Personnel Categories

As of June 30, 2009, the Department of State employed 62,743 people worldwide.  These employees consist of Foreign Service generalists and specialists, who work primarily overseas, civil servants, who work primarily in the United States, and Locally Employed Staff, all of whom work overseas.  As of June 30, 2009, there were 13,553 civil service and Foreign Service personnel working domestically and 7,952 working abroad.




Foreign Service Officers

Foreign Service officers (FSOs) or generalists are part of a professional service that implements the foreign policy of the United States at embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions at 269 locations worldwide, as well as in Washington, D.C.  They use their specialized knowledge and skills to advance specific objectives, protect U.S. citizens abroad and support American business interests.  FSOs serve in one of five cones: political, economic, public diplomacy, consular and management. As of June 30,  2009, there were 6,899 generalists in the Foreign Service.

Civil Service

Civil Service employees support America’s foreign policy objectives as part of a career service based in Washington, D.C., and other locations within the United States. They provide essential continuity and expertise at all levels of the institution.  Among the hundreds of Civil Service career possibilities in the Department of State are such specializations as business management, finance, economics, and accounting, engineering, foreign affairs and international policy and operations, human resources, information technology, and legal, international and domestic security, office support professionals, and Senior Executive.  Some civil servants occasionally serve overseas in hard-to-fill positions.  As of June 30, 2009, there were 9,487 civil service employees employed by the Department of State in the United States and overseas.

Foreign Service and Civil Service Personnel Systems Overview and Differences

CategoryForeign ServiceCivil Service
Career Duration Up or out Lifelong
Location of Work Primarily overseas Primarily domestic
Office LocationMobile: move every 2-3 years Stable (not necessarily same job, but longer duration)
Grade/Rank Grade in person (the lower the number, the higher the rank) Grade in position (the lower the number, the lower the grade)
Location in Department More in regional bureaus More in functional bureaus; other U.S. locations
UnionAmerican Foreign Service Association (AFSA) American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)
Changing Personnel Systems Tenured FS have non-competitive eligibility; present practice to require FS to compete under Merit PromotionMustang Program (GS 12 and below), Civil Service Mobility Program, CS to FS conversion program, may also take FS exam to qualify for entry level
RetirementPermissive: 50/20, 55/10. Mandatory at age 65 Eligibility depends on system-CSRS vs. FERS; no mandatory retirement age
AuthorityForeign Service Act (1980) Agency Regulations Government-wide federal Laws/regulations
Entry Foreign Sercive exam once a year (written and oral), enter in groups Education/experience used to qualify for a position; ongoing process; exams
Specialty/PositionAssigned to a specialtyAssigned to a position
Entry LevelEnter at lower levelEnter at any level
PromotionsPromotions panels—once a yearCareer ladders, merit promotions/upward mobility, acceleration of duties/reclassification of position

Foreign Service Specialists

Foreign Service Specialists provide unique services in support of foreign policy through technical, support or administrative services at one of approximately 269 posts worldwide, in Washington, D.C., or elsewhere in the United States.  Foreign Service Specialist jobs count 19 career tracks falling within seven categories, including: administration, construction engineering, information technology, international information and English language programs, medical and health, office management and security.  Specific numbers of employees serving in those categories in the Department as of June 30, 2009, were:

Diplomatic Security Special Agent 1745
Office Management Specialist 795
Information Management Specialist 728
Information Technology 144
General Services 219
Security Engineering 178
Financial Management 179
Facilities Management 171
Information Technology/Manager 310
Human Resources 112
Security Technical Specialist 112
Diplomatic Courier 99
Health Practitioner 92
Construction Engineer 71
Medical Officer 50
Information Resources 29
English Language Programs 26
Psychiatrist 18
Medical Technologist 11
Printing Specialist 4
Other 26
TOTAL 5119

Locally Employed Saff (LES)

Locally Employed Staff (LES) are foreign nationals and other locally resident nationals (including U.S. citizens) who are legally eligible to work in that country. They are hired by U.S. diplomatic and consular missions overseas to advance the work of the mission in that country. These essential employees perform vital services for U.S. Foreign Service personnel and ensure the effective operation of our diplomatic posts. They provide unparalleled local-country knowledge and language skills as well as long-term continuity to U.S. missions abroad. As of June 30, 2009, the Department of State employed 41,238 LES overseas (both Direct Hires and those engaged through Personal Service Agreements), almost two-thirds of the Department’s entire workforce.