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What Does a Foreign Service Specialist Do?

By Jerry Morrison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Foreign Service specialists are members of the United States Foreign Service whose career paths involve technical support services, each with an individual set of qualifications. There are seven career tracks available, including those in administration, office management, international information and English language programs. Security, medical, and health professionals are also members of the Foreign Service. The more technical career paths include construction, engineering, and information technology. Though a posting may be in a foreign country, the job requirements and duties would be very similar, if not identical, to the same job in the United States.

The role of the Foreign Service specialist is to support and maintain the proper functioning of U.S. government offices at home and abroad. Political and policy matters are in the domain of their counterpart, the Foreign Service officer. A specific skill set and professional experience is typically of primary importance to a specialist career.

Roles for a Foreign Service specialist pursuing an administrative track might be as a facility manager, a financial manager or a human resources officer. The duties of a facilities manager involve supervising the maintenance of buildings and grounds. A financial manager might be responsible for budgeting, payroll or auditing expenditures. The staffing of facilities, employee benefits and performance assessment is often part of a human resources officer's duties.

An information technology specialist's responsibilities would typically involve the installation and repair of computer hardware and peripherals. Telephone and radio specialists maintain a facility's private branch exchange (PBX) telephone system and any base station or mobile radio equipment. In this track, the Foreign Service specialist might also be involved in network security, communications and diplomatic pouch or mail services.

The international information and English language program career path offers opportunities as an English Language Officer (ELO) or an Information Resource Officer (IRO). An ELO might be responsible for all English language programs sponsored by the U.S. State Department in the host country or in an entire region. An IRO works with other embassy and consulate officials to promote electronic and traditional information resources that support the U.S. diplomatic mission. This specialist is also involved with local staffing and regional training for information programs.

A Foreign Service specialist might be employed in the security track as a diplomatic courier, a security technical specialist or a security engineering officer. A diplomatic courier personally escorts pouches containing sensitive material between diplomatic missions abroad and State Department headquarters. Security technical specialists maintain advanced electronic and mechanical security systems to guard against espionage, crime and terrorism. These systems are designed and tested by security engineering officers.

Primary care nurses and physicians, psychiatrists, and medical laboratory technologists are employed in the medical and health career specialty. Large facilities often have their own primary care centers to oversee the medical and mental health needs of assigned staff and their families. The education of staff about health concerns endemic to a particular locale is also a responsibility of the Foreign Service specialist in this track.

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