I read this question about US ambassadors being appointed without any formal career in the field but because of donations for a campaign.

Apparently in the US there are more or less two ways to be appointed as an ambassador

  • by donation/support for a presidential nominee (political appointees).
  • by a formal career as a foreign service officer

How do other countries handle this? Is the US an exception around (western) countries to allow ambassadors without formal eduacation in foreign affairs and so on or is this normal practice around the world?

  • From an Italian colleague, I hear Italy appoints ambassadorships based on friendliness to whoever is ruling but I cannot source that statement so I am not answering.
    – Jan
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 12:11
  • The appointment of Peter Jay as British ambassador to the United States and the ensuing controversy is notable in indicating what is considered normal practice in the UK.
    – mikado
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 13:46
  • 1
    Your question is a bit broad, because for "other countries" to be properly covered, we'd need to cover over 200 of them. I would imagine, though, that for most countries, many of the higher-profile embassies would be headed by political appointees, while many of the lower-profile embassies would be headed by public servants.
    – Joe C
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 18:22

2 Answers 2


The French nomination process is detailed on the foreign ministry's website (Fr). In short, French ambassadors are appointed by the President during a Cabinet meeting, and it is the Foreign Minister's prerogative to suggest who to appoint. In practice it's almost always experienced énarques (Fr) who get appointed, but at least in theory you could imagine a scenario where the stars align and a purely political appointee makes it through. Also, they don't usually get summarily dismissed when a new government comes to power.

Insofar as I'm aware, the US is unusual less by the fact that there are political appointees than by the sheer number of them and the systematic nature (until Trump, but that's a different story) of replacing political appointees with allies at dozens of agencies upon arrival.


In India, one needs to be highly educated and must pass many exams (Called Group 1 Exam) to become an ambassador. In addition, one must be good and proficient in what they do. Then they enter the Ambassador's pool. The government can chose ambassadors from this pool only. Exceptions could be made if they perceive someone is capable of handling the job and such situations occurred in the past.

Most countries appoint ambassadors, who are in line with the ruling party's view on relationships. The political party needs someone to navigate the transition remotely, in line with political views. Remember, Ambassadors are the drivers of such change and their interests must be in line with their nations views.

Often, Ambassadors swing by the ruling governments perspectives/views, so we don't see changes. If the government differs, they change the Ambassador. Remember, the government is the king and have sufficient power to do many things.

  • 3
    Which is your country? Some sources would also be good for an improved answer.
    – chirlu
    Commented Nov 23, 2019 at 9:34
  • I agree that sources would improve this answer, but it is difficult to resist the temptation to upvote for "one must be good (looking?)."
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 16:00
  • Well, that's very subjective. Once people pass the exam, they are interviewed by high-level officials. those, who are more intelligent and less crude would be accepted into Foreign relations. Those who tend to be more crude and intelligent would be pushed into domestic relations. I had a thought, while i wrote it, but, Let me delete the "Looking" part.
    – user29025
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 11:04
  • Those who interview perceive applicants differently and often the looks are the determining factor. is it not? Thanks for pointing it out.
    – user29025
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 11:11

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