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Foreign Policy Officer

Āpiha Take Tāwāhi

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Foreign policy officers represent New Zealand's interests overseas and provide policy advice to the Government on foreign affairs and trade issues.

Pay

Entry-level foreign policy officers usually earn

$55K-$65K per year

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2017

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a foreign policy officer are average as the number of people recruited each year varies depending on demand.

Pay

Pay for foreign policy officers varies depending on qualifications and experience.

  • Entry level foreign policy officers usually earn $55,000 to $65,000 a year.
  • After that, their pay is linked to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's performance management system.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Foreign policy officers may do some or all of the following:

  • work in embassies, high commissions and consulates overseas to promote New Zealand's interests
  • seek improved access for New Zealand exports and help organise trade missions
  • negotiate treaties and agreements with other countries
  • liaise with local authorities in other countries
  • study and report on political and economic developments
  • help develop foreign policy and trade policy
  • draft briefing papers and submissions
  • inform industries about trade policies of other countries.

Skills and knowledge

Foreign policy officers need to have:

  • an interest in, and knowledge of, political, economic, industrial, social and cultural aspects of New Zealand life
  • knowledge of the politics and cultures of other countries
  • knowledge of international affairs.

The ability to communicate in a foreign language is useful but not essential.

Working conditions

Foreign policy officers:

  • usually work regular business hours
  • often work overseas in embassies, high commissions and consulates
  • may travel domestically and internationally when working out of New Zealand.

What's the job really like?

Matthew Aileone

Matthew Aileone

Foreign Policy Officer

Being a foreign policy officer is not all glamorous cocktail parties, says Matthew Aileone. "It's hard work, but I think the opportunities are unmatched. The range of issues you deal with and the things you end up doing are incredible."

A lifelong passion

Matthew was awarded a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade scholarship in his final year at university. "I always had an interest in being a diplomat, but I didn't know much about it. After I got the scholarship, I went to Wellington and talked to a couple of foreign policy officers about their work, which convinced me it was what I wanted to do.

Working in Vienna

Having previously worked in the Ministry's trade negotiations, legal and disarmament divisions in Wellington, Mathew now works with the United Nations Embassy in Vienna on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation issues.

He says he enjoys the level of responsibility and autonomy that working at an overseas post demands. "While you continue to work closely with Wellington, you do have to learn to be self-sufficient. Things can get pretty hectic and intense, so you have to know New Zealand's position on an issue inside out. That said, it can be extremely rewarding achieving goals that you have set out before meetings."

Entry requirements

To become a foreign policy officer you need:

  • relevant public or private sector experience
  • to be a recent graduate, or in your final year of study
  • a conjoint or double undergraduate degree, or a postgraduate qualification
  • to pass a security clearance.

Once appointed, new foreign policy officers work through a two-year development programme to develop their skills and experience.

Secondary education

A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include English, other languages and economics.

Personal requirements

Foreign policy officers need to be:

  • adaptable, versatile and resilient
  • able to relate to people from a wide range of cultures
  • able to persuade and influence others
  • able to work well as part of a team
  • excellent communicators
  • good at analysing and interpreting information.

Foreign policy officers also need common sense, a strong sense of New Zealand identity, and to be willing to travel and live overseas.

Useful experience

Useful experience for foreign policy officers includes volunteer or paid work:

  • with international organisations
  • in legal, economic or trade fields, or in public policy 
  • with people from different cultures.
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What are the chances of getting a job?

Chances of getting a job as a foreign policy officer are average because demand is low in such a relatively small occupation and there is a lot of competition for advertised jobs. 

Foreign policy officers are sometimes in more demand, such as when existing workers move into other roles in Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) or leave the organisation. MFAT then advertises for new foreign policy officers, so your best chance of getting a job is to check their website regularly for vacancies. 

Single employer of foreign policy advisers

All foreign policy officers are employed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Sources

  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 'Work with us', accessed December 2016, (www.mfat.govt.nz).

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Foreign policy officers can progress into more senior positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. For example, they might become an overseas ambassador or director of a world regional division such as the Asia division. They may also use their foreign policy experience to move into the private sector and work as advisers or consultants.

Foreign policy advisers may specialise in working in a particular country or region.

Delegates in session at the United Nations Security Council debate the challenges of small islands

A foreign policy career can lead to you representing New Zealand overseas. Photo credit: UN Photo - Cia Pak

Last updated 1 June 2018