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Careers With The State Department Living Abroad

Updated on March 3, 2014

Department of State


State Department Careers

The State Department has a variety of careers available to individuals who are well educated and willing to travel. The jobs are relatively straight forward and the benefits of traveling and living in another land are terrific. Last checked the state department officials living overseas had access to good medical care, housing and schools. Although I can not say this is an absolute for every case it is true for most diplomats living over seas and while the salaries are less than stellar it is tax free. That is right no one in the state department pays taxes on their salaries while living over seas. It is one of many of the perks received by state department employees and there are many perks.

There is an application process and you must pass and exam in order to be accepted into the state department. It requires a security clearances as well. But it is well worth the trouble as it is an instant boost in life style to live over seas at the tax payers expense without being taxed.



Before becoming a Foreign Service Officer you first must apply online. Then you you will receive a notification via email. This is the beginning of the process. Then the FBI does an extensive background check which can last anywhere from 2 months to 14 months. Finally you will receive notification about taking the Foreign Service Officer Test. This test lasts all day and from what I have been told by State Department recruiters it is extensive. There is a multiple choice exam, a oral exam and then a after lunch a group project. Anyone up to the age of 54 can take the exam.

Life As a Foreign Service Officer

Life As a Foreign Service Officer

I spent two days with a recruiter and met the family. It is a tight knot group of people who you would consider ordinary but are exemplary intellectually. They also have a profound reference for other cultures with an exceptionally patriotism for our country. The person I spoke with had two teenage daughters and had been posted a different place about every two years. Actually the State Department is exceptionally sensitive to the children of State Department employees so the two teenage daughters were allowed to pick where they attended High School which they chose Africa.

Retirements from careers like this use to be very lucrative but as with everything lately this has even been cut back. I think they make a percentage of their salary based on how many years they have served. I asked about hardship postings. And the recruiter was very honest, which I find to be unusual for a recruiter, hardship postings are every other posting for her but she also was choosing hardship postings because she really liked the challenge and to serve our country.

The State Department is made up of 20,000 employees posted all around the world but their primary hub is in Washington, DC. There is a civilian core as well but to be honest since State Department employees can resign the difference between civilian and Foreign Service Officer is not that substantial.

Everyone who enters the foreign service spends there first year as a consular. Some people love this job and others not so much. It is a 24/7/365 position as consular. However, upon entering the Foreign Service you will have to pick a career track and you can't change career tracks. There is a way around this rule a bureaucratic loop hole which I will not give away here.

But all State Department employees are representatives of the United States around the world. They are constantly award of this when going out and limit their socialize to the Embassy. I was also amazed to discover State Department employees the children attend either International Schools where English is the primary language or America Schools overseas. Medical staff is in each Embassy so there is always healthcare.

I wondered about having to learn advanced encryption codes. It doesn't even exist anymore. There is encryption but even the embassy staff doesn't know how to break it as it is automatic. After two days with this recruiter I was pretty convinced it would be a wonderful career opportunity.

Hardship Posts

I can't speak to State Department Policy since 9/11 but before 9/11 State Department use to have finite time at hardship posts for instance you could be assigned Afghanistan but it would only be for a year or two and then you would be sent to an easier post like Europe or perhaps even Paris. This is always how it was before. A few years in a hard post and then you earn the right to be at the easier posts. But the benefits out weight he hardships in the long run. Very few people wish harm to the State Department because they hold all the carrots.

If you are looking at a mountain of student debt with no job prospects after college a few years abroad working for the state department might just be for you. You could pay your student debt down while all your living expenses were covered by the state department. You will have the opportunity to see the world and travel all while obtaining a security clearance and moving up the government ladder for success. It doesn't look bad on a coporate resume' either.

Oddly enough there are not youtube recruitment ads for the State Department but if you have made it this far you will be able to access the application process.


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