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Feb 11, 2009
Do You Have a Career in the Foreign Service?
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Working for the Foreign Service attracts a lot of people each year. For most of them, the chance to work as a Foreign Services Officer (FSO), also known as a Diplomat spells adventure. It can give them the chance to work and live abroad, experience new things, serve the country, etc. Plus, it also sets people up (especially those with political aspirations) with a good foreign relations background. But, do you have a career working for the Foreign Service and how exactly does one become an FSO?


Qualifications of an FSO


The qualifications of a Foreign Service Officer depend on the country. The United States of America does not require any specific educational background for their Diplomats. The US is also very lenient when it comes to age requirements. There, anyone between the ages of 20 and 59 can work in the Foreign Service as long as they pass the necessary exams.


In other countries like the Philippines, aspiring Foreign Service Officers are required to have a valid 4-year education. Officers are also required to be no older than 35 years of age. The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is less specific about the applicant’s educational background. No specific course is required.


Other countries such as Canada, the UK, China, etc. also have different rules and regulations when it comes to qualifying for a post in the Foreign Service.


Most countries also do a background check on their applicants. In most occasions, people with criminal records are not accepted for work in the Foreign Service. That is why applicants should know their background before they proceed with the application.


How to Work for the Foreign Service


The rules and qualifications may differ from country to country, but most of the time, the processes are similar. Aspiring Foreign Service Officers are usually made to undergo written and oral examinations before they get their assignments. In most countries, applicants are required to pass the written exams before they can proceed to the oral tests.


Exam applications can be obtained from the applicant’s home country’s Foreign Affairs office or website. Countries like the US have annual exams while others only conduct exams based on the need for FSOs.


What Will Applicants Be Tested On?


Applicants will be tested for aptitude, both mental and emotional. Their knowledge of the home country’s foreign policies and current social and economic standing will be tested too. Some countries also include questions about the country’s general and political history. English proficiency is also tested since a working knowledge of the English language is necessary in foreign dealings. Knowledge of foreign languages, other than English, is a plus but id generally not a strict requirement.


The oral exam is usually the final stage of application. Here, applicants will be tested, not only on their grasp of English and other languages, but also on their personality and how they present themselves in public.


Working and Living Abroad as a Diplomat


There is a big chance that Foreign Service Officers will be assigned to work and live abroad for a period of time. Some diplomats are assigned for a period of anywhere from 4 to 8 years in a foreign country. The length of stay depends on the vacancies and on the policies of the country.


Individuals who joined the Foreign Service with the hopes of working and living abroad, may have to wait some time before they do. Most entry level diplomats are assigned to the country’s home office for at least two or three years. This serves as a training period for young diplomats. The time they spent in the home office will eventually prepare them for service abroad. Again, the rules of deployment differ from country to country.


Aspiring diplomats must keep in mind that there is a chance that they will be assigned to dangerous and difficult countries and locales. Not everyone will be assigned to developed western countries. Diplomats may even be assigned to poverty ridden or war torn countries. However, diplomats do carry with them their home country’s protection.

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