Foreign Service Officers

Last updated January 01, 2015

In September 2004, five Americans took jobs teaching English at Islamic schools in Indonesia. Besides teaching English, they were there to help Indonesians learn more about the United States in the face of growing anti-American sentiment in Muslim countries. An administrator at an Islamic school dreamed up the idea. A Foreign Service officer helped make it a reality, and the teachers were warmly welcomed.

Foreign Service officers, also called diplomats, work at over 265 locations around the world. They help build bridges between the United States and other countries.

Foreign Service officers promote American political and business interests, provide information and advice about their host countries to U.S. policymakers, arrange cultural exchanges, and help Americans traveling abroad.

Did You Know?

Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams were among the earliest U.S. diplomats.

Are You Ready To...?

  • Pass a challenging entry exam and a rigorous physical exam
  • Help create good relations between countries
  • Represent America to other countries
  • Keep your cool while solving crises or negotiating sensitive issues
  • Live in remote locations
  • Possibly put your health and life at risk

It Helps To Be...

Eager to serve your country and see the world. With few exceptions, Foreign Service officers must have "worldwide availability" -- the willingness and ability to serve anywhere, including remote locations where daily life can present new challenges.

Make High School Count

  • Learn a foreign language. While not required, it will certainly be an asset, especially if it’s on the U.S. State Department "critical needs" list, which includes such languages as Cantonese and Arabic.
  • Stay out of trouble. The conduct of Foreign Service applicants is checked thoroughly.
  • Read the news to learn about foreign relations.
  • Make the most of social studies and history classes.
  • Sign up for business classes and look into Junior Achievement.
  • Join student government and Model U.N. to practice your speaking, leadership, and problem-solving skills.
  • Visit a website such as that hosted by the U.S. Department of State.

Did You Know?

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell created the Diplomatic Readiness Initiative, a program to recruit more people of color and people with various career backgrounds into the Foreign Service.