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Graduate program frequently asked questions

How many graduate positions are available?

We aim to offer a minimum of 100 positions in the 2023 DFAT Graduate Program.

What degree backgrounds are you interested in?

To apply for the DFAT graduate program you must have finished at least a bachelor's degree between 31 December 2017 and 31 December 2022.

We welcome applications from all academic backgrounds. This includes:

  • law and legal studies
  • international relations and development
  • arts
  • health and social sciences
  • engineering, technology and computer science
  • education
  • politics and global studies
  • business and commerce
  • communication and media
  • economics
  • research
  • languages and linguistics.

Can I apply for both an Australian Government Graduate Program (AGGP) stream and directly to the DFAT graduate program?

Yes. It is a good idea to do this, but you will need to complete separate application forms and recruitment processes.

DFAT recruits the majority of graduates through our own recruitment process, but we also consider graduates found suitable through AGGP streams.

AGGP stream assessment processes are managed by a lead APS agency.  Multiple APS agencies can consider you for employment and there may be an opportunity to choose DFAT as your preferred agency.

How many applications do you receive?

DFAT usually receives between 1,500 and 2,000 applications each year.

Can I participate in the program from a State Office?

No, the 2023 DFAT Graduate Program is based in Canberra.

Can I apply in my final year of studies?

Yes, if you will finish all your course requirements by 31 December 2022.

When completing your application, you need to upload your latest unofficial transcript.

If successful, you will need to provide an official transcript of academic results before you receive a formal offer.

When does the graduate program commence?

The graduate program commences in February or March each year.

Is there a mid-year intake?

No.

Will I be a permanent employee?

Yes. Graduates are engaged as ongoing permanent employees within the APS, subject to a probationary period.

I am a dual citizen, can I apply?

Yes. Having dual citizenships does not affect your application.

You will need to declare this in the security clearance process.

What is the starting APS level and salary?

DFAT graduates commence at an APS 3 classification, advancing to APS 4 after successfully completing the program.

Refer to What we offer or the DFAT Enterprise Agreement for further information on APS levels and salary.

When will I be posted overseas?

On completion of the program, you will be able to apply for a position overseas. It can be a few years before graduates are offered overseas roles.

For many staff, overseas service is a rich and rewarding part of their career. However, there is more to working at DFAT than overseas postings. The majority of your career will be spent in Canberra, working and focusing on international issues affecting Australia.

We encourage candidates to consider this carefully before applying for the program.

How are rotation placements determined?

We take into account your skills, academic qualifications, preferences and the department's operational requirements when determining placements. 

Our three placements over the 12-month program are designed to give you broad exposure to the department's work.

Can I undertake further study during the graduate program?

The 12-month program provides both personal and professional development opportunities, including an orientation week, mentoring and in-house training sessions.

Due to the heavy schedule, graduates are not able to take on further study during the program.

After successful completion of the program, you are eligible to apply for DFAT Study Assistance.

Is it possible to do an internship or work experience with DFAT?

DFAT is unable to offer internships or work experience in Canberra.

Some of our overseas posts, and other portfolio agencies, do offer internships.

Learn more on the Other Opportunities page.

Will I receive help to relocate to Canberra?

Yes. If successful and you live in another state, DFAT will help you relocate.

We do not provide relocation assistance for international relocations, but if you return to Australia from overseas, we will support your move from your nominated state or territory capital city to Canberra.

I missed out last year, should I apply again?

Yes. Candidates interested in working at DFAT, particularly those who are completing their studies or undertaking relevant work experience, should consider applying again in future.

It is a competitive process and can take multiple attempts before being successful.

Applications are assessed using the APS Work Level Standards APS Level 3. Make sure to review these standards to understand what we are looking for.

What are you looking for in candidates and what would make me stand out?

DFAT continues to build and plan for our future workforce by bringing in people with a wide range of skills, experience and knowledge.

This includes people who:

  • communicate ideas and respond positively to feedback
  • are critical and curious thinkers
  • are team players who build relationships with stakeholders and peers
  • are practical problem solvers, who are flexible, adaptable, resilient, and resourceful
  • display professionalism and high ethical standards.

You do not need to have direct subject matter expertise to be successful in gaining a graduate position with DFAT. We look at each candidate's application and the qualifications and skills gained from a variety of sources, including studying, voluntary work, paid work or community groups.

For example, a candidate who has worked in hospitality may bring skills in problem solving, adapting to change and people management, which are all relevant to a career at DFAT.

Are graduate programs the only realistic pathway towards a career in DFAT?

No. The graduate program is an entry level program for people who have recently finished tertiary study. DFAT also recruits regularly for a variety of roles, seeking specialist skills and capabilities at different levels. All vacancies are advertised on DFAT's careers page.

The graduate program suits early career professionals who are interested in undertaking a 12-month program that combines training and work placements. The program provides graduates with support and guidance, including a cohort of other graduates to meet and build friendships with.

Does demand for STEM disciplines disadvantage humanities or more generalist disciplines?

No. The program looks for candidates from a range of disciplines. We value diversity and different ways of thinking.

Do I need to have had international experience to apply for the program?

Many graduates are fortunate to be able to participate in different programs in Australia and overseas that enrich their academic, personal and professional experiences. However, this is not a prerequisite to join the DFAT program.

What makes a candidate's application stand out is not what opportunities they have had, but how they have used them and how they can demonstrate they have skills and abilities that would be relevant at DFAT.

Does DFAT value research from graduates in the form of a dissertation/thesis?

DFAT values the commitment, critical thinking and initiative of candidates completing a dissertation, however it is not a requirement for the graduate program.

We welcome skills and abilities developed through any tertiary study.

General life and work experience is also highly valued, including teamwork, resilience, and interpersonal skills.

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