If you want to be part of a talented workforce and work in a field that offers a wide range of career and professional development opportunities, consider a career in government. Working at the US Department of State might lead you to an exciting and adventurous career in foreign politics.
In this guide, we’ll give you detailed information on how to get a job at the US Department of State. We’ll include instructions on the application process, required basic skills, and include information about different career avenues offered by the Department of State.
The State Department: Company Background
The US Department of State is a federal government entity that handles international affairs, including agreements, treaties, and foreign policy. This department also represents the United States in foreign organizations like the United Nations. The Department of State was founded by Thomas Jefferson more than 230 years ago.
Across more than 270 diplomatic missions in the world, the Department of State employs more than 13,000 US Foreign Service workers, 11,000 Civil Service employees, and over 45,000 local staff. The Department is responsible for foreign policy and supporting the interests of the American people through diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance.
How Hard Is It to Land a Job at The State Department?
The State Department’s Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) is very competitive and has a low passing rate. According to NBC News, there’s an average of 300 slots out of 8,000 candidates. If you want a job in the US State Department, you must not underestimate the selection process. Try to prepare as much as you can.
How to Apply for a Job at The State Department
- Choose a foreign service specialist position. The US State Department has multiple career track options for you to choose from in different areas. This includes healthcare, information technology, security, office management, administration, and construction.
- Submit your application. Once you have selected your career path, it is time to submit your application. You must visit the vacancy announcement page on the US State Department platform and choose your potential position.
- Meet the Qualifications and Evaluation Pannel’s (QEP) requirements. If you meet the initial criteria, your application will be evaluated by the QEP. They will consider your educational background, job experience, and motivation.
- Take the oral assessment. Then, you will go through a written and oral evaluation. This includes a regular and technical interview process.
- Pass the medical and security evaluation. You will go through medical and security clearances if you pass the oral assessment. You must meet the criteria to be able to work as a foreign service specialist.
- Suitability review panel. After that, you will go through the final evaluation by the suitability review panel.
- Get registered. Once the State Department admits you, you will receive an offer of employment and a registration request.
The State Department Application Process
The application process at the State Department consists of multiple steps, including an admission form, written and oral assessment, background checks, and two interviews. It is a complex process that takes around eight months or more.
The State Department Interview Questions
- Why do you want to work in this position and at this particular embassy?
- What are your weaknesses and strengths?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Why are you interested in this bureau and public service?
What’s It Like to Work at The State Department?
According to employee reviews from Glassdoor, working at the State Department can be an exciting experience. Job seekers looking for meaningful careers might like the chance to work overseas, discover new languages, and be part of a strong community of Foreign Service workers.
Experience Life Abroad
One of the major aspects people comment about in regards to working in the State Department is the possibility of living overseas. Most people who apply for job openings at the State Department are motivated by the chance to experience new cultures and places throughout their careers.
Another aspect we should mention is that you have stability when working for the State Department. There are lots of growth opportunities in this organization, with access to career counseling and resources for professional development.
Many current and previous employees claim that the corporate culture at the State Department is balanced, healthy, and supportive. You have a wide community that has your back in terms of onboarding, doubts, and troubleshooting. However, they also mentioned that there is an excess of bureaucracy and, depending on the job, it can become monotonous.
The US State Department has struggled for years to recruit interns because of the not-so-appealing job offer. According to its website, the State Department’s internship program is unpaid and the only compensation in the learning opportunity. However, senators and other political movements are trying to change that.
The State Department Benefits
- Travel abroad. One of the biggest advantages of working in the State Department is the opportunity to travel abroad. People often describe it as a great learning opportunity for discovering new cultures and perspectives.
- Pension. The US State Department has a mandatory pension policy in which employees must retire at 65 years old. Retirement is measured by the top three most recent, highest salaries distributed to employees.
- Stability. As we mentioned earlier, if you’re working for the State Department, you will have more job stability and opportunities for career advancement.
- Health Insurance. The State Department provides health insurance to all employees across 50 states, but the coverage varies depending on the employment stage.
- Work Flexibility. There are now more remote job opportunities for the State Department’s employees in the post-pandemic world, which means more work-life balance for them.
The State Department Career Opportunities: Job Titles and Descriptions
At the State Department, there are Foreign Service specialists who spend most of their time overseas and civil service specialists who work mostly in the United States. Below, you’ll find job descriptions for some current job openings at the US State Department to give you an idea of Foreign and Civil Service career opportunities.
Foreign Service Security Technical Specialist
- Salary: $52,652 (for overseas) – $84,03 (for Washington, DC)
- Benefits: Relocation reimbursement, health insurance, paid leave, federal retirement plans
- Required Experience: Two years of specialized experience
- Required Education: High school diploma
As a Foreign Service technician specialist, you will ensure the security and protection of overseas employees of the State Department. You will conduct security evaluation, install, troubleshoot, and update security equipment like security cameras, and alarms. It is also your job to protect the facilities from espionage and terrorism.
