If you speak Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Hindi, or Urdu, the U.S. Department of State (DoS) may have a job for you. The department classifies these as super critical needs languages. Fourteen other languages are rated as critical needs.
Proficiency in a foreign language and volunteer service may give you an edge, but getting into the Foreign Service still remains a long shot. Only about 25 to 30 percent of candidates pass the initial examination and screening and move onto the oral assessment phase. Less than 10 percent of the original number are successful at that stage. But passing doesnt guarantee a job.
While the Foreign Service Officer Test has been shortened and is more accessible, the process for becoming a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) is still rigorous, demanding, and highly competitive. It consists of four major stages:
Foreign Service Officer Test
Qualifications Evaluation Panel
Whenand ifa candidate is hired depends on the departments needs and budget, and whether the candidate passes medical and security clearances, which can take six months or longer. Those who qualify for veterans preference and/or demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language have a better chance of getting hired.
Considering everything candidates must go through just to get on the hiring register, why do they apply?
Most candidates have a highly developed sense of public service. For them, public service encompasses giving of themselves for a greater good, said Richard Kramer, staff director of the Board of Examiners for the Foreign Service. They know they are not going to get rich, that they may have tours in dangerous or difficult areas or tours where their families cannot accompany them, and that they will be expected to work long hours. But they believe what they do is important to the peace and well-being of their fellow Americans.
Those interested in the Foreign Service should study the DoS website, particularly the 13 dimensions, he said. They should seek to incorporate these dimensions into their lives. They should also consult the ACT-prepared FSOT Study Guide, which contains study materials and sample test questions, and can be ordered online.
There is no inside path or exclusive route to the Foreign Service. All Americans between the ages of 21 and 58 have a fair chance to demonstrate they possess the skills we need, said Kramer. The best preparation is a broad-based knowledge of world, national, and current affairsusually gathered through education, reading, and life experience.
For more information, visit www.careers.state.gov.