Wednesday, January 5, 2011

How to become a Foreign Service Officer: Part I

Some time ago I had promised a few folks a neat narrative on the process of becoming a FSO.
Before I begin, a brief departure on a different topics for all the parents out there. Have you ever had those happy, romantic dreams as newly minted parents how you will be putting your child to sleep while singing gently to her? Yeah? Yeah, well, so did I. Reality is a bit different though (yeah, I know, I am reinventing the wheel here). Last night, Son, who has transitioned to a real twin-sized bed, woke up unexpectedly at 11.30pm, asked to use the potty and then completely refused to sleep. After half an hour of threats and pleadings that if he does not stop, I will put him back in the crib (kind of an awkward threat, given that we got rid of the crib), I opened up the pack and play and put him there to show what a powerful mommy I am (stop rolling your eyes, seemed like a great idea at the time). After some time, I asked him if he wanted to go back to his big bed. The obstinate child looked at me and said no. Oops--right back at you mommy! So, I gently took him out of there, put him in his big bed and laid down with him. Remembering my romantic motherly notions, I offered to sing to him the ABC song and the offer was gladly taken. I started singing it, spicing it up with random Twinkle twinkle (same melody, you know). Mom's dream right? Sure, until 20 mins later, when I was still singing those damn songs (a good 143 times, I think) and kept putting myself to sleep only to have Son's stern voice prod me--Momma, ABC! He finally went off.

So, trying to get into the United States Foreign Service is kind of a similar experience--not at all what you'd expect it to be and yet somewhat similar; a long, unnecessarily protracted, painful, frustrating, filled with waiting, apprehension, guessing, many trials and errors at times, seemingly depending on the random mood swing of other people and hopefully, immensely wonderful in the end.

Step 1--the decision

One wonderful morning you wake up, look at your normal life and have a sudden lapse of reason. Minutes later you come back to life and discover that you have decided to join the Foreign Service. You get immediately inordinately excited, google "foreign service" and land here: http://careers.state.gov/officer (if you are interested in being a so-called generalist; if you have some mad technical skills, you should consider becoming a specialist). Awed by the stupendous info on the site, you firm your decision to "promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad" and proceed to find out what you need to do next. Here is what you do NOT need: no special requirements for education, work experience, language proficiency, etc. HA! But you better have them. Let's see why:

Step 2--choose your poison

For the generalist FSO, in the Foreign Service, there are 5 different career tracks you can choose from. You can be a: 1) consular officer, 2) economic officer, 3) management officer, 4) political officer and 5) public diplomacy officer (or as your momma once told you--you can be ANYTHING your ever wanted to be; no, not an American Idol finalist; no, not even America's Top Model or Bachelor contestant; hey, this is the Foreign service, focus!). You need to choose what you want to be before you apply--once you go in, in 95% of the cases, you cannot change your track. I know people who have but it is not common. Your track will be decisive for your future assignments and career development. So choose wisely. If you cannot stand the media circus and inane and pointless journalist questions, do NOT become PD. If visiting unwise American youth in Thai prisons for marijuana possession, crying for your help and, looking straight in your diplomatic eyes, swear on their dead cat that they thought the dried grass was an ancient Thai herb for smelly feet ain't your thing, do NOT choose consular. If arguing with relentless Vietnamese landlords who want to hike up the price of diplomatic residences threefold by threatening to sell the land to developers instead, do NOT go into management. You get the idea. Read about the tracks in some detail here: http://careers.state.gov/officer/selection-process#nogo

Step 3--the written exam, or FSOT

Next, you need to take a famed exam called the Foreign Service Officer Test. It has 2 components--a multiple choice test and an essay portion. The test is administered ONLY 3 times a year, and if you (surely not!) happen to fail it, you can re-take it after 11 months. So, the moment you get that epiphany that you want to take the test and feel somewhat prepared, take is ASAP. This year the next FSOT is in mid-Feb. The deadline to register to take it overseas is Jan 24, and in the US--Feb 2. Keep in mind that there is limited capacity--once it is filled, wait for the next test date. The State Department has been nice enough to administer the test in many of its embassies around the world.

In the interest of keeping this readable, I intend to keep each parts fairly short. This is it for now. Next post will extrapolate on a VERY key topic--HOW and WHAT to study for the FSOT. Stay tuned!

