Her official career has seen her adorning many top positions including that of Minister of Press Affairs in Washington, Deputy Chief of Mission in Moscow, stints in the Ministry of External Affairs as Joint Secretary (East Asia), (External Publicity) making her the first woman spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry, Chief of Personnel, Ambassador to Peru and China, and High Commissioner to Sri Lanka.
Nirupama Rao has many honours to her credit including the second woman to head the Indian Foreign Secretary after Chokila Iyer. The 1973 batch IFS pass out took charge in the office of the Foreign Secretary on Aug, 2009.
She was meant to retire in Dec 2010 when she crossed age 60 which is the cut off age for Foreign Secretaries. She was given an extension till July-end following the government's decision to fix a two-year term for the post of Foreign Secretary.