According to the US Dept. of State, “The mission of a US diplomat in the Foreign Service is to promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the US abroad.” For those individuals who are interested in representing the US while maintaining a passion for public service, they can find a rewarding career path as a US Foreign Service worker. These workers have the opportunity to work with a variety of different people and experience life in other cultures while learning about customs of different nations. Throughout your public service work, you will have an impact on the world. There are over 270 embassies worldwide for US Foreign Service Officers to work for in Africa, the Americas, Europe, Eurasia, East Asia, the Pacific, North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. This article will address steps on how to land a job in the US Foreign Service.
Where is Your Best Fit?
It is important to ascertain where your best fit would be as a US Foreign Service Officer. You can first take a short quiz to ascertain whether or not the US Foreign Service is the right career path for you. After taking the quiz, you should check into which career path [302 from http://careers.state.gov/work/fs/foreign-service-officer/which-officer-career-track-is-right-for-you-] would be the most optimal decision for your professional life. When you have ascertained the answer to both factors, you can then check out which career path [302 from http://careers.state.gov/work/fs/foreign-service-officer/which-officer-career-track-is-right-for-you-].
Three Step Process
After you have taken the short quiz to find out if a career in the US Foreign Service is actually a good fit for you and checked into the career path and location options, there is a three step process to follow. You will need to choose your career path, register for the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) and then take the test. Those three steps are discussed below.
1. Decide on a Career Path
It is important to be completely certain on the career path that you select because once you are hired from the register, you cannot change tracks. Carefully consider your interests and where you would fit based upon your educational and work experience. There are five basic career tracks that applicants can choose from and they are discussed below. According to State Dept. policy, “all US diplomats are expected to communicate US Foreign Policy and interact effectively with host country governments to help advance American interests worldwide.” However, each career path listed below has a specific focus.
- Consular Officers work in the following four areas: facilitating adoptions, evacuating Americans, combatting fraud to protect our borders, and fighting human trafficking. These types of officers touch people’s lives daily in vital ways and many times must reassure families in crisis situations.
- Economic Officers coordinate with foreign governments and various USG agencies with regard to the following factors: technology, science, economic, trade, energy as well as environmental issues, both domestically and globally.
- Management Officers handle such responsibilities as embassy operations in the following areas: day to day operations, real estate, employees and budgeting. These officers must be skilled as resourceful professionals with a creative and goal-oriented, “go to” attitude.
- Political Officers work to analyze the host country’s political events. These officers need to have the skillset to negotiate and communicate effectively with foreign officials at all levels of government.
- Public Diplomacy Officers work toward explaining American values and policies. These officers should have a solid knowledge of local governments and customs.
Working as a US Foreign Service Officer is a demanding profession. However, the rewards vastly outweigh the challenges. It is important to note that there are no specific requirements regarding education level, academic major or proficiency in a foreign language to be appointed as a US Foreign Service Officer. For more information you can check out details on career tracks.
2. Register for the Exam
The second step in this process is to register for the Foreign Service Officer Test (FOST). This exam is administered online at various designated testing centers. The FSOT takes approximately three hours to complete. Applicants will be measured regarding their knowledge, skillset and abilities. Writing skills will also be tested since they will play an important role in the career of a Foreign Service Officer. There are three multiple choice sections as listed below.
- Job Knowledge – these questions will focus on a broad range of topics which will include the following: structure & workings of the US Government; US world history; US culture, psychology, management theory, finance & economics and world affairs.
- English expression skills – in addition to showcasing your English expression skills, you will also take a 30 minute exam section to write an essay on a specifically assigned topic. In order to have your essay actually graded, you must pass the multiple choice section.
- A biographic section – where you will be asked to describe your working style, manner of interacting and how well you communicate with others. Your approach to other cultures will also be evaluated in this section of the test.
To register for the FSOT, complete the online application form. You will need to provide factual documentation regarding your educational background and work history. Pearson VUE is the test administrator and they will send you a confirmation email after submission of your registration and advise you of the nearest testing location. All information that is provided will be subject to verification and it is vital that no background information is exaggerated. If an applicant misrepresented any information provided during the review process, that would be grounds for terminating the candidacy, dismissal after work had already begun, fines may be issued or imprisonment dictated. You can download the Guide to the Foreign Service Officer Selection Process. Applicants can also order the most recent Foreign Service Officer Test Study Guide. The guide provides detailed information on registering for the test, tips for taking the exam, how to download your admissions letter and cancelling and rescheduling your test date.
Test centers are only available on a first-come first-serve basis so you must reserve a seat during any offered test window. It is important to reserve your spot at least 48 hours prior to the final day in that time window. You will receive specific deadline dates during the reservation period. The number of test seats is limited. It is required that applicants reserve a test seat within one year of submitting the registration package.
3. Take the Exam
The FSOT is administered three times each year in domestic and global centers for a time period of eight days each. It is important to arrive at the test center with the following documents.
- Admissions letter
- Valid government issued photo ID (such as driver’s license, passport or military ID)
Finding a job as a US Foreign Service Officer is a process that takes time and diligence. It is important to follow the steps as outlined in this article.
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