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Indian Foreign Services: All You Need To Know About Making A Career As A Diplomat

Indian Foreign Services: All You Need To Know About Making A Career As A Diplomat

Edited By Dr. Srividya | Updated on May 11, 2023 09:00 AM IST

Naman has spent the last two years attempting to clear the UPSC exams. He has cleared the preliminary exams once and is hoping to go through till the final interview round in this attempt. He dreams of becoming a diplomat, he aspires to represent India at a global stage, travel the world, meet new people, and pursue a career that many aspire but only a chosen few are able to see their efforts come through.

Indian Foreign Services: All You Need To Know About Making A Career As A Diplomat
Indian Foreign Services: All You Need To Know About Making A Career As A Diplomat

A diplomat represents their country of origin and helps in formulating foreign policy, maintaining amicable relations, and intervening in cases of conflict or emergency. As a diplomat you may work in India or be deputed to any of the countries across the world, where you may serve in the Indian embassy or the Indian consulate. If becoming an Indian diplomat is your dream, this article will help you navigate this career choice and understand the role better.

How To Become A Diplomat In India?

In India, to become a diplomat you need to join the Indian Foreign Services (IFS). To join the IFS, you need to clear the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC) exams held every year to recruit government of India officials or civil servants. This is one of the most prestigious exams conducted in India.

To clear the civil services exam, you need to follow the three-step process of preliminary exams, main exams, and the interview process. The success ratio at each stage is very low and hence this is a very competitive exam and usually takes a few attempts for aspirants to clear.

The number of seats allocated to the IFS is limited in comparison to other categories of civil services like revenue, administration, police services etc. This is a highly coveted role as it involves travel, a good lifestyle, has unique challenges and is considered a great status symbol. All IFS officers are structurally within the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)

Eligibility Criteria to be an Indian Ambassador:

Nationality: To become an Indian diplomat, you need to be an Indian citizen. You could also be a subject of Nepal or Bhutan to qualify. Refugees and migrants from Tibet, Pakistan, Burma, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Ethiopia and Vietnam who have taken permanent residence in India are also eligible to apply.

Educational Qualifications: You need to be a graduate from a recognised university.

Age Limit: You need to be between 21 to 30 years of age by August of the year in which you are attempting the exam.

Number of Attempts:

  • For General Category Candidates: Seven attempts
  • For Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) candidates: No restriction
  • Other Backward Class candidates: 9 attempts

Key Responsibilities Of A Diplomat

  • As a diplomat, you will be responsible for establishing and maintaining cordial relations in the country you are posted in.
  • You will need to have a keen understanding of India’s foreign policy and assist in implementing it and help to communicate with the local government and safeguard bilateral relationships.
  • You will need to establish and maintain economic cooperation between India and other countries and foster mutually beneficial trade agreements.
  • If posted abroad, you will need to continually update the Indian MEA office, about recent developments and communicate Indian decisions or policy matters.
  • You will be the spokesperson for the country and will attend ceremonies or public meetings wherein you will represent India in its authenticity and culture.
  • You will need to coordinate with other diplomats and professional staff within the embassy to ensure the smooth administration and coordination of the embassy.
  • You may need to visit a country during war or international conflict to provide relief services to Indians as well as the host country during conflict.
  • As an IFS officer, you need to maintain a social status and prestige of the role you occupy even in your personal life and matters.

Skills And Training

A civil servant who joins the IFS needs the following skills:

  • Excellent communication and language skills (including fluency in a foreign language).
  • Negotiation and persuasion skills
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills.
  • Conflict and crisis management skills.
  • Global perspective and knowledge.
  • A good understanding of Indian culture and traditions
  • A fast and continuous learner in changing times
  • Open to region specific learning needs like martial arts, arms training etc.

Also Read | What Qualifications Are Required To Get A Job At The UN?

Candidates who qualify for the IFS have to undergo a rigorous training with the Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Services in Delhi after the initial induction programme that all successful IAS aspirants go through.

The IFS training modules focus on the following areas:

  • Political and strategic diplomacy
  • India’s foreign policy
  • Bilateral and multilateral relations
  • Defence diplomacy
  • Oral communication skills
  • Persuasion skills and negotiation skills
  • Analytical and problem solving skills
  • Decision-making
  • Critical thinking and strategic thinking skills

As a diplomat, you would need to understand cultural and economic aspects of India’s history and legacy. To enable this, the training also includes the following:

  • India investment policy
  • Tourism facilitation and promotion
  • Trade agreements
  • National Security and Cyber Safety
  • International law
  • Cultural diplomacy
  • Appreciation of art forms
  • Personality development, etc.

