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What is the difference between a Foreign Service Specialist and a Foreign Service Officer/Generalist?

Both Foreign Service Specialists and Generalists are direct-hire career employees of the Department of State.

Foreign Service Specialists provide important technical, support or administrative services in 22 career categories, including Doctors and Physician Assistants, Office Management Specialists, Information Management Specialists, Diplomatic Security Agents, Human Resource Specialists. Each category has specific requirements regarding education and experience. Details are available at the Foreign Service Specialist section under Work.

  • Specialists apply for a position through the Gateway to State online application process via USAJobs (there is no initial written test to become a Specialist.) You can view all Specialist positions under Jobs; if the position that you qualify for is not currently accepting applications, you can subscribe to receive email updates (click on the social media dropdowns, and enter your email address under Keep Me Informed)  as soon as the vacancy opens once again.

    View all the steps to become a Specialist under Work --> Worldwide/Foreign Service --> Foreign Service Specialist Specialist --> Selection Process.

Foreign Service Officers, also referred to as Foreign Service Generalists, enter in one of five career tracks - Consular, Economic, Management, Political, or Public Diplomacy. There is no specific requirement for education or experience. More information is available at the Foreign Service Officer section under Work.

  • Officers/Generalists start the application process by taking and passing the Foreign Service Officer Test. You can view the steps to becoming a Foreign Service Officer under Work --> Worldwide/Foreign Service --> Foreign Service Officer --> Selection Process.

Employment benefits for Specialists and Generalists are generally the same. All serve in a series of overseas assignments at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world for much of their careers, with some domestic postings.

The selection processes for Specialists and Generalists differ, although all include an Oral Assessment, medical and security clearances and a suitability review. Additionally, Specialists may be expected to serve within their functional area throughout their careers, while Generalists typically will have some assignments over the course of a career that that are inter-functional or in a different career track. For example, whatever the career track, entry-level Generalists usually serve in consular assignments in one or both of the first two tours.

Keywords: Foreign Service foreign service officer generalist specialist

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