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View All Transcripts: Ask the Ambassador | Ask the State Department

Welcome to "Ask the State Department" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to State Department officials.

Department of State recruiter Buddy Williams discussed the 2006 Foreign Service Written Exam and how to become a Foreign Service Specialist and how these nineteen career professionals play a vital role in U.S. Diplomacy.

Mr. Buddy Williams
Buddy Williams, Recruiter

April 6, 2006

Aziz writes:

Can a United States permanent resident get a job with the State Department here or abroad?

Thank You.

Buddy Williamas:

Generally speaking, all direct hire positions with the U.S. Department State require American Citizenship. There are some contractual positions in the U.S. involving work in non-sensitive or unclassified areas that can be performed by permanent residents.

At our facilities abroad, each mission or post based on the host government's residential requirements has the authority to employee U.S. permanent residents locally. Again, here too the position would be in a non-sensitive or unclassified capacity.

Each embassy will have its vacancy listing on their web site go to: http://usembassy.state.gov/

Erik writes:


My question is two-fold. First (and I know there is no definite answer for this, except that it is all based on the needs of the foreign service), what are the odds I can get stationed in east Asia (or Pacific Island nations) if I request those countries?

Buddy Williamas:

You are correct, when a Foreign Service Officer is sworn in, one of the articles of the oath of office states he/she will in fulfill the needs of the service with regard to assignments. There is also a policy or rule we call "fair share". Every officer is expected to voluntarily request assignments at hardship posts during their career. Recently this policy became a mandatory requirement for officers applying for threshold promotion into the ranks of the senior Foreign Service.

Second, with regard to the arduous duty, is that assignment based on the same system? Are there a list of arduous duty locations, and a separate list of non-arduous duty locations?

What you are referring to is what we call hardship assignments, hard-to-fill jobs and or differential assignments. During the bid cycle which takes place every year between August and December, all available positions for next year's summer rotation cycle are released to the all eligible officers. The bid lists are broken down by grade and career track. At this time both non-differential and differential assignment are listed together. There would be a code that would indicate if the assignment was a differential post. This entire process is normally done on-line. Actually, there are officers that prefer differential assignments because they do come with financial incentives varying from ten to thirty-five per cent salary stipends above base pay.

Thank you.

Charles writes:

Is there an age limit for employment with the State Department? What local agency can provide information on the application and testing phase?

Buddy Williamas:

To join the U.S. Foreign Service one must be a U.S. Citizen and minimum of age twenty-one and maximum of age fifty-nine when sworn in. For the Civil Service, citizenship is also required and the minimum age requirement for full-time employment is eighteen and there is no maximum.

For information on all opportunities at the U.S. Department of State go to this site:
http://jobsearch.usajobs.opm. gov/a9st00.asp

For other positions with other the U.S. Government Agencies go to this site:

M.B. writes:

What kind of economics knowledge should I be focusing on as I study for the FSWE?

Buddy Williams:

ACT, the company that actually authors the exam advises us to council written exam takers to review the list of resources provided when they registered. This is good sound advice. We don't ever see the exam and the questions change each year. Apart from reviewing the all resource materials as recommended, in your case you may want to put more emphasis on the referenced economic materials.

Noujan writes:

Greetings! I have deleted my admission letter for the FSWE that was sent to me via email. Is it possible that the letter be send to me one more time?

To be able to assist you please immediately send me your complete name and at what site you are registered to take the exam: williamsjl@state.gov

D.H. writes:

Hi, I am currently in the U.S. navy and i am getting out soon, and i was wondering how I go about getting a job with the State Department. Our ship went to Africa and a couple of people from the U.S. embassy said I should apply here, how do I do that?

Buddy Williamas:

Please peruse our web site:www.careers.state.gov

At your convenience call me and we can discuss your particular possibilities: 202 261 8928 or williamsjl@state.gov.

Generally entry into the foreign service is via the Foreign Service Written Exam. You are too late for this year's exam but please review the above site and make sure you register your e-mail address so you can receive information about next year's exam when this information is released in January 2007.

Tesse writes:

I am in my early 40's, a naturalized citizen with vast experiences in Africa and here in our country. Do you have opportunities for older new potential recruits with no diplomatic mission experience? There's no prior requirement for joining the Foreign Service other being and U.S. citizen between the ages of twenty-one and fifty-nine. One must pass the Foreign Service Written Exam.

Buddy Williamas:

Please peruse our web site: www.careers.state.gov.

At your convenience call me and we can discuss your particular possibilities: 202-261-8928 or williamsjl@state.gov.

Jim writes:

I heard that the U.S. Government is paying people to learn Arabic to become Arabic translators. Please tell me where I would get this paid training. Thank you.

Buddy Williamas:

To my knowledge we don't pay non-employees to learn Arabic. Once an employee has entered on duty and is assigned to to a country where the specific job in that particular overseas post requires her or him to speak Arabic, then yes they are sent to language school while on salary. This holds true for any assignment where the host country's language is required for the an officer to perform his or her duty.

C.B. writes:

Hello, I would like to know if you have a choice or can you make a request on where you would like to be stationed if a position were to become available. Thank You

Buddy Williamas:

All entry level Foreign Service Personnel receive directed assignments for their first two, two-year tours. After meeting this requirement all rotations are base on grade, career track and availability of assignments. So within these parameters you decide where you would like to be assigned. Just remember there is worldwide availability with regard medical clearance and the needs of the service that may also influence your assignment.

