Iceland. New Zealand. Venezuela. Sweden. Jordan. Egypt. Ambassadors to these or one of the more than 180 countries that host U.S. embassies in their capital cities coordinate the operations of hundreds of government officers. An embassy serves as the headquarters for Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) and other personnel, all working together to maintain a positive, productive relationship between the host country and the United States. Though the work is important, the post of ambassador is sometimes largely ceremonial. The president offers an ambassadorship to someone who has a long, dignified history of political service or to a wealthy supporter of the president's political party. An ambassador will stay at a post for two to six years. Career ambassadors are those who are Foreign Service officers; noncareer ambassadors are those outside of the Foreign Service. In the latter half of the 20th century there was some controversy regarding the appointment of noncareer ambassadors to their posts. Critics mainly called into question the skills of ambassadors with no previous experience in the Foreign Service. Today such appointments comprise fewer than 30 percent of ambassador appointments. However, noncareer ambassadors have tended to dominate some of the most influential posts, such as China, Canada, and countries in Western Europe.

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