This blog is taken a panel discussion on Foreign Service Careers organised for students in London by 1-800Home. I run the Economics Section in the Embassy. That is the place where we focus on the US-UK economic relationship. It's a very ...Read More
A Foreign Service Career
Always On the Move
Foreign Service Officers move every 3 years or less depending on the country where they are assigned. Countries that present challenges due to extreme isolation or security challenges will have shorter assignments than those where life is more as it is in the US. If you do not know the language of the country you will attend language courses at the Foreign Service Institute before going to your post. When you get there you need to be able to hit the ground running. If you can adapt to new circumstances quickly and are prepared to accept an assignment anywhere in the world, the Foreign Service may be for you.
Personal Qualities and Skills
The Department has 13 dimensions or qualities that are basic requirements for a Foreign Service Officer. The ability to live in another culture and enjoy interacting with non Americans is one, but the most important is the calm under stress. From the pressures of working to deadline across time zones to problem solving when citizens require immediate assistance, the Foreign Service office must be able to think quickly, clearly and calmly at all times. When Rudyard Kipling wrote ‘if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs’ was he talking about you? If so, think about joining. For the full list of 13 dimensions follow this link.
The Foreign Service has very few qualifications or requirements for applicants. You must be a US citizen and 21 years of age at the time you are appointed. The age limit for an appointment is 59. As far as education you do not require a college degree although most Foreign Service Officers possess one. As for languages, it is helpful if you have learned a foreign language but it is not required as officers are taught languages at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). If however, you are fluent in a hard language such as Arabic, it may be an advantage in selection. Enjoyment of languages is another to consider joining the Foreign Service.
Career Tracks - Which Cone?
The State Department refers to professional fields as ‘cones’. When you enter the State Department you may be working as a Foreign Service Officer in the Consular, Economic, Political, Public Affairs or Management cone.
There are also other opportunities to work in the Foreign Service as a Consular Fellow or in an Internship program. The Department of State has created a DOSCareers Mobile App to help you learn about job opportunities. Click here to find out more.
Learning the Ropes - Officer Training
Although you need certain skills and aptitudes to join the Foreign Service, you don’t need to know everything! For example, the State Department teaches languages and also provides courses to officers before going out to their duty assignments.
The ‘college’ for Foreign Service Officers is the FSI, the Foreign Service Institute. As you advance in your Foreign Service career, management and other courses are available as well. However, if you have ambitions to earn a master’s or doctorate, Foreign Service Officers suggest that you do that before joining the service as once you are in, taking a break to pursue academic studies may not be possible.
The Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT)
|Upcoming Foreign Service Officer Testing Windows|
|This chart contains relevant dates for the next three Foreign Service Officer Tests. As a reminder you will be able to register—apply and select a seat—for approximately five weeks before each testing window.|
|February 2019||June 2019||October 2019|
|Testing Window Dates||February 2 to 9||June 1 to 8||September 28 to October 5|
|Registration opens||January 2||May 1||September 4|
|Registration closes||January 30||May 29||September 25|
|List of embassies/consulates* offering the FSOT available at careers.state.gov||December 18|
|*The FSOT is offered at both domestic and overseas locations.|
The deadline for candidates to cancel test seats without incurring penalties is 48 hours (two business days) before the start of your test. NOTE: Pearson VUE work days include Saturdays, but not Sundays worldwide. It’s best to give yourself plenty of time — avoid waiting until the deadline.
What’s The Best Way To Prepare?