FAQ: Career Tracks

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What are the Career Tracks

The Foreign Service is made up of five different career tracks. At the beginning of the hiring process, you must choose a track. The tracks are Consular, Economic, Management, Political, and Public Diplomacy. To assist you with your decision, the State Department has developed a questionnaire to help you match your interests to the career track that may be right for you.

Take a look at our posts on the 5 Different Career Tracks.

As a potential Managerial FSO, what would be the kinds of positions available as a junior officer? I understand that the first tour is usually consular, but what kinds of things after that?

There are a lot of different possibilities depending on the size of a post. If you go to a large post you might serve as a General Services Officer or a Human Resources Officer. If you go to a small post, you might be in charge of all management issues.

Does taking posts outside of your designated career track adversely affect you when it comes to tenure?

Your positions prior to tenure aren’t “unstructured.” Posts offered to Junior Officers are designed to give them the necessary career track experience to move them toward tenure.

Can you explain more fully what is involved with a "consular" position? Contrast with "non-consular" positions?

Consular officers are specifically responsible for visa adjudication (both non-immigrant and immigrant) and with American citizen services. -Those are their particular area of expertise. Other officers in the post generally do not get involved in those areas except as duty officer, unless emergencies arise or policy issues crop up.

If possible, could you talk about the day-to-day job of an FSO, specifically a political officer?

Political officers get to know local political leaders, journalists, and labor leaders, as well as federal, state, and local government officials. If a political officer reads a controversial article in the local press one morning, he might call a local contact, discuss the contact’s views on the controversy, and spend the afternoon putting together a report for his boss or Washington.

May I change to a different career track?

It is not possible to change the career track you selected at registration prior to hiring. Also, it is a long, difficult, formal process to change career tracks after hiring. It’s highly unlikely it would happen as such changes are based on the needs of the Foreign Service. There would have to be a shortage of officers in the career track which you prefer before you could apply to change.

Besides selecting a career track, is it possible to develop a regional expertise, especially if one is fluent in one or more languages?

It is not unusual throughout a 20-30 year career that an officer will develop a regional specialty.

Is there a mentoring process? Who will, or should, provide initial career guidance?

There are mentoring processes. You can request a Foreign Service Officer mentor at any time by emailing FSMentors@state.gov. You can also use the State Department’s web site to locate the Diplomat in Residence who is nearest you and contact that person by phone or e-mail. They will be happy to discuss your questions with you. Once you join an A-100 class you will have a formal Career Counselor as well as an assigned mentor from a group of volunteer mentors. You’ll get lots of advice and guidance throughout your career.

Is there a limit to the number of oral assessments I may take?

All candidates who qualify for the Foreign Service Oral Assessment (FSOA) through the Foreign Service Officer Selection Process are entitled to one assessment per Foreign Service Officer Test; those candidates who qualify to take the Oral Assessment through other processes may take the FSOA a second time, but not within six months of the prior assessment.

Can I have more than one active candidacy?

Yes, it is possible to have more than one active candidacy.

I have a disability that requires that I have special accommodations. What should I do?

Please e-mail testneeds@state.gov and provide them with your contact information and a brief description of your disability and accommodation requested. They contact you within the following week.

I live overseas, can I be assessed at the American Embassy where I took the Foreign Service Officer Test?

No. Oral assessments are only conducted in the Continental United States at the locations listed above.

Will I be reimbursed for the expenses I incur to go to the Assessment?


I have been invited to the Oral Assessment, but I’m currently overseas and my situation has changed. Can I defer scheduling my assessment?

You may request an extension for taking the oral assessment if there is a compelling reason for doing so. Active or reserve military personnel, U.S. government civilian employees, and Peace Corps Volunteers serving abroad and their spouses may request deferrals for the period of their overseas service, up to a maximum of two years. Requests from other candidates will be considered on a case-by-case basis. To request an extension, write to reschedule@state.gov; include the reason for your request. If your request is granted, you will be permitted to reschedule your assessment within the authorized extension period by contacting reschedule@state.gov.

What does a public diplomacy officer do on a daily basis? What kinds of work and hours would one do in a PD track up to tenure?

Entry level Public Diplomacy officers generally work as assistant cultural affairs officers. They coordinate the Fulbright exchange program and are responsible for the sort of traditional dance and music troupe exchanges.  Technologically savvy officers sometimes are given the opportunity to head up internet outreach programs.

After Tenure. Tenured officers have a wide variety of jobs open to them. Public affairs officers meet frequently with the press. Information officers serve as embassy spokesmen. There have been PD officers who have served as speechwriters. Presence posts, where one person posts in large cities with no other American presence, are often staffed by PD officers.

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