For more info about the Foreign Service, visit the State Department’s career website.
The U.S. Foreign Service is made up of 13,000 people who are dedicated to representing American citizens and the United States government around the world.
Diplomat, Ambassador, Foreign Service Officer, Foreign Service Specialist. There are a lot of titles in diplomacy. The more you learn about this world, the more roles and positions there are to know. But just starting out, here are a few titles you’ll hear a lot.
Diplomat -a person who represents their country overseas
Foreign Service Officer – a term that can be used interchangeably with diplomat
Foreign Service Specialist – members of the U.S. Foreign Service who provide administrative or technical support
Ambassador– highest-ranking diplomat to a specific nation or international organization overseas
Secretary of State – the head of the State Department. In the president’s cabinet, they are responsible for foreign affairs
When I think of what diplomats (a.ka. foreign service officers) do, I think of what kind of diplomat they are. For the U.S. State Department, there are five kinds of diplomats.
1. Consular officers wear different hats. They protect and assist American citizens overseas in emergency and routine situations. They provide services such as replacing lost or stolen passports, to evacuating Americans during natural disasters. These officers also issue visas to non-U.S. citizens who want to come to the U.S. for tourism, school, or work. They also issue visas for individuals who want to immigrate to the United States.
2. Political officers analyze and report the political situation in their host country.
3. Economic officers track work with foreign governments and other U.S. government agencies on economic, trade, energy, environmental, science, and technology issues overseas and domestically.
4. Management officers look after the day-to-day operations that affect embassies, consulates, or other diplomatic missions. They take care of the facilities, budgets, hiring, etc.
5. Public Diplomacy officers (PD) work to promote mutual understanding and support for U.S. policy objectives by informing, influencing, and engaging with foreign audiences. PD officers use traditional and social media, people to people exchanges, as well as, cultural, educational, and sports programming to deliver messages and build mutual understanding.
Photo credit: Niroworld/Adobe Stock
Two-thirds of Foreign Service personnel work in embassies and consulates overseas. The remainder works in the United States, mostly in D.C. Diplomats work in five agencies. These agencies are the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the International Broadcasting Bureau, the Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, and the Department of Commerce’s Foreign Commercial Service. Foreign Service Officers also can do tours within the White House, Congress, the National Security Council, the Department of Defense, and the Office of U.S. Trade Representative.
Embassies, normally located in a country’s capital, are the headquarters for U.S. government representatives serving in a host country. An embassy can have hundreds of employees or just a few. In larger countries, embassies may have affiliated branches which are known as consulates. Consulates are found in different cities throughout the country.
21 – 60 years old
Available for worldwide assignments (including places where living conditions may be poor or dangerous)
A foreign language or specific education level is not required
Take the FSOT
Submit a Personal Narrative for the QEP Review*
Take the Foreign Service Oral Assessment
Get Medical and Security Clearances
*The State Department offers fellowships in which you can bypass the personal narrative and the register.