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Consular Officer Careers

Consular officers protect Americans overseas.


U.S. citizens are located all over the world and consular officers are there to support them in times of need. These officers have services related to visas abroad, assisting a wide variety of affairs such as immigration, American evacuations, human trafficking, fraud and adoption.

While the career can be demanding, working as a consular officer can allow you to see other parts of the world while helping your fellow Americans.

What Does a Consular Officer Do?

Consular officers are Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) working for the United States Department of State. They’re assigned to U.S. embassies and consulates around the world.

They provide a wide range of services for U.S. citizens traveling or living overseas including maintaining their welfare, assisting in locating missing citizens, helping U.S. citizens get appropriate health care, and assisting with criminal justice matters such as imprisonment.

Other duties include:

  • Receiving, reviewing, and adjudicating visa applications
  • Analyzing the country’s public opinion and attitudes
  • Developing policies
  • Evaluating a foreign country’s economic or political conditions and trends
  • Analyzing a foreign country’s specific forces
  • Protecting American citizens, property, or interests in a foreign country

Consular officers are expected to be efficient in processing visas, be knowledgeable of current U.S. foreign policy objectives and programs, and be able to communicate well with others.

To be considered or eligible, applicants must also be U.S. citizens, at least 20 years of age and no older than 59 years of age when applying, and be willing to work anywhere in the world.

Career Progression

The U.S. Department of State offers an example of what career progression as a Consular Officer could look like.

At entry level, officers will find themselves supervising locally-hired employees, adjudicating visas, responding to local and home queries, and assisting Americans in various emergency and non-emergency situations.

As a Consular Officer progresses, their duties may start to include complex visa and emergency situations and supervising entry-level officers or consular units designed to combat specific situations.

Senior officers engage the public with outreach functions, manage larger sections of consular authority, and can serve as office directors and senior staff.

Consular Officer Education

Though there are no education requirements for applicants, many Foreign Service Officers enter the field with advanced degrees. In the past, consular officer careers were not as competitive as the Political Officers and Public Diplomacy Officers career tracks. Now, competition for jobs has increased and those with advanced degrees and foreign language skills are finding the best opportunities.

A bachelor’s degree is a good place to start and, based on the Consular Officer pay scale, may be more financially rewarding sooner than becoming a Consular Officer without a bachelor’s degree.

An example the State Department website gives is that a FSO with a bachelor’s degree and five years work experience will make the same amount as an FSO with no degree and 11 years of experience.

Bachelor’s degrees that current consular officers hold include:

  • Political science
  • Economics
  • History
  • Sociology
  • Geography
  • Anthropology
  • Law
  • Criminal justice
  • Business
  • Accounting
  • Statistics
  • International relations

Consular Officer Salary and Job Outlook

Consular officer salaries follow the government’s foreign service salary and benefits schedule, so pay is based on grades and steps. According to the 2022 benefits page, pay ranges for foreign service officials based in the U.S. earn between $31,083 and $146,757, depending upon education and length of service. Overseas salary ranges for foreign service officials were between $37,617 and $176,300 in U.S. dollars.

Consular officer job availability depends on the needs in various countries, but specific job growth expectations are not published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience, and a variety of other factors.