Doreen writes:

Does the State Dept make public statistics on the scores received by those candidates who pass the FSWE? (For example how many candidates scored 170+, 180+, 190+, etc.)

Buddy Williamas:

No we don't publicize this information.

In addition, it is my understanding that a candidate's FSWE score is not taken into consideration in any way once a candidate has passed the Oral Assessment? Am I correct?

Passing the written exam is the right to passage for taking the oral assessment. It's a pass or fail, all who pass the written exam move on to the oral assessment phase of the process.

Thank you.

Katherine writes:

Hello, I am curious about the ramifications of not passing the FSWE. Is it possible to re-take the exam the following year, or is there a required waiting period? Is it considered a stigma to have to re-take the exam?

Thanks very much.

Buddy Williamas:

You make take FSWE as many times as it takes for you to pass it. There are no ramifications for how many times you were not successful. The FSWE is given once annually.

Felipe writes:

Sir, do I have to pass the FSWE in order to qualify for a diplomatic courier position? I'm currently an Immigration Agent with the Dept. of Homeland Security stationed in Miami , Florida and formerly a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. I'm interested in pursuing a career in the Department of State as a courier and would like to know how to get hired.

Thank You.

Buddy Williamas:

The Diplomatic Courier (DC) position is a Foreign Service Specialist (FSS) job. As with all the FSS positions, there is no requirement to take the FSWE. The applicants are evaluated on the educational background and work experience. The DC position is currently closed for application. Please go back into the site, use the red update button to provide your e-mail address to receive the latest changes in this positions.

http:/ /www.careers.state.gov/specialist/opportunities/dipcour.html

Sid writes:

I would like to ask a question but first, let me give you a little background. My family, including myself, my wife and four kids moved to Pakistan for two years after twenty five years in the United States . We are American Citizens and our kids were born in the States. We are both graduate of Business Schools in America . We both would like to work at the U.S. Consulate in Pakistan . We think being an American Diplomat will give us a chance to explore new things and meet new people and also serve the country. Being bilingual in Urdu and English we do have an advantage. In addition, we would like to show the kids the different cultures of Pakistan . We have a house in Texas and we are planning to come back to the States this summer.

Please let us know what courses do we have to take to sit in the exam and once we pass the exam. How long is the training or orientation to become a diplomat? What are the possibilities of us being posted to Pakistan and what will be the duration of the post?

Please guide us through the process and give us as much info as possible. We are looking forward to hearing from you soon. We appreciate you help in this matter.

Buddy Williamas:

First of all, if I understand your intent, when you join the Foreign Service you must be eligible for worldwide service. That is to say yes, you could be possibility assigned to a posting at one of our facilities in Pakistan. However, there are limits to the maximum time one can stay at one post.

With regard to joining the ranks of the Foreign Service, you must take the Foreign Service Written Exam (FSWE). You are too late for this years exam but it will be given next year and all the information you require can be found on our web site: www.careers.state.gov.

M.S. writes:

I was wondering what the grading on the essay portion of the exam evaluates (i.e. coherence, spelling, vocabulary, structure, subject matter, etc). I heard that the essay is electronically graded by a computer. If so, then there must be values assigned to the above criteria, and I'd like to know what is valued most. Thank you.

Buddy Williams:

Actually, the written essay is graded and scored manually. And yes, all the factors you mentioned above are assessed.

Mary writes:

Is there a "prep class" for the FSWE? What is the best way to prepare for the exam?

Buddy Williams:

At this juncture, since the exam is Saturday, my council would be for you to make the same preparations you would for taking the SAT, review the resources materials recommended by ACT and to get a good night's sleep before exam..

Michael writes:

Dear Mr. Buddy Williams, I am a 43-year-old CPA with a Master's of Accountancy degree ( Univ. of Georgia ) and have worked in Mexico as a Controller and CFO for over a decade in my 20-year accounting career. I speak fluent Spanish and basic Mandarin Chinese (which I studied in Beijing ). Currently, I am pursuing an Executive MBA in International Management at Thunderbird-The Garvin School of International Management (main campus in Glendale , AZ ), where I continue my studies in Chinese.

For many years I have wanted to contribute to the spread of democracy and to work with other countries, seeking to improve relations based on mutual interests. Thus far, I have attempted to do so by trying to be an "ambassador in business" for the U.S. while working abroad in the private sector, abiding by the highest standards of ethics in what can be, at times, a challenging global business environment and promoting our economic interests abroad through competent, best practices corporate governance.

President Bush's courage and leadership in these trying times have been an inspiration to me. In President Bush's speech in July 2002, in the wake of the corporate accounting scandals, he addressed corporate responsibility at the Regent Wall Street Hotel, declaring, "In the long run, there's no capitalism without conscience; there is no wealth without character." His speech left an indelible mark on me. I was so motivated by the President's speech that I wrote and published a book entitled "The Controller" about an honest American accountant who stands up to a greedy group of executives who are committing a world-wide accounting scandal.

Given my experience, education, and language abilities, how could I fit into the State Department's organization and enhance value in the spread of democratic principles and the furtherance of American interests abroad?

Buddy Williams:

Well, it certainly seems that you have the many qualities that we look for in our Foreign Service Personnel. Please peruse our website: www.careers.state.gov. Specifically have a look at the first section on how to become a Foreign Service Officer (FSOs). The long in the short of it is that all FSOs enter on duty via a written exam and oral interview process.

You are too late for this year's exam but it will given again next year.

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