Job descriptions and industry overviews


28 Feb 2023, 12:28

Represents his or her Government overseas, and counsels on international issues.

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Diplomats represent their country’s government overseas, and counsel on international issues. They are employed by the civil service, within the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland, and are involved in the negotiation of international political agreements and the promotion of national policy and interest.

Work activities

  • Representing the Irish government on international issues affecting the country.
  • Promoting Irish policy and businesses to overseas governments, individuals, organisations and the media.
  • Developing an understanding of local business practices and helping companies understand legislation surrounding the export of their goods and services.
  • Negotiating international agreements, for example on drug control or endangered species.
  • Gathering information about the political and economic state of their host country.
  • Writing reports and advising ministers on relevant developments.
  • Planning projects in detail and anticipating problems.
  • Co-ordinating own workload and that of others to ensure accurate project delivery to frequent tight deadlines.
  • Organising high-level Irish Government visits and hosting small or large social functions.
  • Assisting Irish citizens in difficulties abroad.

Work conditions

Travel: during working day is occasional; posting abroad are common as Third Secretaries can expect to divide their career between service in the Department in Dublin and in over 70 Irish missions abroad.
Working hours: mainly office hours Monday–Friday with regular additional hours to attend evening/weekend functions including those falling on public holidays.
Location: in Dublin and in over 70 Irish missions abroad.
Opportunities for self-employment: not possible.

Typical employers

Department of Foreign Affairs.

Career development

Third Secretary is the entry grade to a diplomatic career and is essentially a training grade from which subject to suitability, a Third Secretary can be promoted to First Secretary. Further competitive processes open the door to promotion to Counsellor and higher, including Ambassador.

Specific degree subjects required

Open to graduates of all disciplines, especially to those who have qualified as a solicitor/barrister. A first or second class honours degree is essential.

Other relevant degree subjects

  • Economics
  • History
  • Law
  • Modern languages
  • Politics
  • Public administration.

Postgraduate study

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not a requirement.

Specific entry requirements

Knowledge of foreign languages is an advantage.


Much of the training is "on the job". Training courses in specific skill areas, such as effective writing, staff supervision, speech-writing, foreign languages and Irish are provided and the cost of any relevant supplementary language classes or of many types of third level courses attended by Third Secretaries will be refunded. Initially they receive on-the-job training in areas such as the preparation of analysis and research papers; drafting of briefing material for the Minister and for EU meetings; liaison with Irish missions abroad and with other government departments.

Tips for applications

Take a keen interest in Irish current affairs especially foreign affairs.

Skills and qualities

  • High degree of adaptability and a willingness to work in foreign languages.
  • Ability to analyse and to produce comprehensive evaluations of complex situations and to put forward practical recommendations for action.
  • Capable of planning projects in detail and anticipating problems.
  • Ability to persuade and influence and to cultivate institutional and personal relationships at many levels.
  • Clear and accurate communication skills (both orally and in writing) combined with the capacity to make effective presentations.
  • Strong at presenting a position and persuading others of its benefit.
  • Ability to work independently combined with a high degree of resourcefulness, organisational ability, flexibility and alertness to opportunities to advance and protect Ireland’s interests.
  • Prepared to take personal responsibility for completing work and to put forward solutions to problems.
  • Interested in Irish public affairs and in international relations combined with a high degree of awareness of Irish political, economic, social and cultural life.

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