Department of State
The Department of State helps to shape a freer, more secure and prosperous world through framing and implementing the President’s foreign policy. The Secretary of State is the ranking member of the Cabinet and fourth in line to presidential succession. The Secretary is the President’s principal adviser on foreign policy and the person chiefly responsible for U.S. representation abroad.
There are 196 countries in the world, and the United States maintains diplomatic relations with more than 185 of them and with many other international organizations. The Department of State, located in Washington, D.C., takes the leading role in our mission to preserve and improve relationships with these countries. The U.S. maintains nearly 285 diplomatic and consular posts around the world, including embassies, consulates and missions to international organizations.
Foreign Service Officer (FSO)
The Foreign Service provides the opportunity of a lifetime for those interested in learning new language and cultures while positively contributing to the lives of Americans abroad and foreign citizens. Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) advocate American foreign policy, protect Americans abroad, and promote American business interests throughout the world. FSOs staff American embassies, consulates and other diplomatic missions devoted to strengthening peace, stability, and prosperity. Their perceptiveness, dedication, and creativity drive the creation and achievement of American foreign policy objectives. You can become an FSO as a generalist with a liberal arts degree; however, an advanced degree in a specialized area will enhance your value. Increasingly, transnational issues have gained priority among American foreign policy objectives.
Careers in the Foreign Service are divided into five tracks:
• Consular Officers: Protect the interests of American citizens traveling or living abroad
• Economic Officers: Responsible for providing their post and Washington with information and analysis on significant economic developments in the host country
• Management Officers: Coordinate and managing the operations of the U.S. embassy or consulate in your assigned country
• Political Officers: Follow political events in their host country and report significant developments to the State Department
• Public Diplomacy Officers: Implement cultural and informational programs which explain to foreign audiences the values, beliefs and foreign policy agenda of the United States
Qualifications: Your first step is to complete the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT), which measures your knowledge and understanding of a range of subjects necessary to do the work of a Foreign Service Officer. To be eligible for the exam, you must be a U.S. citizen between the ages of 20 and 59, and be available for worldwide assignment. While it is not a requirement to know a foreign language, it is recommended and strengthens your application.
Entry salaries are set through a process that includes consideration of the candidate’s education and relevant experience to determine the appropriate pay grade and step within that grade. Candidates with Bachelor’s degree receive one additional step for each year of professional experience. Candidates without a college degree but with more than six years of professional experience receive one additional step for each year of professional experience above six years.
Foreign Service Specialist
As a Foreign Service Specialist, you will provide important technical support or administrative services at one of 265 posts overseas, in Washington, D.C., or elsewhere in the United States. Specialists are an integral part of a team of working professionals who are dedicated to representing America’s interests. Opportunities for Foreign Service Specialists are as diverse as the countries in which they serve. The jobs are grouped into eight major categories: Administration, Construction Engineering, Facility Management, Information Technology, International Information and English Language Programs, Medical and Health, Office Management, and Law Enforcement and Security.
If you are unsure of which track is right for you, the State Department website has a short quiz that can help you determine what career would be the best match for your skills and personality. These appointments do not require you to take the FSOT although you will have to go before a panel and pass through a writing exercise and oral assessment before being considered for placement.
Along with their Foreign Service colleagues, civil service employees are responsible for carrying out the State Department mission of administering U.S. foreign policy and maintaining diplomatic relations throughout the world. As a civil service employee, you would work in the United States in a professional, technical, or administrative capacity to provide continuity and expertise in accomplishing all aspects of the State Department’s mission