Indian Foreign Services (IFS): Career Scope, Job Opportunity, Exam, Salary

Indian Foreign Services (IFS) is the diplomatic civil service under Group A and Group B of the Central Civil services in the executive branch of the Government of India. It is the body of career diplomats who serves in Indian Diplomatic Missions and International Organization all over the world.

Indian Foreign Services was formed in October 9, 1946 and headquartered in South Block, New Delhi. They also serve at the headquarters of Ministry of External Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office.

IFS officers play a diplomatic role which the responsibilities of developing and maintaining the cultural and trade relations with other countries. External affairs of the country are managed by them only.

Indian Foreign Services

The members of Indian Foreign Services (IFS) represent India in many countries and International Organization and protect the country’s interest both at home and abroad in various issues related to trade, investment, political cooperation, media relations, cultural appreciations, etc.

Career Scope in IFS

At first, the trainees are attached to a desk where they deal with a particular country at the External Affairs Ministry of India.  After that, trainees as IFS officer begins career by getting posted abroad to the Indian mission of that country as a third secretary.

During the period in which they remain within the country, they work in the Ministry of External Affairs or are posted in any other office attached to it like passport office.

As soon as he gets confirmed in the service, he is promoted to Second Secretary. They have to remain in the office as Second Secretary for a period of two years. They are also appointed in institutions like UNESCO, World Bank, United Nations, etc.

Subsequent Promotions are as follows:

The ascending order of rank or hierarchy at an embassy

  • Third Secretary (at entry level)
  • Second Secretary
  • First Secretary
  • Counsellor
  • Minister
  • Deputy Chief of Mission/Deputy Permanent Representative/Deputy High Commissioner
  • High Commissioner/Ambassador/Permanent Representative

The ascending order of rank or hierarchy at the Ministry of External Affairs

  • Assistant/Under Secretary
  • Deputy Secretary
  • Director
  • Joint Secretary
  • Additional Secretary
  • Secretary
  • Foreign Secretary of India (India’s Top Diplomat of the Administrative head of IFS or Foreign Service Board)

Job Opportunity in Indian Foreign Service Officer

Representing India in international organizations and embassies is in itself a matter of proud. The opportunities and benefits that a person gets being an IFS officer are multiple. Here are few of those:

  • The job of an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer is a reputed one.
  • Their life is glamorous too as they meet celebrities and many important people.
  • The foreign allowance that one gets is triple the salary.
  • The best thing about this job is that they get opportunity to stay in five star hotels and parties
  • There is not much political influence
  • Luxury houses and luxury cars with Indian flags are provided to them
  • Reimbursement of the education of children and many other allowances
  • Many other benefits like electricity bill, water bill, medical expenses, free phone call, pension benefits, security guard & other helpers, accommodation, etc are also given to them.

How to become an Indian Foreign Service Officer?

To become an IFS Officer, a person has to appear for the Civil Service Examination (CSE) which is conducted by the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC).

CSE is the way through which one can work at the topmost level of bureaucracy like Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Revenue Service (IRS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Foreign Service (IFS). Below are the points to be remembered for the selection process:

  • Candidates will have to give two exams: Preliminary Examination and Mains Examination.
  • After that they will go through the interview around and then (if selected) will be sent for the training.
  • Before all this, candidates will have to make sure that they fulfill the eligibility criteria required for the post and then fill the application form for the same.
  • For filling the application form, aspirants shall visit the official site of UPSC and then follow the given instructions.
  • The application procedure and fee is same as for all other UPSC examinations.
  • The application fee will be Rs 200 for General/OBC and exempted for other categories and can be paid through offline or online mode.
  • Candidates should have a good command in English.
  • The admit card can be downloaded from the official website of UPSC by entering the Registration ID and Date of Birth.

Eligibility Criteria for Indian Foreign Service

Eligibility Criteria for Indian Foreign Service officer are as follows:

Educational Qualification:

  • Candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree from a recognized university
  • Candidates who are appearing in the final year are also eligible for preliminary examination
  • Have passed the final year of MBBS but still have to complete the internship can also appear for the Mains examination


The minimum age is 21 years for all the aspirants but the upper age limit and the number of attempts differ according to the category:

Category Maximum Age        No. of Attempts
General 32 years             06
OBC 35 years             09
SC/ST 37 years             Till age limit
Disabled 42 years              Till age limit


A candidate must be either:

  • a citizen of India
  • or a subject of Nepal/Bhutan
  • or a Tibetan refugee
  • or a person of Indian Origin

Indian Foreign Service Exam (IFS)

The Indian Foreign Service Exam (IFS) is conducted by UPSC and hence the pattern is same as other examinations conducted by it.

