What is a Foreign Service Specialist?

Foreign Service SpecialistSomeone who wants to serve and represent the interests of the United States (U.S.) in various locations worldwide may consider becoming a foreign service specialist. The U.S. government has over 270 civilian installations, embassies and consulates around the globe where chosen representatives are responsible for promoting social and political stability in the interest of America. Foreign service agent positions are considered by some to be great ways to utilize leadership, management and technical skills while exploring different regions and cultures. People who do not think that their knowledge, experience and skill sets are transferable to foreign service jobs may reconsider when they investigate the job categories that are associated with foreign service. Here are some of the specialty areas of foreign service.


Business leaders with academic backgrounds and professional experience in business administration, economics, accounting, finance or human resources are most suited for foreign service positions in the category of administration. An example of an administrative position within the foreign service diplomatic team is role of financial management officer. These financial managers develop budgets and spend plans that help decision makers to utilize program funds in the best ways possible. They liaise with other government agencies to develop agreements for resource sharing, and they meet with foreign financial representatives to establish favorable terms for banking services. An aspiring financial management officer should have a minimum of three to four years of specialized experience as well as an undergraduate degree; candidates who have certified public accountant licenses or graduate degrees in business or public administration gain higher preferences for these positions. Financial management officer positions come with generous benefits packages and annual salaries that range from $53,000 to $96,000 depending on candidates’ education and experience.

English Language Programs

Since English has become the defacto international language of business, there is a high demand for effective English language programs in non-native speaking locales. Subsequently, foreign service representatives act as English language officers to promote language learning programs in the countries in which they serve. These officers can be stationed nearly anywhere in the world, and their efforts enable English teachers to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently through the use of technology and modern language learning techniques. These positions require candidates with advanced degrees in Teaching English as a Second Language or Applied Linguistics and at least five years of specialized experience. Salaries for English language officers range from $65,000 to $96,000 annually.

Construction Engineering

Many of the locations in which the U.S. government has interests are in dire need of updated public infrastructure. These structures could include schools, hospitals, government buildings and bridges that would greatly benefit the host nation and further promote the U.S. government’s regional mission there. Civil or construction engineers are needed to make sure that foreign building projects meet industry standards for performance and safety; they also take into consideration regional geologic and climate characteristics so that structures are built to withstand natural disasters like earthquakes, flooding, tornadoes and hurricanes, according to the Department of State. Construction engineers may also work with urban planners to design and erect buildings that are equipped with alternative energy capabilities or other environmentally friendly features. Successful candidates must have at least five years of recent, specialized experience in addition to undergraduate degrees in civil, mechanical, architectural or electrical engineering. Salaries for the position range from $54,000 to $79,000 annually.

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Within the listed job categories, foreign service agents are often responsible for promoting human rights initiatives, environmental protection policies and quality of life standards in the places where they serve. Foreign service representatives work for the U.S. Department of State under the leadership of the Secretary of State, and leadership is likely the most valued characteristic of these agents. However, there are often other requirements for foreign service. For instance, foreign service specialists must be over 21 years of age to be appointed, they must be appointed before their 60th birthday and many must obtain top secret clearances depending upon their positions.