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Career review: US State Dept's Foreign Service Officer?

by VishrutArya1 min read4th Oct 20202 comments

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Question. Does a career as a Foreign Service Officer (Economic or Political tracks) in the U.S. State Department have a high expected value? Does anyone have the context to judge its merits for EAs?


Motivation. I ask because although 80K Hours rates 'Government and policy in an area relevant to a top problem' as their second highest-impact career category and, moreover, they consider executive branch careers (including in the State Department) as particularly promising, they don't yet have a career review for it.

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From a career capital standpoint, it's a good way to learn how to research and write memos and how to navigate the U.S. government. Learning those skills, obtaining a security clearance, developing cross-cultural competence, and gaining visibility into a variety of selective government career tracks in a few years is hard to beat. Even if one were to be assigned to a country or two of relatively low strategic priority rather than one (say, China) of very high priority from an EA perspective, I'd bet it's a good career to explore for an EA. Depending on the quality of assignments staying in the FS can become a very high impact track for a decade or more. Here is an example of a high-impact FS career in the '00s-'10s.