You you can seek a position with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in four different areas: as a Foreign Service officer, as a Foreign Service specialist, as a civil service staffer or in a student role. Before you decide what to study, it helps to understand these different roles, what is required of the roles and the different types of opportunities available. What is interesting is that some of the jobs do not require any specific type of degree or level of education.
Foreign Service Officers
Foreign Service officers are diplomats and work in five different specialties: economic, consular, management, political and public diplomacy. Your job as a Foreign Service officer is to represent the United States, foster dialogue and promote U.S. interests in your area of expertise. Choose carefully, because once accepted into a career track, you cannot change to another career track. The State Department, however, does not require any specific educational level for any of the careers paths, or any academic major or even proficiency in a foreign language. What you need to do in this case is study each career path in detail and pick a degree program that will closely mirror the skills required. For example, as an economic Foreign Service officer, you might want to study economics at the graduate level to prepare for the job. It is not required, but it offers the most obvious option.
Foreign Service Specialists
Foreign Service specialists run the day-to-day operations of embassies and consulates. The main categories in which you can work are: administration, construction engineering, facilities management, information technology, medical and health, office management, security, and international information and English Language programs. This means if you want to work as a Foreign Service specialist, you have a wide range of options. What you study will depend on what category you want to work in. Furthermore, this option has 22 different specialist jobs. Most of these jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree in the chosen field. For example a human resource officer must have a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business administration or a related field.
As a civil service employee, you will work here in the United States to support foreign policy. The civil service option has a wide range of employment opportunities such as historians, policy analysts, public affairs specialists and information technology specialists just to name a few. The capacity in which you want to work will determine what you need to study. For example, if you want to work as a historian, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in history, and a graduate degree may give you an upper hand.
The U.S. Embassy also offers students from the high school level through the graduate level many different internship and fellowship opportunities. The key is finding the program you are most qualified for. The State Department website provides a questionnaire that you must complete first. Once you complete the questionnaire, the system will generate a list of opportunities for you. You may then explore those opportunities and select the program you are most interested in. Completing an internship, whether in high school or college, can give you great insight into the different career options with the U.S. State Department and give you a better idea of where to focus your education.
Kenneth W. Michael Wills is a writer on culture, society and business. With more than 15 years of experience in sales, public relations and written communications, Wills' passion is delighting audiences with invigorating perspectives and refreshing ideas. He has ghostwritten articles on a diverse range of topics for corporate websites and composed proposals for organizations seeking growth opportunities.