Information Management Specialist
- Salary: $57,295 – $112,606
- Benefits: Tax-free housing overseas, education opportunities for dependant children, health insurance, and paid leave
- Required Experience: Two years of technical communications or recent IT work experience
- Required Education: At least an Associate Degree in Information Technology
Information Management Specialists’ responsibilities are to manage the information technology systems. They must provide IT solutions, test IT systems, provide assistance, and troubleshoot for local and international devices from the State Department.
Supervisory IT Cyber security Specialist
- Salary: $148,484 – $176,300
- Benefits: Remote work possibility, health insurance, life insurance, flexible spending accounts
- Required Experience: One year of experience in cyber security
- Required Education: N/A
The supervisory IT cyber security specialist supervises the analysis of cyber security compliance and reporting measures. They must audit the life cycle of plans of actions and milestones. This is a managerial position that is part of the civil service department.
Information Technology Specialist
- Salary: $106,823 – $138,868
- Benefits: Training and development, paid leave, paid holidays, life insurance, thrift savings plan
- Required Experience: One year of experience in information technology
- Required Education: N/A
The technology specialist oversees, manages, and develops optimization plans for the security management console. They are also responsible for conducting research, providing solutions to complex IT issues, and reporting metrics.
- Salary: $50,089 – $65,110
- Benefits: Life insurance, paid leave, health insurance, career development
- Required Experience: One year of experience in US immigration affairs
- Required Education: N/A
A passport specialist is responsible for evaluating documentation, identifying inconsistency issues, and replacing passports from applicant representatives. If they suspect a fraudulent documentation issue, they must fill out the Suspected Fraudulent Application form and notify the appointed party.
- Salary: $164,489
- Benefits: Remote work opportunity, life insurance, health insurance, paid leave
- Required Experience: Three years of experience in law and federal statutes
- Required Education: Law degree
This role at the State Department is to provide advice on legal issues, assist in federal courts, and provide guidance to less experienced colleagues. This role requires you to have a background in federal government law enforcement and statutes.
- Salary: $72,686 – $116,012
- Benefits: Tax-free housing overseas, education opportunity for dependant children, health insurance
- Required Experience: Three years of specialized experience
- Required Education: Bachelor’s degree in any major
The facility manager is responsible for ensuring the security and efficiency of the US Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. They must manage physical resources and conduct critical building systems. This could be an opportunity to work in the US or in multiple countries.
Diplomatic Security Engineering Officer
- Salary: $106,392
- Benefits: Federal retirement benefits, paid leave, medical insurance
- Required Experience: N/A
- Required Education: Bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in physics or engineering
This Foreign Service role is to identify potential threats to the IT system, oversee and lead the information technology department, and provide support. You must have leadership skills, computational literacy, and be willing to live abroad.
Foreign Service Regional Medical Officer/Psychiatrist
- Salary: $153,767 – $176,300
- Benefits: Retirement benefits, medical coverage, tax-free housing overseas
- Required Experience: Five years of post-residency clinical experience
- Required Education: Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathy (DO)
The Foreign Service regional medical psychiatrist provides ambulatory psychiatric care for State Department employees, connecting with international experts, arranging medical evacuations, and traveling to different locations as needed.
Foreign Service Office Management Specialist
- Salary: $51,220 – $81,570
- Benefits: Opportunity to travel abroad, health insurance, tax-free housing overseas.
- Required Experience: Two years of experience in administrative operations
- Required Education: Associate Degree in Office Management or Business Administration
This is a highly administrative role that requires you to handle management operations in the office, support the department team, and troubleshoot IT issues. As a Foreign Service office management specialist, you will also prepare written materials, conduct analysis of administrative operations, and make reports.
What Does It Take to Get a Job at The State Department?
You must be highly prepared before submitting your application. The selection process is very competitive and challenging. Before filling out the admission form, do some research and find out what they’re looking for in that particular position.
How to Get a Job at The State Department FAQ
Most job openings require you to have at least a bachelor’s degree. However, you may also find other job postings that require a master’s degree. It all depends on the position you are applying for. You can also gain career-relevant skills in IT by attending a top coding bootcamp where you can specialize in various fields like cyber security, software engineering, and data science.
No, they’re both separate entities of the US federal government. The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian foreign intelligence agency tasked with gathering and analyzing information relevant to national security, while the State Department is mainly involved in diplomatic and foreign policy matters.
It takes an average of one year and six months to get hired as a foreign service officer. This time range takes into account the time it takes from start to finish, including researching the application requirements and completing the entire application process.
You can take the exam as many times as you wish. There is no limit as to how many times you can take the foreign service exam. However, you must wait at least one year between each trial.
"Career Karma entered my life when I needed it most and quickly helped me match with a bootcamp. Two months after graduating, I found my dream job that aligned with my values and goals in life!"
Venus, Software Engineer at Rockbot
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.