Ambassadors are the official representatives of the United States in the countries to which they are assigned. The president can appoint anyone he chooses to become an ambassador, but the Senate can choose to confirm or reject presidential appointees. Presidents sometimes appoint either close friends or heavy campaign contributors, regardless of whether they have any overseas experience or knowledge. To gain an ambassadorship this way, however, you need either a lot of money to contribute to a winning presidential candidate's campaign or the ability to raise a lot of money for the campaign. The more common route to an ambassadorship is to pursue a career as a Foreign Service officer with the State Department and earn an appointment through long and distinguished service.
Career Foreign Service Officers
According to the State Department website, Foreign Service officers are hired "to promote peace, support prosperity and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad." The hiring process for Foreign Service officers is highly competitive. Applicants must pass a written examination, a preliminary interview and an extensive background check just to qualify for the final round of interviews. Applicants who complete the final round of interviews are placed on a waiting list for open positions. An officer with a lengthy tenure in lower-level positions and a strong record of achievement may be appointed to an ambassador post at the discretion of the White House.