payable when working in London. All members of staff are also entitled to a generous package of benefits.
Recruitment campaigns for Administrative Assistants are run according to operational need; typically once a year. Applicants must meet our nationality and residency requirements, pass our security vetting process and hold two GSCEs at A*-C level or equivalent, including English Language.
You may also wish to read about life as an administrative assistant, written by a current member of staff.
Executive Assistants provide vital support for the Diplomatic Service both in London and in our posts abroad. They are required to be highly literate, as they may be drafting letters to MPs and members of the public. Numeracy is also important, as handling accounts and invoices is common. You must be comfortable using a range of IT systems. Commitment, drive and the ability to adapt to the range of challenges you will meet in the Diplomatic Service are also vital characteristics.
Applicants must be able to work as part of a team and show individual flair and initiative. With the support of your fellow team members, you will be required to assess and prioritise your workload and handle conflicting priorities, often under pressure.
Executive Assistants join the diplomatic service and will work overseas. Members of the Diplomatic Service get the most from their career if they are interested in and curious about different cultures and societies and would like to experience living in them. They must also be prepared to work in challenging environments where some of the most important foreign policy issues are happening. The ability to speak a foreign language is an asset, but not a prerequisite.
As administrative staff, Executive Assistants must also be committed to seeing through tasks such as filing papers, retrieving files or sorting visa applications, requiring both concentration and accuracy.
The starting salary for Executive Assistants as of April 2009 is £17,915, plus a £3,000 London Location Allowance payable when working in London. All members of staff are also entitled to a generous package of benefits.
Recruitment campaigns for Executive Assistants are run according to operational need, typically once a year. Applicants must meet our nationality and residency requirements, pass our security vetting process and possess five GSCEs at A*-C level or equivalent, including Maths and English Language.
Operational Officers specialise in the practical side of diplomatic work. Applicants should have an interest in international affairs and relish the opportunity to live in different societies and cultures. The work they could be involved in is varied and challenging and Operational Officers must be able to show initiative and think on their feet. As members of the Diplomatic Service, Operational Officers should also be prepared to work in challenging environments where critical foreign policy work and consular assistance happens, often following natural disasters or terrorist attacks.
Operational Officers will spend a proportion of their careers overseas working in our Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates. You could be assisting British citizens abroad, issuing visas or arranging VIP visits. In London, you could be co-ordinating and implementing policy, amending travel advice or working in one of our corporate services teams.
To be effective, Operational Officers must be flexible, intellectually curious and open to change. We’re looking for people who are proactive – identifying and resolving problems – as well as being able to work as part of a team. The ability to speak foreign languages is a real asset, but not a prerequisite.
The starting salary for Operational Officers as of April 2009 is £20,725, plus a £3,000 London Location Allowance payable when working in London. All members of staff are also entitled to a generous package of benefits.
Recruitment campaigns for Operational Officers are run infrequently, as many of these vacancies are filled through internal promotion. Applicants must meet our nationality and residency requirements, pass our security vetting process and must possess a Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent.
For more information, you may want to read about a day in the life of an Operational Officer. You might also like to read Marianne McCurrie’s blog, which describes the working life of a current Operational Officer.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office recruits a number of graduates through the Civil Service Fast Stream every year. Policy Entrants spend their first year doing policy work, including handling our relations with other countries, dealing with security and defence issues or working to improve human rights abroad. They then spend a year doing service delivery work such as working in our consular department helping distressed British nationals overseas.
Policy Entrants join the diplomatic service. The amount of time spent overseas varies from one policy entrant to another, but it forms the core of any career.
The Fast Stream selection process is tough. Successful candidates will be able to demonstrate the diplomatic service core competencies:
The applicants for the diplomatic service also have to pass an additional Final Selection Board on top of the regular Fast Stream testing to prove their ability to fulfil the particular requirements for our department.
Policy Entrants will be expected to be able to fulfil entry level management roles and carry responsibility for broad areas of policy. Languages, especially those that assist the FCO in critical areas of the world, are a real asset. Experience of change management, economics, finance, procurement and project management are all areas in which the FCO is also interested.
The starting salary for a Policy Entrant as of April 2009 is £24,644, plus a £3,000 London Location Allowance payable when working in London. All members of staff are also entitled to a generous package of benefits.
Fast Stream recruitment opens in the autumn of every year. Visit the Civil Service Fast Stream website for more information and to apply; be sure to select the diplomatic service as your first choice. Applicants must meet our nationality and residency requirements, pass our strict security vetting process and possess a Bachelor’s Degree at 2.2 or above.
You can also read about a day in the life of a Policy Entrant.