PS--for those who wonder, I am STILL in adjudications. And not happy.

53 comments:

  1. hi. my name is Simona and im a 20 years old college student. im highly interested in the process of becoming a FSO and i had a few questions. what should i major in? how often do you travel? and i know this is a private question and of course you dont have to answer but is your income decent enough?

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  2. Hi Simona. Well, anything I say shoul be taken with a grain of salt since it is just my own opinion. First, I don;t believe you should major in anything specific. There are people int he service from all walks of life and professions. As for travel--do yuo mean professinoally? That really depends on your rank and responsibitlies, and preferences. As for income--again, depends what you compare it to. But in general, I think it is very decent. If you are interested in it, go for it! Finally, I'd say this--graduate from college, work for a year or two, see what you like and then apply to the FS.

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  3. Hi dipolmatic mama I'm glad I came across your blog you seem super excited. I stupidly read this after I took the exam so I'm kinda on pins and needles as to my actual score (seeing that some of the questions as I review the answers ...ahhh aren't right) none the less I'm still excited. How is your son transitioning?

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  4. Which career track is the easiest to get hired for?

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  5. There is no good answer to that last question anymore. It used to be consular or management. Not the case anymore. So, I say--choose what really interests you because to be stuck for 2-3 years doing something you truly do not enjoy, in a crazy land you might not enjoy could be very demoralizing.

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  6. Love the blog! I have a few questions about being a tandem and traveling with pets? Do you mind if I could ask you privately? My email is sharnaterese@gmail.com Thank you so much

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  7. Hi Do you know any ukrainians in the FSO I would like to connect with some if possible for more personal perspective. :)

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  8. Nope, none :). But I am sure there are some.

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  9. Hey there! Your blog is very informative and helpful, thank you for sharing with us. I was wondering what the best kind of work experience would be to get into the foreign service. I would like to put something interesting on my resume, but I'm not sure what to apply for. My current job is not related to international or government affairs. I have also heard that 3/4 of people who get into the FS have a masters or PhD, and I only have my Bachelors, so I would like to put something on my resume that would make me stand out. Thank you!

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    1. Almost a year later and I'm still wondering the same question. I think that education is a lot more important than work experience, but I wonder if participating in the Peace Corp or some other government entity would help.

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  10. Hello, I am A High School Student and am thinking about becoming a foreign serive officer, Iv'e been intrested in making a diffrence in the world for a while and it seems like the path for me. Iv'e looked through the pages on the government's website and had a couple questions. I am intrested in improving foreign relations and helping the people and situations what would be the best track? Also I know each officer has to go to hardship points, and the thing is I'm well in hard locations but get scared when it comes to warzones, do people get sent to warzones as hardship points sometimes? Lastly, is there any subjects a student should excel in to be a cannidate, History, Geography and Government are my stronger subjects but is something like a certain language, or high English grades that are dire? Thank you very much, and thank yo for serving our country!

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  11. HI dear highschooler. I am so tickled you are interested in serving as well. You sure have a long way to go, of course, but to answer your question - I suppose one can say that the most plicy-making type tracks are the Political and the Economics tracks.
    YOu are exceling in the right subjects, but English is a must. You have to be a decent writer and to be able to express yourself well in order to at least pass the exam. Finally, the warzones - no one can force you to go where you are afraid to go.

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  12. Hello, I am a college junior and I have seriously been interested in being a Foreign Service Officer for a very long time. I really appreciate the perspective you have given from your blog and I wanted to ask if you had any advice as to the type of jobs I should be looking for after I graduate? I don't know whether it would be best to start the application process right away or whether to work somewhere for a few years and then go through the process.

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  13. hi diplomaticmom, im a college sophomore and was wondering how long does it take to join starting the first year people apply(ive heard the hiring rate is in the single digits each year) and if many people give up along the way. is it a 'get-lucky shot' to get hired?
    im considering applying after i finish graduate school and work for a few years, then apply for the economic cone.
    ive heard that people fail the fsot many times before being called, but that doesnt help us fso aspirants to get a realistic idea of how tough it is to get hired....
    id appreciate any kind of insight!
    thank you for reading and thank you for your service abroad!

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  14. Just for the good of the order: last year, over 22,000 people took the exam and 450 made it all the way through. Political and PD cones are still cutthroat. Economic is, well, economic, and from what I heard yesterday, management is now a lot more competitive than in the past because so many military officers are getting out and trying to get into management cone. It appears that consular continues to be the least-sought-after cone, but that should not be interepreted to mean it's easy.

