Skip to Content | Skip to Search | Skip to Navigation

Foreign Service

Careers in Foreign Service

The Foreign Service is the federal government’s first line of defense in safeguarding the security of the nation. Foreign Service members work in five federal agencies:

  • State Department
  • U.S. Agency for International Development
  • Department of Commerce (Foreign Commercial Service)
  • Department of Agriculture (Foreign Agricultural Service)
  • International Broadcasting Bureau (Voice of America)

They may also be assigned one to three year tours in other federal agencies, such as the National Security Council, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Department of Defense.

Career Paths

An FSO may follow one of five career tracks:

  • Management Officer
  • Consular Officer
  • Economic Officer
  • Political Officer
  • Public Diplomacy Officer

Is the Foreign Service right for you?

For any career, it is difficult to know the end from the beginning. This is so especially with the Foreign Service. Below are a list of a few personal questions to consider, followed by a general description of some of the general advantages and disadvantages of a FS career. A list of alternative career options is included in this section as well for those who would like to pursue a similar career path.

A. Questions to Consider

  • Would I like to be the face of the United States in foreign countries? Am I willing to defend Foreign Policy?
  • Do I love to travel? Would I like to live overseas?
  • Do I have a family or plan to have a family? Would they like to live overseas?
  • Am I interested in managing diplomatic relations with other countries and international institutions, promoting peace and stability, and addressing global challenges?
  • Am I willing to live in dangerous circumstances and/or locations?
  • How important is the overall compensation package for me (salary, benefits, and other overseas allowances)?
  • Would I like to move every 1-3 years?

B. Advantages and Disadvantages

A Foreign Service career sounds adventurous, challenging, and thrilling—and in many ways FS Officers will agree that it is all of those things. If you care about U.S. Foreign Policy and the image of the United States overseas, you will likely have the opportunity to shape and implement such policy and enhance the U.S. image. If you are interested in learning new languages, becoming acquainted with new cultures, and meeting highly accomplished people from across the globe, you will likely have those chances. Furthermore, if you like the adventurous risk of living in a dangerous place, you may have one or more of those opportunities as well.

C. Alternative Career Options

  • US Government Civil Service
  • A social justice advocacy group (domestic or international)
  • The Peace Corps
  • Multilateral International Agencies (World Bank, UNDP, UNICEF, UNESCO)
  • International for-profit consulting firms
  • Nonprofit Organizations and NGOs (Care, Mercy Corps, and Africare)