United States Foreign Service

  • Are you a United States citizen?
  • Are you interested in a career that will allow you to live abroad and move to various countries every few years?
  • Do you enjoy learning foreign languages?
  • Are you interested in representing and/or supporting the United States government abroad?

If so, then the US Foreign Service might be right for you.

Career Tracks

Applicants are requested to select a career track. Foreign Service Officers seldom change career tracks, so select the one that is the best match for you. The State web page has a survey you can use to determine which might be best for you.

  • Consular Officers issue visas, facilitate adoptions, help evacuate Americans, and combat fraud and fight human trafficking.
  • Economic Officers work with foreign governments and other USG agencies on technology, health, science, economic, trade, energy, and environmental issues both domestically and overseas.
  • Management Officers are responsible for all embassy operations from real estate to people to budget.
  • Political Officers analyze host country political events and must be able to negotiate and communicate effectively with all levels of foreign government officials.
  • Public Diplomacy Officers are cross-cultural relationship experts who build public awareness and promote U.S. interests abroad.
The Foreign Service Exam

Applicants must pass a three part foreign service exam:

  • The written exam
    • The best way to prepare is to know your current events – reading the Economist each week is a good way to prepare.
    • The State Department also has a preparation guide that you can review in the Jackson Institute Career Resource Room or you can order a copy online when you register for the test.
  • Essays
    • If you pass the written exam you will be asked to write responses to a series of essay questions about your experiences.
    • Pull examples from a variety of your experiences for different questions to show a breath of experience.
    • Use the STAR method to answer the questions: situation, task, action, result.
  • The oral exam
    • Most applicants fail the Foreign Service process at the oral exam stage, so attending preparation sessions is crucial. Sessions will be offered by the Diplomat in residence and organized by the Jackson Institute.

Test preparation materials are available in the Jackson Institute’s Career Resource Room and Undergraduate Career Services.

Entry Salaries and Benefits
  • Federal Employment Health Benefits Plans.
  • Through the Student Loan Repayment Program and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, the Department can help recent graduates with outstanding university debts.
  • Entry-level Foreign Service Officers can expect an annual salary between $40,000 and $60,000, depending on previous work experiences and language ability.
Fast Facts
  • All Foreign Service Officers spend their first two years as Consular Officers.
  • The Political and Public Diplomacy tracks attract far more candidates than others, making them the most competitive.
  • The State Department summer internship deadline is November 1 each year.
  • The Foreign Service offers internships in the summer, spring, and fall. Spring and fall internships are not as competitive as summer internships. It is possible to intern in Washington and at an embassy overseas with the Department of State. If you would like to intern with the Department of State, start your application early. You must complete a security clearance before your internship begins. Check careers.state.gov for more details.

A word about work/life balance: A career in the foreign service takes the commitment of a whole family. Your partner must be comfortable with what this lifestyle means for his/her career goals. Children of foreign service officers can have fantastic international experiences, but not all children are suited to the frequent changes.

Yale Alumni Profile

“The thing I like best about the foreign service is the variety – every three or four years a new country, new job, new culture to experience.  It’s always an adventure.”

– Linda Jewell YC ’75, former Jackson Senior Fellow and former Ambassador to Ecuador