United States Foreign Service Officers serve in over 165 countries throughout the world, carrying out foreign policy and helping to maintain diplomatic relations. Their work involves administrative management, consular services, political and economic reporting and analysis, and public diplomacy.
If you are interested in a career as a diplomat, the first step is to take the Foreign Service Exam which is held throughout the year. The exam is held in cities throughout the United States, as well as at American Consulates and Embassies abroad.
Foreign Service Officer Application Process
Registration for the Foreign Service Office Test must be completed online. You will need to complete:
- An Application Form in which you provide factual background information including school and work history.
- A Personal Narrative in which you answer questions describing the knowledge, skills, and abilities you would bring to the Foreign Service.
Applicants must have an email process to use throughout the selection process.
Interested candidates can review the Foreign Service Exam Selection Process which explains in detail how the examination process works. The guide contains information regarding registration for the test, sample test and essay questions, testing for individuals with disabilities, and how to prepare for the test.
There are no educational requirements to take the exam; however, most candidates are widely-read or have taken a variety of college courses.
Eligibility requirements include:
- Between 20 and 59 years old on the date of examination. Appointment to the Foreign Service must take place before the candidate's 60th birthday
- A citizen of the United States
- Available for worldwide assignment, including Washington, D.C.
The process is competitive, so it's important to prepare as thoroughly as possible for the exam. Up to five thousand applicants can take the Exam during each test window, most are not selected to continue on to the Oral Assessment stage which is the second step in the process.
The State Department-sanctioned Study Guide helps candidates prepare for the exam. The Study Guide for the exam is available.
Foreign Service Officer Testing
The Foreign Service Officer Test will be offered quarterly. Test registration closes 48 hours prior to the opening of the test window, which is an eight day window, with multiple test times. Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis at over 200 test centers.
The exam measures a candidate's knowledge and understanding of a range of subjects determined by a job analysis to be important to perform the tasks required of a Foreign Service officer. Test results will be forwarded to a Qualifications Evaluation Panel for review. Selected candidates will be invited to the Oral Assessment.
Foreign Service Oral Assessment
The Oral Assessment is conducted in Washington, D.C. and in various major cities around the United States. This day-long program seeks to determine whether you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are essential to the performance of Foreign Service work. It includes a group exercise, a structured interview, and a case management writing exercise.
After passing the oral assessment, the rigorous process continues. The next steps include a background investigation, a meeting with a Final Review Panel, medical clearance, then placement on a list of eligible hires you will be placed on a rank-ordered Register. Note that, depending on your place on the Register and the number of Foreign Service Officers needed, it is still possible that you may not receive an offer of employment. Finally, for those who are successful, it's a Foreign Service career with the US Department of State.