Foreign Service Officer
Foreign Service Officers or FSOs are
United States Department of Stateemployees and members of the Foreign Servicewho help formulate and implement the foreign policyof the United States. These officers work a large part of their service time overseas as essential members of U.S. embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions. Within the Foreign Service FSOs are known as Generalists, and are considered the top tier of the Foreign Service, and are thus distinguished from the other category of Foreign Service employee known as Specialists.
The top leadership roles at an Embassy are chosen almost exclusively from the ranks of the FSO's (
Foreign Service Specialists are chosen for these roles very infrequently). With few exceptions all DCMs are FSOs. Ambassadors may be Political Appointees, but otherwise they are almost always senior ranking FSOs. Although FSOs who become Ambassadors and DCMs may come from any of the functional career tracks, the majority tend to be from the Political cone.
Applicants for FSO jobs must go through a highly competitive process of written exams, tests and oral interviews before they are hired; the process can stretch to well over a year. The difficulty of passing these hurdles are significant and is something the Foreign Service points to as an indication of its special and unique status in US government civilian service.
FSOs are commissioned by Congress, similar to military officers. New entrants are hired on a career limited appointment, not to exceed five years. They must demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language through standardized testing, usually after receiving language training that ranges from 24 to 44 weeks (depending on the difficulty of the language) and demonstrate potential for advancement within the Foreign Service before becoming eligible for commissioning.
There are 5 career tracks (also referred to as 'cones') for Foreign Service Officers in the advancement of their careers in the Department of State.
* Management Officer
* Consular Officer
* Economic Officer
* Political Officer
* Public Diplomacy Officer
* [http://www.careers.state.gov/officer/index.html Department of State FSO page]
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