The U.S. Department of State- Careers in Foreign Service

Are you someone interested in international diplomacy, public service or foreign affairs? Consider forming a career in the U.S. Foreign Service. The U.S. Department of State joined us at Denison to share information about exciting opportunities in careers representing America as a foreign service officer. 

What is a foreign service officer?

As a foreign service officer, people in this position are tasked with promoting peace, advancing diplomatic initiatives and advocating for U.S. policies/ interests, among other things. Being a foreign service officer is more than a career, it is a lifestyle. For the first four years as a foreign service officer, you must spend it overseas. The following eight years after the initial four, can be spent at home in the U.S., with an additional two years overseas, after the end of the eight year period. Housing and utilities are paid for during your service overseas, which leaves flexibility with how you handle your income. Additionally, foreign service officers are mandated to retire at 65, but they are known to have the best pension in the U.S., federal government, meaning your financial future would be secured long term! 

Who should apply?

Because of the U.S. foreign service’s commitment to diplomacy and international relations between the U.S., and different countries, people from all different types of backgrounds/ fields of studies are encouraged to apply. Having an interdisciplinary background with a commitment to public service, global relations, and/or policy making is a good leverage for entering into a career of foreign service. While you have to be a U.S. citizen to be considered for positions in this field, international students/people with a U.S. educational background are strongly encouraged to apply to U.S embassies based in their home countries to act as ambassadors and representatives of both the U.S. and their country of residence. 

Other opportunities in the U.S Foreign Service

The William D. Clarke, Sr. Diplomatic Security Fellowship is a two year graduate fellowship. This is for students interested in pursuing a masters degree in diplomatic service, or careers as a special agent for the Foreign service. 

  • Provides academic funding, summer practicums, mentorship and professional development opportunities.
  • Completion of the program leads to a position as a Foreign Service Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) special agent.
  • DSS special agents support/ manage U.S diplomatic security programs, criminal investigations, security threats and create programs that promote safety.

Additionally, the Foreign Affairs Information Technology Fellowship is also a two year fellowship for students interested in pursuing graduate or undergraduate degree in IT-related fields.

  • Provides academic funding, summer internships, mentorship and professional development opportunities.
  • Completion of fellowship leads to position as an Information Management Specialist.
  • Information Management specialist supports information technology infrastructure across national and international borders.

How to become a stronger applicant 

Careers in the U.S. Foreign Services are highly competitive. However, you can become a good candidate by seeking out internship experiences and other opportunities in global relations. You really want your application to showcase your interests and commitments to public/ foreign service and the necessary work you’ve done to demonstrate this. Therefore, pursue fellowships, internships, and other opportunities in foreign service, global affairs, public policy, or any other related fields, before becoming an officer. Keep in mind that there is a foreign service officer test that is administered before being appointed to the position. However 80% of foreign service officers have had to take the test more than once. Don’t let this be discouraging! The average age of people hired as foreign service officers is usually 35, so this is a career usually held later on in life. If you know in the future you’d like to pivot and make a career change, immerse yourself in additional opportunities in foreign service for the meantime. Therefore, live your life, gain more experiences and explore what a career in the foreign service could look like!

Helpful Links 

Foreign Service Officer Overview:

Career Tracks:


By Mila Taffe
Mila Taffe Peer Career Fellow: Social Impact, Education and Government