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    1. yes..consular appeared to be least...but i have seen the 'being' of a consular officer while my process of being immigrant to US and they are somehow the people have been through the most tough and radical exams of life which enables them to do their 'job' so in one way is the opposite of your perception .still the way you tried to analyse is

      apriciable Hof....Nishant

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  15. Thanks so much for writing this blog it's helped me learn about this profession a lot. I have a couple questions though. I am currently a freshman In high school and being a diplomat is my dream job. I was wondering what you majored in to get the job or if you had a completely different major and then passed the FSOT? I also was wondering for you how it is like for you and your family back in the States and i you have them worrying all the time. My mom is scared and doesn't want me to pursue diplomacy because she's scared I may go off and get killed in a foreign country, I'm very close with my family so I was wondering how that changed when you became a FSO? Lastly I was wondering what it's like for your kid, I want to have a family and be in the FSO but I'm scared of what life might be like for my kids, from what you've noticed how do you think it is for a kid if a FSO? Thanks so much for all the help And your service abroad.

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  16. It does not matter what you major in - it is way too early for you to even think about this. Tell your mom that you can get killed every day by a drunk driver on a rural road outside of Albuquerque or while watching the Boston marathon. MOst of the time you will be posted in perfectly nice, normal countries. Since I am an immigrant in the US, I have lived without my family for the past 18 years. It is not easy, and you miss them a lot. It is something that you need to figure out for yourself. Finally, all of us have kids and they thrive abroad. They are well roudned, speak a bazillion languages and have amazing social skills. Go for it!

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  17. hey diplomatic mama i found ur blog very interesting maybe cuz i want to become a foreign officer.i am in highschool and i love politics and traveling meeting new people and cultures and religions. sometimes i cant get along with people very well but overall i am alright with it and i might improve with time. i wont even mind media and journalists surrounding me and people questioning i will probably enjoy it a lot.i have always had a reputation of a leader. does this job suit me love to have your advice mama

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  18. I you just touched upon the question I was going to ask. What are the chances for naturalized Americans to get to work for as a FSO? You wrote you were an immigrant in the US. How did that affect the process of obtaining security clearance, especially the fact that your family was residing overseas (if mu understanding is correct). I am also interested, if you were hired prior to 9/11 as one would think that the policies might have changed as far as hiring goes after the terrorist attacks?

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  19. You'd be surprised by the amount of naturalized american citizens serving in the FS as well as any other branch of our government. I am not sure how my family overseas affected my clearance process. And since I am a recent hire, I honestly have no idea how hiring philosophy has changed. But knowing the institution I work for, I do not think anything changed at all.

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  20. Jessica, you sound on the right track. Keep up the studies and keep reading history, go travel and learn about other cultures and even another language. This is a great job!

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  21. Hi Diplomatic Mama! My name is Becca and I'm eighteen years old. I'm so glad I found your blog--it's so interesting. I'm in love with the idea of the Foreign Service. For years I was panicking about what I would major in in college, and when I heard about this it was like a light had shone down or something. It seems incredible!

    I'm considering getting a bachelors degree in International Relations, minoring in Mandarin Chinese and studying abroad in China, and then possibly joining the Peace Corps right out of college to gain further cultural experience. Do you think this is the right track? The Foreign Service is my dream, and I want to do everything possible to reach it! I'll be going to Grand Valley State University in Michigan starting in September, so if you recommend a different career track I need to make that change like now haha.

    Unfortunately, I have to take out student loans to finance my education because I'm solely paying for college, but oh well! I was told that working in the Foreign Service means that sometimes they'll partially pay off your loans (around 5k a year, up to 50k total over a course of ten years or so). Is this true? If so, then this career might really be a dream come true.

    Are there any tips you can give me as far as classes, internships, and other necessary pre-job experiences go? Like I said, the foreign service is my dream, and I will do what ever it takes to become apart of it!

    Thank you again!

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  22. Hi Diplomatic Mom!
    Thank you for your clear information.
    I have a question, did they ask you to give up on your nationality?
    Or do you get to keep both while in service?

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    1. I have kept my nationality but have not actively used it, and the service asks you to keep it that way. My passport has expired, and I have not renewed. I do not own property and have no source of income there.

