Foreign Service Officer Career Tracks
When hiring Foreign Service Officers, we look for motivated individuals with sound judgement and leadership abilities that can retain their composure in times of great stress -- or even dire situations, like a military coup or a major environmental disaster.
Foreign Service Officers can choose from five career tracks that include Consular, Economic, Management, Political and Public Diplomacy. While all U.S. diplomats are expected to communicate clearly our Foreign Service goals abroad, and interact effectively with host country populations to help advance our national interests worldwide, each career track has a specific focus. Whether you want to follow a professional path that grows your management skills, impacts economic policy or helps reunite families, you'll find five different career tracks that can direct you towards realizing your goals. Please choose carefully, as your selection will have an impact on your selection and job experiences once you enter a Foreign Service career.
- Consular Officers facilitate adoptions, help evacuate Americans, and combat fraud to protect our borders and fight human trafficking. Consular Offiers touch people's lives in important ways, often reassuring families in crisis.
- Economic Officers work with foreign governments and other USG agencies on technology, science, economic, trade, energy, and environmental issues both domestically and overseas.
- Management Officers are resourceful, creative, action-oriented “go to” leaders responsible for all embassy operations from real estate to people to budget.
- Political Officers analyze host country political events and must be able to negotiate and communicate effectively with all levels of foreign government officials.
- Public Diplomacy Officers engage, inform, and influence opinion leaders, local non-governmental groups, the next generation of leaders, academics, think tanks, government officials, and the full range of civil society in order to promote mutual understanding and support for U.S policy goals..
Are you ready to make a difference? Click here to review 13 dimensions (PDF) sought in all Foreign Service candidates and explore the traits needed for a successful and fulﬁlling career.
Strategic thinkers and crisis managers who protect U.S. citizens and interests abroad.
As a Consular Officer, you’ll use your problem-solving and managerial skills along with your sense of public service to address challenges facing U.S. citizens who are traveling, living, or conducting business abroad.
Myth: Consular Officers spend their days stamping passports and issuing visas.
Reality: Consular Officers make judgments about foreign nationals who want to travel to the United States. They also facilitate adoptions, help evacuate Americans, combat fraud to protect our borders and fight human trafficking. Consular Officers touch people's lives in important ways, often reassuring families in crisis.
As you learn new skills and enjoy outstanding benefits, you’ll handle diverse challenges such as child custody disputes, arrests, travel advisories, and emergencies, in addition to:
- Working with local officials to facilitate legitimate business, educational, and tourist travel, strengthen our border security, and protect Americans
- Acquiring and applying expertise in local laws, culture, and economic and political conditions to make prompt, informed decisions affecting the lives of foreign citizens and Americans abroad
- Helping U.S. citizens with family reunification, in medical emergencies, and evacuations
- Visiting arrested Americans and ensuring access to legal counsel
- Leading a multi-cultural and highly qualified staff in developing innovative practices to protect U.S. citizens and borders
- Combining problem solving and managerial skills with knowledge of U.S. and host country laws/procedures to find solutions to problems American citizens face abroad.
- Applying knowledge of host country and U.S. Immigration law/procedures to facilitate legitimate travel to the United States while applying appropriate measures to protect U.S. borders.
- Reporting to Washington on full range of consular issues, for instance, fraud trends, visa and passport workload, or delicate American citizen cases involving victims of crime or child abductions. Monitoring security issues that threaten the safety of Americans abroad, and ensure Americans have access to timely, accurate information to make decisions concerning travel and activities.
Resourceful negotiators who build and maintain positive economic and
trade relations between the U.S. and other countries.
As an Economic Officer, you'll work with U.S. and foreign government officials, business leaders, and opinion-makers as you promote national security through economic security.
Myth: Economic Officers must bring an in-depth knowledge of quantitative economics into the Foreign Service.
Reality: While having an economics background is useful, it’s not required. Foreign Service Economic Officers focus on developing relationships with important economic figures, including those in the business community, the government and opposition, non-governmental organizations, academia and multilateral organizations. They promote U.S. economic and commercial interests. Their reporting and analysis on economic conditions and trends in the host country influence U.S. policy formulation and implementation.