As communication and public presence is a large part of a diplomat’s role, the training also sharpens social skills like:

  • Media skills (including social media)
  • Public speaking skills
  • Event management
  • Crisis management and
  • Written communication skills

In addition, an IFS officer is also assigned a Compulsory Foreign Language (CFL) such as Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Russian, Spanish etc as ease of conversation in a foreign language is essential for foreign postings.

Career Path Of An Indian Diplomat

As an IFS officer you could be posted in India or abroad. The posts or positions held in different locations are slightly different and are listed below for your understanding:

Overseas Posting

  • Third Secretary (Language Trainee)
  • Second Secretary
  • First Secretary
  • Counsellor (After 13 years of service)
  • Minister (After 17 years of service)
  • Ambassador

Posting at MEA Headquarters India

  • Attaché
  • Under Secretary
  • Deputy Secretary (9 years of service)
  • Director (13 years of service)
  • Joint Secretary (17 years of service)
  • Additional Secretary
  • Secretary

Indian-Foreign-Services-All-You-Need-To-Know-About-Making-A-inline-image As a diplomat you may work in India or be deputed to any of the countries across the world, where you may serve in the Indian embassy or the Indian consulate.

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Salaries And Allowances Of Ifs Officers

The junior scale pay band ranges from INR 56,100 to INR 1,77,500 for IFS officers per month. In addition, accommodation, free domestic help and services, free electricity and water, transport and a pension on retirement make an IFS officer’s life comfortable.

Challenges Of An IFS Officer

The IFS officer’s role is challenging due to the lifestyle demands it needs. While the foreign postings are an attractive part of the role, staying away from family for long durations when posted abroad can be a deterrent to many aspiring IFS officers. Also, deputations to countries of conflict or high stress areas can prove very demanding. The working hours of IFS officers are very long especially during conferences like the G20 meet and the work life balance of an IFS officer is affected for these reasons.

Apart from this, the number of seats dedicated to the IFS has not increased over the years, making this a very difficult cadre to aspire for and get.

Internship Opportunities With MEA

Since 2022, MEA has started offering internships, just like companies of the private sector and other multinational organisations. These internships are open to all Indian citizens who are graduates from a recognised university and those in their final year of undergraduate studies. You can apply if you are 25 years or younger as of 31 December of the year of the internship. The internships are offered in April and October every year and a stipend of Rs. 10,000/- is paid to the selected interns.

So if you are keen to see and understand how the MEA functions, it will be helpful to apply for this internship at the official website. Just as with all job roles, it helps to get a first hand experience of the role or the organisation you will be working for before you commit to the competition and preparation it takes.

Dr. Srividya is a Career & Life Coach who works with teens, adults and returning professionals to help them find joy and alignment in their careers and lives. After working for over two decades, she founded LifeVidya in 2019 and has worked with a number of students, professionals, and women. She can be reached at


Questions related to

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Diplomats travel extensively, making it a great career for those who are interested in interacting with people from different cultures and customs. ... Diplomats also have the ability to shape foreign policy.

The overall salary of an IFS officer is 60,000 per month.Moreover,they are provided with several benefits like accomodation, transportation, medical expenses and much more.On the other hand,a government servant enjoys a pension and many retirement benefits.Also,based on the country the officer's pay package can also get increased.In this case,the salary can go as high as 2.4 lakhs.Also,the highest position on can attain is of the ambassador or the foreign secretary.If one retire under the rules and have qualifying service of 10 years,the pension is calculated @50% of last pay or average emoluments(ie. Average of the basic pay drawn by the one during tha last 10 months of his service) whichever is more beneficial.Guaranteed minimum pension is Rs 9000 per month.Maximum limit on pension is Rs 1,25,000 per month.Pension is payable upto and including tha day of death.

If you want a full time home leave after one tenure then it can be sanctioned by your seniors in a time period of 2-3 months and can be extended for 15 days from the end date of allotted leave.

Although this rules can change depending on the situation and requirement of officers but in general this is the regulation (as per the information available online)

To know more about IFS as a career choice then visit the link below:

To know more about UPSC visit the link below:

I hope this answer helps. All the very best for your future endeavors!


Every IFS officer gets 30 days of Earned Leave + 8 days of Casual Leave + 2 days of Restricted Holiday leave when in India and when abroad in addition he gets 15 days of extra leave.

The Officer with family can visit India twice in a term of 3 years posting generally on Government expense with some exceptions like in some of the non-family stations he can visit every year.

Yes he can avail of study leave to attend such seminars or any training while continuing to draw the salary. Study leave can be availed of in India as well as abroad for a total of 2 years in the entire service of the Officer.

Hope this helps

Wish you luck

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