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What They Do

Insider Info

Protocol officers think about everything from security to the type of gifts that can be presented to different leaders.

The word protocol refers to the customs and rules of politeness and courtesy established between an individual and society. By understanding other people's customs, protocol officers can help make relations between leaders, governments and nations run smoothly.

The work of government protocol officers generally includes regulating official visits and events. They must make sure that the use of emblems such as flags and anthems are accurate and the correct forms of address are used. They follow ceremonial guidelines.

In addition, they look after details such as seating plans, guest lists, gifts and dress codes.

Protocol officers can work in a variety of settings. Each state has protocol offices for dignitary visits. Cities also have protocol officers or people who handle official visits to the mayor.

Protocol officers work in government offices, in the military and in private companies that deal with international clients. They are also hired by institutions such as universities and airports. In fact, any organization that deals with foreign visitors or hosts events for dignitaries may have a protocol officer.

Protocol officers don't work regular office hours. "This isn't 9 to 5," says David Harris, the chief of protocol for a government. "I am on the road sometimes, and I have to be ready for events that can happen in the evening or on the weekend."

Working in protocol isn't a typical office job. It may be difficult for people with physical challenges. "I'm afraid that there is a lot of driving, travel and you have to be able to do all kinds of things -- like help load up a van -- and move quickly," says Harris.

At a Glance

Make sure customs are followed

  • Look after everything from seating plans to dress codes
  • This is not a typical office job
  • Protocol officers have a wide variety of educational backgrounds