Economic Officers receive extensive in-house training in economics, trade, commercial diplomacy, energy, and environmental issues. As you learn new skills and enjoy outstanding benefits, you’ll influence and implement economic and trade policy as you help unravel the complexities of a global economy by:
- Coordinating with international economic organizations and other countries to resolve market challenges, promote fair practices, and advocate U.S. policy.
- Working with other countries to address science, environmental and health issues.
- Identifying global opportunities for U.S. businesses to ensure that American entities can fairly compete for foreign investment and trade and reducing impediments.
- Promoting economic development in under-developed or newly emerging countries.
- Negotiating agreements and promoting policies that enhance the safety, security, and efficiency of travel and transportation.
- Researching, analyzing, interpreting, and advising on the implications of global energy supplies on the U.S. interests.
- Promoting international standards for the development, usage, and security of emerging communications technology and other critical infrastructure.
Creative, fast-thinking problem-solvers who handle diverse challenges.
As a Management Officer, you'll use your professional background to serve your country — meeting everyday challenges head-on while you learn new skills and enjoy outstanding beneﬁts.
Myth: Management Officers do boring and routine work.
Reality: Nothing is boring or routine about managing an embassy or consulate! Management Officers are the "go to" leaders at U.S. embassies. They are resourceful and creative, as they manage embassy operations from real estate to people to budget. Management officers make diplomacy work.
Management officers develop efficient, on-target solutions in fast-paced and mission-critical situations and have multi-disciplinary responsibilities in complex situations:
- Managing multi-million-dollar real estate and other assets
- Coordinating with other U.S. agencies in embassies to work efficiently as a team
- Coordinating visits of senior officials
- Promoting leadership and professional development of staff
- Negotiating practical agreements with host countries and local businesses
- Ensuring the security of U.S. personnel and installations.
Informed negotiators who interpret situations and advise on international issues.
As a Political Officer, you’ll keep a trained eye on the political climate at your foreign post
and decipher events as they relate to U.S. interests, negotiations and policies.
Myth: Only Political Officers become Ambassadors.
Reality: There are representatives from all generalist career tracks in the ambassadorial ranks.
As you learn new skills and enjoy outstanding benefits, you’ll communicate with foreign governments to seek support for shared goals, including votes in multilateral fora, in addition to:
- Developing foreign contacts in and out of politics and government to advance U.S. political interests
- Assessing the impact of political developments on the U.S. and making recommendations on action by our government
- Supporting high level visits and advising policymakers on how to communicate with foreign governments
Public Diplomacy Officers
Experts in cross-cultural relations and communications who build public awareness and promote U.S. interests abroad.
As a Public Diplomacy Officer, you’ll broaden understanding of American values and policies.
Myth: Public Diplomacy Officers only monitor news media and organize cultural performances in foreign countries.
Reality: Public Diplomacy Officers engage and network with the full range of host national society and government to shape the public message and perceptions about the United States. Public diplomacy officers maintain contacts with key people who influence public opinion. They are also managers of people, programs, budgets and resources.
Public Diplomacy Officers engage, inform, and influence opinion leaders, local non-governmental groups, the next generation of leaders, academics, think tanks, government officials, and the full range of civil society in order to promote mutual understanding and support for U.S policy goals. Public diplomacy officers explain the breadth of American foreign policies to ensure that our positions are understood and misrepresentations are corrected in addition to:
- Explaining to foreign audiences how American history, values and traditions shape our foreign policy.
- Creating and managing cultural and information programs to help connect with foreign audiences and engage in different cultures.
- Coordinating various exchange programs to strengthen relationships that improve foreign insight into American society.
- Communicating with and through a variety of media to promote U.S. interests abroad.
Important notice on your career track choice:
- You may also find a more thorough explanation of each career track in the Guide to the Foreign Service Officer Selection Process (pdf).
- Each career track requires the same characteristics in its employees, also known as the 13 dimensions (35kb, pdf).
- Each engages with host government officials, private sector contacts and international organization officials. In every career track, you will work closely with people from other countries.
- Each requires service in hardship posts.
- Each fosters dialogue between the United States and the host country. In every career track, you will advocate U.S. policies, promote U.S. interests, and strengthen understanding between our country and other nations.