Travel Jobs: US Foreign Service

by Carrie Thompson on November 30, 2006

by Carrie Thompson | November 30th, 2006  

DiplomacyBe a US Foreign Service Officer. It’s another way of avoiding jobs where “closing the deal” is necessary to remaining employed, while still allowing you the freedom to travel. Foreign Service Workers are those dedicated souls who work their hearts out at the US Embassies around the world. In my travels, I’ve only dealt with the embassy in Peru. The person who helped me obtain my emergency passport was incredibly friendly and offered great advice.

Foreign Service jobs are not for the lazy or the faint at heart. If you’re looking for an easy way to travel the world, I would look someplace else. It takes an enormous amount of effort to even get the job. The Department of State is looking for candidates with Liberal Arts or Business degrees, but if you have Slavic, Middle Eastern or Asian language skills, you’re probably ahead of the curve. There are 5 major career tracks to choose from, including: Management Affairs, Consular Affairs, Economic Affairs, Political Affairs and Public Diplomacy. According to the BNA thread, it looks like the Political Affairs section is the most competitive.

There is a survey, Is the Foreign Service Right for You?, available on the Department of State website. It sounds to me like it was written by an army recruiter. By that I mean the questions are really biased, such as “Would I enjoy…Working in an ever changing, challenging and exciting environment?”

The selection process is EXHAUSTIVE, including a day-long written exam, an oral exam and a rigorous background check. Studying for the oral exam seems to be roughly equivalent to studying for the bar to become a licensed attorney. The test is comprehensive and broad in nature. The oral exam is a full day as well. It is comprised of knowledge, skills and abilities questions, as well as management case studies on quantitative analysis and resource management. You must be eligible for Top Secret clearance. That means you have to have a squeaky clean background, which many of us can’t pass (I couldn’t). You then need medical clearance, which reviews medical history and current physical condition.

There is an alternate Diplomacy Fellows Program, which applies to a limited range of candidates. To see if you’re eligible, check here.

The written exam is offered once a year in the spring. As of today, the date doesn’t appear to be listed on the website. If you’re interested, I would start checking the message boards and the website for information on the exam. Keep in mind this is a government job and be sure to dot all of your “i’s” and cross your “t’s”. I was once disqualified from a government job application because I didn’t certify my typing speed. They really are picky.

Check this BootnsAll thread for information on what happened to real people going through the FSO hiring process. (Which was, incidentally, my inspiration for this post.)

For information on the exam and the process, you can check the Yahoo! Group.

You couldn’t get Top Secret Clearance either? Check here for other cool travel jobs.


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