So You Want to Work In... the Diplomatic Corps
The Perfect Public Service Career for the Global Citizen
The U.S. Department of State hires Foreign Service, Civil Service and Student employees to work in the United States and at embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions at 250 posts around the world. This factsheet will help you learn more about these roles and what steps you can take to join the diplomatic corps. The following information is provided in detail at the U.S. Department of State’s career website.
Foreign Service Officer
Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) advocate American foreign policy, protect American citizens and promote American business interests throughout the world.
Foreign Service Officer Career Tracks
- Consular Officers: Manage crisis situations within the country, lost passports, international child custody disputes, arrests, medical emergencies, etc.
- Economics Officers: Help foreign countries develop free market economies, negotiate trade agreements, protect intellectual property rights, etc.
- Management Officers: Develop personnel, negotiate bilateral work agreements, establish or implement reciprocal tax treatment, manage financial assets, etc.
- Political Officers: Develop expertise and analyze political events in the country or region of his or her post, engage in negotiations, advise on international affairs etc.
- Public Diplomacy Officers: Build relationships to conduct public awareness services to promote U.S. interests overseas.
Foreign Service Officer Application Process
The FSO application can take up to a year to complete, beginning with an online application. Once you submit your application you should take the Foreign Service Officer Test which, if passed successfully, is followed by an evaluation, oral assessment, medical and security clearance and a final review. For details, please visit the FSO website.
Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT)
The FSOT is offered twice a year and evaluates your writing skills, general background, experience and education, and measures knowledge of English expression and other subjects important to the Foreign Service. The FSOT Study Guide is available in the Liberal Arts Career Library (FAC 18). Register for the test online.
FOREIGN SERVICE SPECIALIST
Foreign Service Specialists (FSS) provide technical, support or administrative services at posts overseas, in Washington, D.C., or elsewhere in the United States.
Foreign Service Specialist positions are available in the following categories:
- Office Management
- Construction EngineeringSecurity
- International Information and English Language Programs
Foreign Service Specialist Application Process
FSS positions are posted online as jobs become available. In addition to the extensive application, interview and background check, the FSS application process includes an oral assessment based on a job analysis of the work of the Foreign Service and the skills and personal qualities deemed essential to the performance of that work. You can search current openings and apply online at at the Specialist page.
CIVIL SERVICE OFFICER
Civil Service Officers (CSOs) support the U.S. Department of State in a variety of activities, including improving trade opportunities for U.S. businesses, helping American couples adopt children from overseas, monitoring human rights issues and providing management supervision. Civil Service Officers work in the following areas:
- Foreign Affairs/International Policy/Operations
- Human Resources/Information Technology/Legal
- International and Domestic Security
- Office Support Professionals
- Senior Executive Service
Civil Service Application Process
CSO positions are posted online as jobs become available. The application process for the majority of Civil Service positions begins with an online application and is time-intensive due to background checks. You can search current openings and apply online at the Civil Service page.
The U.S. Department of State offers a variety of student programs to participate in foreign policy projects overseas or in Washington D.C. To view the full list of opportunities, visit the Student Programs page.
The internship program provides an inside look at the different types of positions and responsibilities available in foreign affairs. Internship application deadlines are November 1 for summer internships, March 1 for fall internships and July 1 for spring internships. For the full list of internship areas, including scholarship options via the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Program, and to apply, visit the student programs link above.
Qualities & Skills Needed to Succeed in the U.S. State Department
- Cultural Adaptability
- Experience & Motivation
- Information Analysis
- Initiative & Leadership
- Objectivity & Integrity
- Oral Communication
- Planning & Organizing
- Quantitative Analysis
- Team Work
- Written Communication
1) Take a variety of courses recommended by the Department of State: English Composition, Western Civilization, U.S. History, U.S. Political Systems , Comparative Politics, Geography , Economics, Non-Western History, International Trade/Economic Development, U.S. Political System, U.S. Economic & Social History, International Affairs, U.S. Foreign Policy and International Relations.
2) Visit the LACS Library in FAC18 to read “Inside a U.S. Embassy: How the Foreign Service Works” by Shawn Dorman to learn more about the different areas within the Department of State and life overseas. Also read the Foreign Service Officer Test Guide to help prepare you for the FSOT. Our career coaches can help you strategize your full application process.
3) Explore the wealth of information on the Department of State’s career website to read testimonials and to review the details of all employment options. Also visit the Diplomat in Residence at UT to speak in person with a Foreign Service Officer about a DoS career. And check out the Foreign Service suggested reading list.
What is the Department of State?
The U.S. Department of State is the lead federal agency responsible for U.S. foreign affairs through formulating, representing and implementing the President’s foreign policy.
Am I eligible?
Most positions with the U.S. Department of State require applicants to meet the following criteria by the date of application: U.S. Citizen;aged between 20 and 59 years of age; and available for D.C. and worldwide assignments.