Worldwide travel? Public service? New cultures? These are the things you’ll be able to encounter and experience as a Foreign Service Officer for the United States of America.
So you passed the FSOT-now what?
Once you’ve completed your exam, your scores, registration information, and personal narratives will be sent to the Qualification Evaluation Panel for an overall review. If selected, you will be required to complete the Foreign Service Oral Assessment before continuing in the Foreign Service Officer candidate selection process, which includes a background investigation, a meeting with the Final Review Panel, and a medical clearance.
If you are looking for an exciting career as a Foreign Service Officer with opportunities to experience new cultures, different cities, and meet people, this article has been designed to aid you in that mission.
How Long Does the Selection Process Take?
There is no standardized timeline for the selection process in becoming a Foreign Services Officer. For some applicants, the entire process can take more than two years, for others, about a year.
From the information I have amassed, the timeline looks a bit like this:
- FSOT scores are normally known around three weeks from the close of the testing window.
- Personal Narrative Questions (PNQs) have around a month turnaround on review.
- Foreign Service Oral Assessment (FSOA): Once PNQs are passed by review, a range of months will be given in which you can schedule your FSOA.
- A security clearance is the biggest variable here. This portion of the hiring process can take as little as nine weeks or stretch for a year or more. It all depends on your circumstances and the workload being carried by those conducting the security clearance.
As you can see, there are portions of the process that are within your control, in terms of time, but things like security clearance are beyond the scope of your control.
What is the Qualifications Evaluation Panel?
The Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP) is the first opportunity for the Board of Examiners to review your candidacy. Your initial application, essays, personal narratives, and FSOT score are all evaluated. The ultimate goal of the QEP is to assess you as a whole and rank you among others in your chosen career track.
Those who score highly are brought back for the Oral Assessment.
What is the Oral Assessment?
The Oral Assessment is a day-long process that normally takes place in Washington, D.C., although other cities are sometimes options. During the assessment, you and your qualifications will be assessed by four chosen Foreign Service Officers on the “13 dimensions of a Foreign Service Officer” (remember those?).
You will be participating in group exercises, group and individual presentations (based on the aforementioned group exercise), and a structured interview consisting of three parts: experience and motivations interview; hypothetical scenarios; and a past behavior interview. The final portion of the Oral Assessment is a 90-minute Case Management Exercise, intended to evaluate your management and writing skills.
The Oral Assessment is scored on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 indicating poor performance and 7 representing an outstanding performance. The group exercise, structured interview, and case management exercise each count for one-third of the overall score. It is required that you attain no less than a 5.25 to proceed with the candidacy process.
I’ve Passed Everything, Now What?
So, you’ve chosen your path, passed the FSOT, and made it through your Oral Assessment. Now what? Unfortunately, you’ve still got a bit of a way to go before strolling through those embassy doors.
You will still have to pass the hurdles of security clearance and a medical review before facing the final sustainability review. It sounds a bit like a firing squad, doesn’t it? That’s because it kind of is. The final sustainability review will cover your entire life history, and the life history of those closest to you, to ensure that nothing pops up as a red flag for employment or that an aspect of your life could be utilized by foreign assets to blackmail or bribe you.
Once you clear these final hurdles, you will be placed on the Register.
What’s the Register?
The Register is rank-ordered by your chosen career track. The score shown is from the Oral Assessment, plus any additional credits earned for language ability (remember multilingual!) or previous military service.
Register placement does not guarantee employment, though. FSOs are selected for employment based on scores and the needs of the state department.
As a candidate, you may stay on the Register for a maximum of 18 months. If no appointment is offered to you by that time, you will fall off the Register and must complete the entire process again if you would like to still be an FSO.
For those new to foreign service we have some answers to some commonly asked questions below:
What is a Foreign Service Officer?
Foreign Service Officers (FSO), or U.S. diplomats, “promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad.” As a Foreign Service Officer, you’ll act as an official representative of the United States government on the front lines. U.S. diplomats are on the front lines to building peace, improving trade relations, and protecting our U.S. citizens who may be traveling abroad.
More tips HERE.
Who can be a Foreign Service Officer?
There are no formal educational requirements to be an FSO. The United States Department of State requires that candidates be:
- A U.S. citizen on the date a candidate submits a registration packet
- Be at least 20 years old and no older than 59 years old on the day that registration is submitted
- Be at least 21 years of age and not yet 60 years of age on the date that the candidate is appointed as a Foreign Service Officer
- Available for worldwide assignments, including Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Department of State lists what they refer to as the “13 dimensions” that they feel reflect the skills, abilities, and personal qualities they deem as essential to work for the Foreign Service:
- Cultural adaptability
- Experience and motivation
- Information integration and analysis
- Initiative and leadership
- Oral communication
- Planning and organizing
- Working with others
- Written communication
- Quantitative analysis
Though there are no formal educational requirements set out, it is highly recommended that you be multilingual.
How do I apply to be a Foreign Service Officer?
Once you’ve decided that becoming a U.S. diplomat is the job for you, what do you do? The Foreign Service Officer selection process begins with an online application/registration, where you will have to decide which career track you will follow (we’ll discuss this shortly) and then register for the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT).
What do You Mean by ‘Career Track’?
When registering for the FSOT, you will be asked to make the first major decision of your future U.S. diplomat career, which career track to follow. Though all FSOs are considered “generalists,” the choice of specialization will determine what type of work you will be doing for the vast majority of your career.
There are five different career tracks that you can pursue within Foreign Service:
Consular officers facilitate foreign adoptions, aid in evacuating Americans, combat fraud, protect U.S. borders, and fight human trafficking.
Economic officers work with foreign governments and other United States government agencies on technology, science, economy, trade, energy, and environmental issues both abroad and on U.S. soil.
Management officers are resourceful, creative, action-oriented leaders responsible for all operations within the embassy.
Political officers analyze host country political events, like elections, and must be able to negotiate and communicate easily with all levels of foreign government officials.
Public Diplomacy Officers
Public Diplomacy officers are essentially the United States’ public relations specialists. These officers aid in informing and engaging with, not only, foreign leaders, but non-government groups abroad. A Public Diplomacy officer aims to promote compliance and understanding of the goals set forth by U.S. policies.
Though there are different tracks you can follow, all five share commonalities. Each officer track will:
- Engage with host government officials, private sector leaders, and international organization officials.
- Foster dialogue between the host country and the United States.
- Support governmental policies, further the interests of the United States, and aid in building bridges of common good between our country and other nations.
If you’re confused as to which career track is going to be the best fit for you, don’t worry one little bit! Just click here for a helpful assessment created just for that.
I failed my FSOT, can I take it again?
There is no set limit to how many times someone can take the FSOT. However, you can only take the FSOT once every twelve months. So, study hard, take your time and do your best!
How much do Foreign Service Officers make?
According to Glassdoor.com, Foreign Service Officer salaries range from $44,827 to $678,993 per year. The average salary of an FSO is $107,503 per year. As an FSO you will have comprehensive health care coverage, paid vacation, and PTO, as well as an excellent retirement plan.
To learn how to best prepare and study for your foreign service exam click here!
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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun and I’m so grateful that you’re here.
Civil servants are some of the hardest working, most generous people I know. I have been passionate about all types of civil service career paths for years now and enjoy sharing everything I continue to learn about them.
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