Fewer Americans Want to Pursue a Career in Diplomacy

February 25, 2019, 6:30 PM UTC

Working in U.S. diplomacy continues to wane as a popular career choice.

According to NBC News, the number of Americans applying to jobs in the U.S. diplomatic corps has dropped to the lowest level since 2008, as measured by the number of people taking the Foreign Service Officer Test.

In the first two years of the Trump administration, only 8,685 people took the test between October 2017 and October 2018, a 22% decline over the year.

This is only the third time since 1980 that the number of test takers has fallen below 9,000, according to available data. However, there’s been a consistent decline since 2013, when 21,069 people took the test.

It’s not all bad news. NBC notes the number of test takers began to grow the first two months of this year as compared to 2018. This month, 3,396 people took the test, up from 2,845 in February of last year.

The reason for the longterm decline is not immediately obvious, but a number of factors are likely at play.

The Trump administration has largely taken an isolationist stance on foreign policy and has consistently leveled budget cuts at the State Department.

Funding for hiring and deploying foreign service officers also has markedly decreased over the last eight years. This approach has hurt morale and largely changed perceptions about working in the State Department, discouraging young people from pursuing the careers that were once associated with prestige.