How Much Do Diplomats Make?

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Diplomats are foreign service professionals who represent the United States overseas. They engage in international negotiations, ensure good relations between the U.S. and its allies, attend to the needs of American citizens living or traveling abroad and oversee formal political and business interests in other countries. Diplomats receive salaries that vary significantly from one position and individual to another, along with ample government employee benefits.

Salary Range

According to the Princeton Review, most diplomats and other foreign service officers earn starting salaries of between $40,000 and $55,000. Foreign service workers earn salaries across nine classes -- based on skills and job descriptions -- and 14 steps, or pay grades. Based on the Department of State's 2010 salary table, top earners in the department make upwards of $199,000 per year. Pay varies by location, job title and educational background.


Diplomats in residence spend prolonged periods abroad, occupying U.S. embassies. In addition to their base salaries, diplomats make additional money in the form of allowances. Which allowances are available, and in what amounts, vary from one diplomatic post to another. Diplomat allowances include cost of living stipends, foreign travel per diem allowances and recruitment incentives.


United States diplomats work for the Department of State. Headed by the secretary of state, this is the department that oversees all of America's embassies abroad, supplies representatives for international organizations and handles domestic issues such as passports. Typical new diplomat salaries in the $40,000 to $50,000 range are significantly below the $74,400 average for all federal government employees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


U.S. diplomats earn generous benefits, including federal retirement pension plans, health insurance benefits and paid leave. Diplomats serving overseas can accrue up to 45 days of paid personal leave each year, in addition to paid leave for U.S. and local holidays. Other benefits for diplomats include child care subsidies, life insurance and student loan repayment.