Foreign Service Officer Salary and Career Requirements

Research what it takes to become a foreign service officer. Learn about job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering International Relations and Sustainability degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Foreign Service Officer?

The United States Department of State has many workers around the globe working in embassies and consulates in just about every country and in most major cities of the world. These employees are America's representatives abroad and have a lot of duties ranging from aiding foreigners with visas to assisting American tourists with lost passports. Some foreign service officers work as analysts of information coming from local governments or citizens who may work for the U.S. Department of State. All of these officers work to promote U.S. policy abroad according to the President's administrative goals.

Learn more about the entry requirements for this career in the chart below.

Degree Required Graduate degree preferred, bachelor's accepted with relevant experience
Other Requirements On-the-job training; between 20 and 59 years old; must pass a written test and oral assessment
Key Skills Leadership abilities, foreign language proficiency useful
Starting Salary (2017) $33,700 (starting salary for foreign service officers working overseas)*

Source: *U.S. Department of State

Foreign Service Officers

The U.S. Department of State employs foreign service officers throughout the world at over 265 embassies, diplomatic missions and consulates. As a foreign service officer, you would work as a diplomat in a U.S. consulate or embassy. Career specialties for foreign service officers include public diplomacy, management affairs, consular affairs, political affairs and economic affairs. At the beginning of your career, you will serve as a consular officer interviewing foreign citizens applying for U.S. visas. You will then move into your selected career track. You will also likely serve in at least one 'hardship post' in a developing country early in your career.

Background and Training

A primary requirement is a willingness to serve anywhere in the world you are assigned. There are no specific educational requirements to enter the foreign service. You must be a U.S. citizen between the ages of 20 and 59 and pass a written exam and an oral assessment. You will also be subject to a medical examination and a background investigation. Although you are not required to know a foreign language, you can raise your score with fluency in a foreign language. Applicants are ranked by score, and vacancies are filled from the list in order of rank.

An internship with the Department of State or another foreign affairs office within the U.S. government may help you to test your interest and meet people who have served as foreign service officers.

Salary

As of January 8th, 2017, foreign service officers were paid according to a tiered schedule based on experience, length of service, locality and qualifications. The pay range for senior foreign service officers ranged from a minimum of $124,406 to a maximum of $187,000. Salaries are capped in some regions. The lowest 2017 salary for a foreign service agent not yet assigned overseas was $28,545. For officers working overseas, the lowest salary was $33,700. In addition to your salary, your housing will be provided by the consulate or embassy in which you serve.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Alternative careers for those interested in foreign service, depending on education, may include teaching at the high school or college level. Secondary education will need a bachelor's degree and college-level teaching requires a master's degree. Other alternative careers could include research analyst positions in marketing or economics. These positions also require a bachelor's or master's degree and involve working with the latest data to predict market and economic changes. Still more alternatives are sociologists and survey researchers, who both need master's degrees. Again, their expertise in research analysis of data is primary to the career.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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