Foreign Policy Professional: Job Description & Career Info

Mar 09, 2019

Career Definition for Foreign Policy Professional

Foreign policy professionals are political scientists, lawyers, economists, and other social scientists with expertise in how countries relate to each other politically, socially, and economically. Foreign policy professionals conduct research and use their findings to advise the government and other institutions on international issues, such as trade, human rights, global food supply, energy, and the environment, according to the Foreign Policy Association. Other foreign policy professionals serve as foreign service officers and implement U.S. foreign policy in other countries.

Education Master's degree, doctorate, or law degree are most common; foreign service officers may find employment with only a bachelor's degree, usually with extra coursework
Job Skills Collaboration with others, diplomacy, communication skills, foreign language proficiency, bravery
Median Salary 2017* $115,110 (political scientist)
$102,490 (economist)
$79,650 (sociologist)
Career Outlook 2016-2026* 3% (political scientist)
6% (economists)
1% (sociologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Most foreign policy professionals hold master's, doctorate or law degrees. Foreign service officers employed by the federal government may enter the field with bachelor's degrees, though additional education is typical. Some universities feature specialized programs, such as international affairs, international studies or international relations, specifically as preparation for careers in foreign policy. However, many foreign policy professionals choose to earn M.A., Ph.D. or J.D. degrees in the more general fields of political science, history, economics, sociology or law.

Skills Required

A successful career in foreign policy requires excellent written and communication skills for conveying research results and making recommendations to policy makers. Foreign policy professionals must be comfortable working alone and collaborating with other professionals. Diplomacy, knowledge of at least one foreign language and a willingness to serve in areas of conflict are desired of foreign service officers.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects that job openings for political scientists, a common position for foreign policy professionals, will increase at a pace of 3% from 2016-2026. Similarly, sociologists will see a 1% increase in positions; however, economists can expect positive average growth of 6%. Because foreign policy professionals come from a diversity of fields, salaries can vary. Political scientists earned a median salary of $115,110 in May 2017, economists earned a median of $102,490, and sociologists earned a median of $79,650, according to the BLS.

Alternate Career Options

Related careers can include:

Urban and Regional Planner

Urban and regional planners help communities decide how to use land to meet their needs. They work with residents, developers, and local government to identify problems or goals. They also gather, evaluate, and present information about a site or project, with a recommendation to pursue it or not based on certain factors.

A master's degree in the field is typically required for employment, and a few years of relevant work experience may be preferred. Professional certification is available; state licensing requirements are uncommon. Urban and regional planner jobs are predicted to increase 13% from 2016-2026, per the BLS. The agency also reported that urban and regional planners earned a median pay of $71,490 in 2017.


An anthropologist studies cultures, languages, and artifacts to draw conclusions about how and why human societies develop as they do. Anthropologists conduct field work and lab research. While it's possible to get an entry-level assistant job with a bachelor's degree, a Ph.D. and work experience is required in order to lead research projects, especially those on foreign soil. The BLS estimates that jobs for anthropologists will increase 4% from 2016-2026; anthropologists earned a median pay of $62,280 in 2017.

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