Becoming a Foreign Service Officer, more commonly referred to as a diplomat, is a great position for someone who enjoys travel, learning about other cultures, and, as the State Department puts it, "you're passionate about public service" and have a desire to "promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad."
As a foreign service officer, you are the face of the U.S. government worldwide. Foreign service officers staff embassies and consulates and provide help to American citizens overseas. Your assignments can take you to any of the 265 U.S Embassies around the world. These assignments can be exciting or dangerous depending on the location.
There is no educational degree requirement to become a foreign service officer, but there are rigorous steps that you need to take to become one before you can start bidding on positions. Here are those seven steps:
Step one: Know your career track
There are five career tracks with the foreign service and each one has a specific focus. You can change a college major, but with the foreign service, you're locked in with your career track from the day you register and you cannot change career tracks.
Steps two and three: Register for the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) and pass it.
Preparing for this exam requires a wide range of knowledge of various subjects including geography, economics, history, government, English, (think SAT) and popular culture. As you can see from this sample test, there are various sections including an essay part, and each must be passed before you can move along to the next section. It is just like any standardized exam, but notoriously grueling, and not particularly easy.
Step 4: Submit a personal narrative and resume
Once you pass the FSOT, you will then be prompted to submit a resume and a set of personal narratives explaining your background and experiences. There are thirteen categories that are used by the U.S. Department of State to assess success in the Foreign Service.
Step 5: Take the oral assessment
Once your narratives and resume are reviewed favorably, you'll be invited to the oral assessment which includes partaking in a combination of interviews, case management exercises and a group exercise where you'll role play embassy officers in attempt to solve a problem - all this while being observed. Your score from this oral assessment will eventually determine your place on the list from which the U.S. Department pulls from to allocate assignments based on career tracks.
Step 6: Pass the medical and security clearances
Once you pass the oral assessments, you'll be invited to pass rigorous medical and security tests. Because some Foreign Service posts are located in isolated areas with limited medical access, the U.S. Department of State wants to make sure you meet the rigorous medical standards and subsequently worldwide medical clearance.
Some posts are terribly hard due to isolation, poor air quality, little infrastructure, lack of medical support and other day-to-day living factors. This doesn't necessarily mean you'll be assigned to these posts, but each candidate must be medically cleared for worldwide service as a condition for being offered employment.
Step 7: Wait for a decision from the review panel
After all the steps have been completed, your file will be reviewed to determine if you're suitable for employment with the Foreign Service. There are many standards that determine whether a candidate is suitable to represent the United States as a foreign service officer.
Now that you know the steps, you also need to know that becoming a foreign service officer isn't a 9-5 type job; it's a lifestyle. You're often away from your family for long periods of time and sometimes the relationship with the host country can be frustrating. But those who serve as foreign service worker abroad are attracted to the notion of public service for one's country. If you're drawn to this lifestyle, then this could be the "dream-job" for you.