Home » Specialties » Foreign Service Officers

Types Of Foreign Service Officers

Live overseas and serve your country with a career in the foreign service.

international flags

Love the U.S., but also interested in living abroad (and getting paid to do so)? Consider a career as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO).

For those interested in exploring the world and willing to be stationed anywhere, there are over 265 embassies, consulates, and related locations around the world that Foreign Service Officers can be assigned to.

Foreign Service Officer Career Basics

FSOs work for the United States Department of State and operate with the goals of advocating for America, promoting peace, and providing protection for Americans traveling and living around the world.

Foreign Service Officer applicants need to select one out of five different career tracks when applying for a position:

  • Management Officers: In charge of the embassy they are stationed at
  • Consular Officers: Work to enhance border security and protect Americans who are traveling or living abroad
  • Economic Officers: Promote the U.S. in areas of trade and economics
  • Political Officers: Monitor the events or demonstrations occurring in a country and communicate what their affect is on the U.S. and its citizens
  • Public Diplomacy Officers: Promote diplomacy in the country they are stationed by sharing and discussing the laws and values of the U.S.

To be eligible for a Foreign Service Officer career you must be:

  • A U.S. citizen
  • At least 20 years old and no older than 59 years of age when applying
  • Willing to accept any assignment, anywhere in the world

Once eligibility requirements are met, you’ll need to submit an application and take the Foreign Service officer test, a qualifications evaluation panel, an oral assessment, complete a security and medical clearance, and then undergo a final review.

According to the U.S. Department of State, the Management Officer and Consular Officer career tracks have the least competition, while the Political Officers and Public Diplomacy Officers career tracks are significantly more competitive.

FSO Education

Although FSOs are stationed in other countries, there is no foreign language requirement. However, being fluent in more than one language may improve your chances of getting hired.

There are no specific education requirements to be an FSO, but the majority of Foreign Service Officers have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Here are the most common degree paths chosen:

  • Accounting
  • Political science
  • Business
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Psychology
  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Criminal justice
  • Legal studies/pre-law

Foreign Service Officer Salary and Job Growth

There are many positions under the umbrella of FSO, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ current Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for accountants is $78,000 and for police, $65,790. How salaries are determined also favors Foreign Service Officers with higher education.

Accountants are expected to see 4.4% job growth through 2032, which is on par with the national average. Police employment is expected to be slower than the 5% national average, resting around 3.3% growth through 2032.

Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience, and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.