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Are you passionate about public service and interested in serving around the world as a representative of the United States? If you’re looking for a challenging and rewarding job where you can experience cultures and customs in other countries, consider a career as a foreign service officer (FSO). 

What Is a Foreign Service Officer?

American foreign service officers serve as representatives of the U.S. government and its citizens and conduct foreign relations with other countries around the globe. FSOs advocate and advance American economic, commercial, and political interests abroad while interacting effectively with their host country. U.S. diplomats are also tasked with promoting peace, protecting U.S. citizens, and maintaining prosperity.

FSOs are assigned to one of the 270+ worldwide embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic missions. 

FSO Career Paths

There are many foreign service career paths to pursue as an FSO, each with its own specialization. Here are the main roles to consider:

  • Consular officers: provide emergency and non-emergency aid to families, assist families in crisis, manage adoptions, fight fraud to defend our borders, and combat human trafficking.
  • Economic officers: manage economic and trade relations between the U.S. and foreign governments, and advance U.S. economic, commercial, energy, and environmental interests.
  • Management officers: facilitate all embassy operations including budget, personnel, security, and real estate needs.
  • Political officers: analyze political events that occur in the host country, provide counsel on international issues, negotiate, and communicate effectively with all levels of foreign government officials.
  • Public diplomacy officers: manage cultural and information programs and promote U.S. policy goals by communicating with and influencing government officials, local groups, and opinion leaders.

When you register to take the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT), you will be asked to choose which of the career tracks above best suits you. To help you decide, you will be asked to complete a questionnaire that matches your interests and the right specialization for you.

FSO Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible to become an FSO, you must be:

  • A U.S. citizen on the date you submit your registration package
  • Between 20 – 59 years old on the day you submit your registration
  • At least 21 years old and not yet 60 on the day you are appointed as an FSO
  • Available for worldwide assignments 

Ideal Candidates

When hiring FSOs, the U.S. Department of State seeks motivated candidates who demonstrate sound judgment and leadership abilities, and perform well in stressful situations, such as major environmental disasters. Other sought-after qualities include candidates who are adaptive to different cultures, good communication skills, strong analytical skills, attention to detail, resourcefulness, integrity, and the ability to be objective.

About the Exam

The FSOT is a multiple-choice, timed test that consists of the following sections:

  • Job-related knowledge of world and U.S. history and geography, the U.S. Constitution, and principles of economics
  • English expression which tests your ability to correct sentences, express ideas clearly and accurately, revise sentences according to instruction, and organize information logically 
  • Biographical questions which gauge your skills, experience, and achievements in school, employment, and other activities
  • An essay which assesses your ability to analyze topics, organize your ideas, and communicate them effectively

The computer-based test measures a candidate’s proficiency to work as an FSO with the U.S. Department of State. The FSOT is offered three times a year during a number of testing window dates in February, June, and October. 

Although there is no limit to how many times an applicant can take the exam, the test can only be taken once in a 12-month period.

Applicants can take the exam throughout the U.S., at Pearson Professional testing centers overseas, and in some U.S. embassies and consulate locations. The exam can also be taken at home by online proctoring through OnVue.     

Preparing for the Exam

Peterson’s test prep includes three full-length practice tests to help prepare you for the Foreign Service Officer Test. Practice tests measure your proficiency in the content areas on the exam: job knowledge and English expression. Each timed practice test gives you two hours to complete each section and provides detailed answer explanations for each question. 

Visit Peterson’s FSOT page to learn more about the exam and how to prepare for it so you can have confidence leading up to test day!