Careers in the US Foreign Service

United States Foreign Service Officers serve in over 165 countries throughout the world, carrying out foreign policy and helping to maintain diplomatic relations. Their work involves administrative management, consular services, political and economic reporting and analysis, and public diplomacy.  In 2002, the State Department hired 466 new Foreign Service Officers, as well as additional  Specialists and Civil Service Officers. The Foreign Service has a great web page with a section to determine if the FS is right for you as well as the five career tracks.

The Department of State also offers summer internships with the Foreign Service.

How Do I Apply To Join the Foreign Service?
 If you are interested in a career as a diplomat, the first step is to take the Foreign Service Exam which is typically held each fall. If you miss the exam, you have to wait a year. There are no educational requirements to take the exam; however, most candidates are widely-read or have taken a variety of international affairs courses. The exam measures a candidate's knowledge and understanding of a range of subjects determined by a job analysis to be important to perform the tasks required of a Foreign Service officer. There will still be three multiple choice sections: job-related knowledge; English expression and usage; and a non-cognitive component. There is also an essay writing exercise. Only those candidates who pass the multiple choice segments will have their essays scored.  The process is competitive, so it's important to prepare as thoroughly as possible for the exam. 

All Foreign Service Written Examination passers will be invited to the Oral Assessment phase of the process.  The oral assessment is based on actual Foreign Service work and evaluates the abilities and personal characteristics considered necessary to perform that work. During the day-long assessment, candidates participate in a group negotiation exercise, participate in individual exercises, and write a report.

 The oral assessment will be conducted all year in Washington, D.C., and, for limited periods at selected other sites to accommodate candidates nationwide. The Department of State also offers Oral Assessment Prep Sessions.

 After passing the oral assessment, the rigorous process continues.  The next steps include a background investigation, a meeting with a Final Review Panel consisting of two examiners, medical clearance, then placement on a list of eligible hires.  Finally, for those who are successful, it's a Foreign Service career with the US Department of State.

Summer Programs

The Department of State also offers summer and student internship programs.
and has an on-line questionnaire to help you determine which program is best for you. 

Must Read Newspapers

The old cliche about passing the foreign service exam is that you should read the international section of the New York Times every day for five years.  Here are some "must read" sources.  

The New York Times;
The Christian Science Monitor
The Economist
Foreign Affairs