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How to Get a Job with the State Department

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The U.S. Department of State places officials in more than 270 diplomatic locations worldwide. Promoting peace and stability around the globe as well as protecting American interests abroad are among the agency’s goals. The State Department selects and hires foreign service officers and specialists to work in its Washington, D.C. bureaus or in one of the U.S. embassies, consulates and foreign missions throughout the world.

Domestic Civil Service Opportunities

The Department of State offers domestic civil service career opportunities in Washington, D.C. and its offices across the nation. Applicants can choose from career fields such as foreign affairs, budget administration, public affairs, passport visa services and information technology management. State Department domestic civil service jobs also include positions in contract procurement, personnel management, general accounting, management analysis and legal services. Vacancies are posted on USA Jobs. Applicants must follow instructions and fax a resume, copies of college transcripts and certifications and any other required documentation by the closing date listed on the vacancy announcement.

Foreign Service Opportunities

To work in the foreign service, a job candidate must be available for assignments at any overseas post. Jobs for foreign service specialists are posted on USA Jobs. Veterans are given hiring preference but must submit form DD-214 -- Discharge Papers and Separation Documents. Job applicants for foreign service specialist must take the foreign service oral assessment, undergo a comprehensive background investigation and receive medical and security clearances before being hired and serving abroad. In addition to these requirements, a candidate for the position of foreign service officer must take the foreign service officer test and submit a personal narrative to the qualifications evaluation panel.

Basic Requirements for Job Candidates

Applicants for the foreign service must be U.S. citizens on the date they submit their applications. They must be at least 21 years old but not older than 60 when appointed. The Department of State looks for certain qualifications in its job candidates including a dedication to public service. Candidates must have effective oral and written communication skills, show initiative and a readiness to assume responsibility, demonstrate objectivity in decision-making and have the ability to perform under highly stressful situations. Additional key skills and qualities essential to working in the foreign service include the ability to analyze and use information, respect for people’s cultural differences and the ability to employ practical judgment.

Internship Program Applications

The U.S. Department of State Internship Program offers unpaid internships to college students who want foreign affairs experience. To be eligible for the internship program a student must be a U.S. citizen, in good academic standing at an accredited college or university and have earned 60 credits or more. Intern applicants must submit to random drug testing, successfully undergo a background investigation and receive student security clearances. Speaking a foreign language and completing some academic coursework in the area of interest increases a student’s chances for being selected. Students who meet the eligibility criteria can apply by submitting their applications through the Gateway to State system.


Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.

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