IFS prelims examination is basically a screening test and it tests candidate’s knowledge of general awareness and current affairs. Its performance is not considered while ranking the candidates for final selection.

UPSC Preliminary Exam Pattern

Duration Four hours (Paper I – 02 hours

Paper II – 02 hours)

Total Questions 180 questions (Paper I – 100

Paper II – 80)

Total Marks 400 marks (Paper I – 200

Paper II – 200)

Types of Questions Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)
Mode Offline
Language Hindi and English
Sections  General Studies

Aptitude Test

UPSC Mains Exam Pattern:

Duration 3 hours for each paper
Total Questions 180 questions (Paper I – 100

Paper II – 80)

Total Marks 1500 (250 marks for each paper)
Mode Offline
Types of Questions Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)
Language Hindi and English
No. of Papers 07

There will be two optional papers and candidates get to choose those from 25 subjects. There will be four papers of General Studies and one will be Essay writing.

Visually impaired candidates will be given extra 30 minutes to complete the examination.

Indian Foreign Service Exam Dates

The exam dates for the post of Indian Foreign Service may change yearly but most probably, the schedule is going to be the same as provided below:

Events Tentative Exam Dates
Date of Notification February 2019
First date to apply February 2019
Last date to apply March 2019
IFS officer Admit Card May 2019
Prelims Exam Date May 2019
Mains Exam Date November 2019
Date of Interview February – April

Indian Foreign Service Officer (IFS) Salary Structure

The 7th pay commission has made a huge hike in the salary of Indian Foreign Service officers. They are also awarded various perks and other allowances. Their salary and allowances increases with the increase in grade and level. The Dearness allowance is given around 80% to the IFS officers.

The 7th pay commission has also announced that the IFS Officers will get three increments in a year (earlier it was two) when he/she will be moved to senior level.

The table for various pay scales is given in the table below:

Grade Pay Band Grade Pay
Junior Time Scale Rs 15600 – Rs39100 Rs 5400
Senior Time Scale Rs 15600 – Rs39100 Rs 6600
Junior Administrative Scale Rs 15600 – Rs39100 Rs 7600
Selection Grade Rs 37400 – Rs 64000 Rs 8700
Super Time Scale Rs 37400 – Rs 64000Rs Rs 10000
Apex Time Scale Rs 80000 (Fixed)      –
Cabinet Secretary Rs 90000 (Fixed)      –

Roles & Responsibility of Indian Foreign Service Officer

An Indian Foreign Officer has various roles and responsibilities and some are discussed below:

  • Protecting national interest of India in the country he/she is posted to.
  • Representing India in High Commissions, Embassies, Consulates, International forums, etc
  • Promoting friendly relations with the receiving state
  • Extending consular facilities to Indian Nationals Board and foreigners
  • Negotiating agreements on various issues with the authorities of receiving state
  • To supervise and handle all diplomatic relations between India and other country
  • In the territorial division of Ministry of External Affairs, they deal with economic work and political work which are bilateral
  • While in the functional division, they look after policy planning, legal matters, regional grouping, etc.

Indian Foreign Service Interview

The Indian Foreign Service Interview also known as personality test is done to assess the personality suitability and mental caliber of the candidates for a career in public service.

The interview is conducted by a board of competent and unbiased observers. Many other qualities like mental alertness, clear and logical exposition, ability for leadership, moral integrity, etc are also tested through the interview.

Indian Foreign Service Training

Candidates who clear the written examination and personal interview are trained at Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of Administration in Mussoorie.

When the training is completed, trainees are sent to the Foreign Service Institution in New Delhi for further training. The training period is of around 36 months.

After the completion of training, probationers are assigned a Compulsory Foreign Language (CFL). They are basically stationed at Ministry of External Affairs and then posted to a foreign country. All the candidates have to pass an exam based on their selected CFL to continue to work as an IFS Officer.

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