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  23. Just found your blog, thanks so much for the help!
    My dad is a specialist in the FS, and I hope to join the field as a Consular officer who actually grew up overseasj1
    My question is, how long, after taking the test, does the entire process take before you found out that you would be given a job?
    Thanks!

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  24. Which test, the FSOT? That is a VERY tough one to answer. The exam process can be done within 9-10 months. But after that, you need security clearance which can take whatever time. And then once you are on the register - the sky is the limit.

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  25. I have a similar plan to Becca's. Although I first looked at the Peace Corps and later found out about the Foreign Services. My parents say that I should just take the FSOT right out of college. I think that it would be wise to go through the Peace Corps and get some experience that helps with my goal of becoming a Consular Officer. If you could give Becca and I some advice if Peace Corps is a good idea or not or if it will help us competitively at achieving our goals that would be much appreciated! Thanks much!

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  26. Hi! I just came across your blog, I am also considering the FSO with the Canadian embassy. But what is interesting to me is that you lived in Dhaka! I just spent 6 months there working for IOM. I would love to connect and ask you some further questions about your experience. Please send me an email at na.haider1@gmail.com - Thanks!

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  28. I just came across your blog in search for information about the chances to serve as a FSO. I'm now 33 years old, studying Politics and international relations in my second year at LSE. I hope to get my BSc within the next two years. I am European originally and was naturalized as a US citizen recently. I speak German, English and Tibetan fluently and a bit of Mandarin. For the past eight years I have worked as a Tibetan translator, a job that required me to travel to more than thirty countries on an ongoing basis. in this way I have gained a fair amount of experience with different cultures and languages. I think the constant traveling has made me quite resilient to stress, no matter what my personal circumstances are. I am inspired by my two sisters who work for the Austrian foreign ministry and are currently both working at Austrian embassies in Russia and Ukraine. so with that background and especially since I have not yet graduated, do you think it makes sense to apply for the FSO exam or are my chances too slim? I would very much appreciate your advice. thank you very much! Ina

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  29. My husband and I are interested in trying to become a tandem couple. We both took the exam back in 2006 and passed, but then he got a job offer in England that we just couldn't pass up. So now we are back to the foreign service. My husband is going the political track, which makes sense for him. He has 18 years of military intelligence, a bachelors in int'l relations and soon he will have his masters in intelligence studies. He is also an Arabic linguist and a specialist in all of Africa. And he is totally into all that political maneuvering stuff.

    But I am a bit stumped about what to choose for my career track. That whole you-cant-change-it thing has me nervous about picking the right one. I wonder if you can give me your advice. Originally, I was going to go the consular track. I am very much a people-person and have a lot of life experience. Plus I think well on my feet. But since last taking the exam, I have decided to go to nursing school. I will have my RN in a couple of months, definitely before I would be through the FSO process. So now what do I do? I would very much like to be involved with public health issues. Given my husband's expertise, I'd imagine we would spend at least a few tours in Africa where the public health situation is a serious concern. Is there a particular track which would deal with those sorts of things? I wouldn't expect every posting to have that focus for me, but if I would love it if some did.

    I have a back up plan if I don't get into the State Dept but my husband does. I will try to find work as a nurse and, if that is not an option, try to find volunteer work as a nurse. But I would ultimately like to be involved in public health rather than direct care. I plan on continuing my education to get a masters in public health. Oh... and if I don't get in, I'll keep applying, of course.

    Sorry for the long winded post. Any advice you can give is greatly appreciated. And I love your blog!

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  30. Hi, I'm a junior in high school. I just wanted to tell how informative your blog is. Thank you for that. I'm really considering becoming an FSO one day. Are there any courses I can take now to prepare for that? Thank you.

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  31. Hi, dear junior in HS. I would recommend some solid classes in world history, geography, political thought, american government. Good luck!

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  32. Hi Diplomatic Mom. In November'13 my husband received an offer to join the Foreign Service in a specialist role. We are currently in the midst of the security clearance process. Your blog has been a great resource for me while making sense of the lifestyle and experiences that potentially expects our family. Like you, I am a dual US and Bulgarian citizen and am raising a multicultural child - I can relate to so many of your posts. Things are still in up in the air for us but would love to connect more directly and learn from you at some point. Thank you for what you do and keep up the good work! Sylvia

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  33. Sylvia, you can post your email address and I will email you.

