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Schools for Aspiring Foreign Service Officers: How to Choose

While few schools offer specific Foreign Service training, prospective officers can also select schools that offer a thorough, multidisciplinary curriculum that relates to their desired career track. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree in an appropriate area, such as security studies, diplomacy or a foreign language.

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Becoming a foreign service officer involves a rigorous testing process. According to the American College Testing (ACT) website, individuals with proficiency in a foreign language have a better chance at getting accepted to the organization.

10 Schools for Aspiring Foreign Service Officers

Foreign service programs are offered at several public and private colleges and universities.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition* (2015-2016)
Georgetown University Washington, DC 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $48,611 (Undergraduate); $44,712 (Graduate)
Seton Hall University South Orange, NJ 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $38,072 (Undergraduate); $20,430 (Graduate)
Occidental College Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's $49,248 (Undergraduate)
Tufts University Medford, MA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $50,604 (Undergraduate); $48,412 (Graduate)
Arizona State University Tempe, AZ 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $10,158 (Undergraduate, In-state); $25,458 (Undergraduate, Out-of-state); $10,610 (Graduate, In-state); $22,580 (Graduate, Out-of state)
Northwestern University Evanston, IL 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's $49,047 (Undergraduate)
Emory University Atlanta, GA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's $46,314 (Undergraduate); $38,800 (Graduate)
Syracuse University Syracuse, NY 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $43,318 (Undergraduate); $33,312 (Graduate)
Harvard University Cambridge, MA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Master's $41,832 (Graduate)
Stanford University Stanford, CA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $46,320 (Undergraduate); $45,729 (Graduate)

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), School websites

School Selection Criteria

Individuals wishing to enter the Foreign Service should consider several factors.

  • Prospective students can use the U.S. Department of State's career track website to help narrow down the scope of education paths (www.careers.state.gov); the Foreign Service has several career tracks, including political, management, consular, economics and public diplomacy.
  • Due to the international nature of being a Foreign Service officer, foreign language and study abroad programs would be highly beneficial.
  • The different program options may emphasize different subtopics, so it's important to consider if you want to pursue a degree in foreign service or a degree in international relations.
  • Students interested in gaining hands-on experience can consider schools that have study abroad options.

Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service or International Relations

A Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service (BSFS) program is a rigorous 4-year multidisciplinary program. In addition to courses in English, writing, history and religious studies, students must take courses in economics, geography and a foreign language. The first two years entail taking a broad range of courses with the final semesters devoted to specialization.

Master of Science in Foreign Service or International Relations

Graduate level education continues in the same thread as the BSFS. The Master of Science in Foreign Service (MSFS) program entails writing a thesis, which also requires specialization and expertise in a particular field, as well as foreign language proficiency. Though few Master of Science programs are available, they are competitive; therefore, students need a successful academic record, along with extracurricular experience in foreign travel and service.

Master of Arts

Prospective officers might also consider a Master of Arts program in a related Foreign Service field. For example, a Master of Arts in Arabian, European, Germanic, Latin American or Security Studies can help officers obtain the education and professional experience needed to qualify for the U.S. State Department exams.

A degree in foreign service or international relations can provide the educational background needed to pursue a foreign service officer career. Many institutions offer graduate and undergraduate programs in these fields in addition to foreign language training and internships abroad.

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