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Foreign Service Officer

America's Advocates

Many wonder how to become a diplomat. Others pursue this noble mission through Foreign Service Officer careers at the U.S. Department of State — strengthening peace and supporting prosperity as they promote our business interests and protect American citizens throughout the world. Since the work of the U.S. Department of State affects the world and is carried out in every country around the globe, Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) are posted at any one of over 265 embassies, consulates and other diplomatic missions in The Americas, Africa, Europe and Eurasia, East Asia and Pacific, Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia.

Download the Guide to the Foreign Service Officer Selection Process (756kb, PDF).

Foreign Service Officers, also known as Foreign Service Generalists, follow one of five career tracks. If you're interested in becoming a Foreign Service Officer, you'll first need to select the track you want to pursue from one of the following:

  • Consular: Consular Officers protect Americans abroad and strengthen U.S. border security
  • Economic: Economic Officers promote economic partnerships, development, and fair trade
  • Management: Management Officers run our embassies and make American diplomacy work
  • Political: Political Officers analyze political events
  • Public Diplomacy: Public Diplomacy Officers explain American values and policies

While diplomatic careers are rewarding, they can require extremely difficult work, hardship and even working under dangerous conditions. To be eligible, the U.S. Department of State requires that all applicants be:

  • U.S. citizens on the date they submit their registration package
  • At least 20 years old and no older than 59 years of age on the day you submit your registration
  • At least 21 years old and not yet 60 on the day you are appointed as a Foreign Service Officer
  • Available for worldwide assignments*, including Washington, D.C.

Even though you are not required to know a foreign language to become a FSO, proficiency in one or more languages will enhance your competitiveness for selection.

If you are a capable, healthy and dedicated candidate who is prepared to step up to the challenges facing our country and the work, we want to talk to you.


It is not possible to change the career track you select at registration prior to hiring. Also, since it is extremely difficult to change Foreign Service Officer career tracks once you are hired from the register, please carefully consider which career track is the best fit for your interests and background. As you consider your career track options, we encourage you to consult with your nearest Diplomat in Residence or with another Foreign Service Mentor in the career track(s) you are considering. In addition, we have designed a tool intended to help you make your career track decision.

You should be aware that there are many more candidates than openings for some career tracks, such as political and public diplomacy. Accordingly, many candidates will time out and not get a job offer. In other career tracks, such as management and consular, there are often greater opportunities than candidates. This can mean that the candidates on the register will get a job offer. You should consider this information when you select a career track. If you have skills and interests in multiple career tracks, you should seriously consider selecting a career track that offers your best chance of getting a job offer.

* Members of the Foreign Service are expected to serve anywhere in the world, even in cases where family members cannot go to post due to political instability and/or other concerns, or when family members must leave post as conditions deteriorate (evacuations).