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  34. Dear Diplomatic Mama,
    I am just beginning this journey and will be taking the FSOT in a few weeks. I am a law school graduate and recently passed the VA Bar exam. I am curious to know how the FSOT compares to the Bar exam, in difficulty and essay writing style. Do you recommend using the 5para. writing style? Having practiced CRExAC for so long it feels weird to construct essays any other way.

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  35. Thanks, Diplomatic Mom, for your response. My email is: s.stankova {at} gmail {dot} com. I look forward to hearing from you! Sylvia~

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  36. Hi Diplomatic Mama. I got my B.A. in Political Science in 2012 and I've been working for my State government for about a year now. I used to want to be an FSO back in college, but I thought thought it'd be a long shot. I'm at the point in life where I've realized that life is too short not to chase your dreams so Now I'm figuring out how I can go about becoming an FSO. I have a couple questions for you :)
    1. Language skills - Must you be multilingual to be considered competitive? (when it comes to the application process)
    2. Do you know much about or do you know any alumni from the "Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship" or the "Rangel International Affairs Program"
    3. How much time did it take you to prepare the the written exam?
    If you don't want to bombard your blog, please feel free to email me instead at: oor2012@gmail.com
    Thanks in advance for your answers!

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    1. Hello there. Language skills - nope, never a requirement. Who knows if it helps really if you know anything. The process is quite objective and based on other knowledge testing so...not sure. But I won't sweat it.
      2.Yes, I know some people from those programs. They are intense and I don't know anything more. But once you are in them, I think the path to FSO is a cake.
      3. I had the luxury of a long and extended maternity to prepare, so I am not a good model. But a good, concentrated study should take you about 2-3 months. Good luck!!! YOu sound like FS material to me :).

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  37. Hi Diplomatic Mama,
    THANK YOU for your advice and posts! You're a life raft.

    I have a few questions for you, I am very interested in the FS; however, I never tested because I didn't think I was FS material. To be honest, I'm still not sure because there's no information about what type of background/resume/ they look for! Please help/give me some advice on whether or not I'm a long shot:

    -32 years old.
    -Bachelors degree completed 10 years ago, will have my Master's by 2015.
    -Former Peace Corps volunteer
    -Various work experience in non profit, social services, and private sector business (totaling 5-6 years)
    -Native mandarin speaker, learned French. Both are moderate proficiency.

    I have no idea what they look for -- all I keep hearing is you need to be well rounded, intelligent, good interpersonal and communication skills. But seriously, what the heck does that even mean??! I understand you need those skills, but I hope you can shed some light on some tangible backgrounds of yourself and your colleagues so I can see if I'm "FS material" to see if I should even bother with the exams.

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    1. Hi, your background, frankly, makes you a lovely, cookie-cutter FSO backgrounder. In other words, your background reflects about 50% of the FS. Master's is typical, Peace Corps - especially so. Languages, non-profit! You got it. Thusly, come on over!!

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  38. Hello Diplomatic Mama,

    Thank you very much for your posts. Your advice has been very informative and helpful. I am very interested in joining the foreign service and I am actually looking at applying to the Pickering Fellowship next year (perhaps you are very knowledgable of the fellowship).

    Could you please give me some tips on how to make my resume much stronger to be foreign service material?
    Here is a little information about me.
    I am 24 years old. My mother and father were born and raised in the U,S however, I lived in Mexico City most of my life (I speak spanish and english fluently). I went to college in the US were I received a double major in Economics and German and a Minor in Environmental Studies. My college was well known for its study abroad program and therefore I studied abroad in Vienna and Berlin where I interned at international organizations during both my stays. After graduating college in 2012, I was accepted to the CBYX fellowship, a year-long fellowship were American students go to Germany, study at a local university, work, learn german and represent the US as junior ambassadors at various political events. Thanks to the CBYX fellowship I gained valuable work experience at an NGO that reduces CO2 emissions by purchasing and eliminating carbon credits from the EU ETS. My CBYX experience is what motivated me to want to join the foreign service as I loved representing the US abroad. I truly enjoyed sharing the american culture with german friends, my host family and with german politicians I kept close contact with as well as american values such as community service.
    Currently I am working at the International maize and wheat improvement center (CIMMYT) in Mexico as a mobile development consultant. At CIMMYT, I work in a project that tries to develop and promote various mobile related products and technologies for farmers and the whole agriculture value chain (e.g a mobile nitrogen management tool, a mobile insurance product for farmers, etc.) Next week, I will begin taking russian classes again. (My girlfriend and her parents are Armenian and we will go together to visit her family in Armenia in December)
    I am very interested in economic development and would most probably chose the economic track if I were to be picked.
    Do you have any suggestions, tips or anything you can help me with to strengthen my resume and make me a stronger candidate for the foreign service and for the economic track?

    Thank you very much in advanced for any help you can give me.

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  39. Hi again Diplomatic Mom,
    I posted a while ago while my family was going through security clearance (husband is in the process of becoming a FSS). So while waiting, I made a last minute decision to take the Feb'14 FSO test myself, just to see where I stand. I found out today that I passed with a total score of 185/ and 8 on the essay and am still in a bit of a shock. I spent the first 26 years of my life in Bulgaria and thought I was lacking the needed foundational knowledge of US government and general cultural awareness. Having a full time job and an infant child on top of that left me with a very limited time to study. I did however follow your test prep suggestions, borrowed a few books from the local librbary and spent 1-2 hrs a day reviewing them for 3-4 weeks. I firmly believe that despite what some might say, people can and should prepare for the test. Your tips are among the best out there how to do that and I credit you with helping me where to focus my attention in the limited amount of time I had. Thank you for all you do!

    Sylvia

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    1. My dear compatriot. Thanks and congrats!!

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  40. Hi, Diplomatic Mama. :D

    I'm currently an engineering major, and I have long since been interested in becoming a Foreign Service Officer. Many people do say that it does not matter whatever degree I hold to become a diplomat as long as I take and (hopefully) pass the exam.

    I was wondering if there are also career tracks for majors such as Materials or Environmental Engineering.

    And also, generally, is it easier to pass the exams with a major in politics, economics, or business than in engineering? Or do we just really have to have the knowledge of current international affairs and the ability to analyze and answer possible situations regarding them? Because truthfully speaking, I'm not that confident in politics.

    Thank you for the very informative and helpful blog entry. I hope you answer my questions. Thanks. =))

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  41. I have just come across your blog and had a few questions. I will be graduating next year from a 2-year college. I have a passion of learning different languages and exploring different cultures. The only problem is I'm not sure what I need to do to get there. What was your major in college? Any thing I need to know to get me on the right track? Thanks in advance for your time. If you could email me your response to nena2286@yahoo.com that would be great.

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  42. Hello DiploMom, I was recently let go of a new position in a Medical Assc. bc they found out I am a diplomat for a unknown but recognized nation by the U.S. I felt that I was discriminated against due to ignorance of the facts. and was told I was terminated due to "conflict of interests", which can be taken many ways. I was never told what that interest was and my consulate was never contacted. I want my job back but not sure how to go about it. Can a Diplomat work in the private or non profit sectors? Can I file a complaint with the EEOC for discrimination due to national origin?

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    1. I would love any intelligent response, thanks foryour time.

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  43. Hi diplomatic mom! I studied surgical technology but never really worked on that field, im a stay at home mom and one day i woke up wanting to become a foreign officer specially a consular officer, can i apply already or i need to study something else before applying?

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  44. Carolina, you do not need to study anything special to be a FSO. Just go for it, if that is what you want. We certainly always need diversity in the service.

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  45. Hello, Diplomatic Mom!

    I will be starting college in the fall, majoring in Political Science. Because of financial aid, four years of college are pretty much paid for. I am aware most FSOs have Master's Degrees, but I am not eager to incur student loan debt. What are my chances of entering the Foreign Service with just a Bachelor's Degree? Would it be better to just earn a Master's?

    Also, I plan to work towards fluency in either German or Russian during my college years, and after college, I plan to teach English overseas. What other experiences/jobs should I be seeking to build up my resume after college?

    Thank you so much for your time and for your amusing and informative blog!!

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  46. Despite the many benefits offered by Foreign Service, the lifestyle that comes with the career is not for everyone. Some foreign posts are in dangerous settings or in remote locations that lack amenities that many U.S. citizens have come to expect. Families are encouraged to accompany Foreign Service Officers to their posts, except in cases where there is imminent danger or civil unrest. Depending on the post, life abroad may be either enriching or difficult for family members.

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