By-Pass the FSOT (Part 1): A Few Paths

You can avoid this if you want.

There are three primary ways of becoming a Foreign Service Generalist without having to take the dreaded FSOT, or written test as it’s casually known:

  1. Gain entry into a specialized State Department undergraduate or graduate internship program,
  2. Gain entry as a Foreign Service Specialist then apply for the Mustang Program, or
  3. Gain entry as a Civil Servant and apply for a “Skill Code Change”.

If you’d like to learn more, leave me a comment and I can answer your questions.

Getting into the last two jobs is not hard, it just requires the right timing when jobs open up.  In all three options, you do NOT have to take the written exam but you eventually have to take the Foreign Service Oral Assessment.  But by the time you get around to taking the Oral Assessment, you’ll have had three to five years in the Foreign Service, experience that will directly influence your suitability for passing the Oral Assessment.  And if you fail the Oral Assessment, you’ll at least still have a job with the State Department, with opportunities to travel all over the world while still accruing the same benefits as regular Foreign Service Officers.

So in short, if you failed the FSOT or can’t be bothered to spend all that time studying for it, there are other options for becoming a Generalist.


5 Responses to By-Pass the FSOT (Part 1): A Few Paths

  1. Brendan says:

    Is it true the Civil Servants who work for the State Department get the same benefits as Foreign Service Officers?

    • Basically yes. On domestic assignments, the only difference is that Civil Servants (CS) follow the GS pay schedule and Foreign Service (FS) follows the FS pay schedule. The FS pension is also slightly more generous, I’d have to do a little more research to get the exact details. On overseas assignments, the same holds true; CS employees get danger pay, hardship pay, diplomatic immunity, etc. The only possible difference is that CS may not be eligible for the educational allowance that allows their children to study overseas; I’ll have to research this a bit more as well. But then again, many CS employees don’t become FS because they want to keep their lives and children in the U.S. so this may not be a benefit they need.

  2. jean says:

    Hi There,

    Reading your helpful and informational posting. I just took for the first time, and failed the FSOT, by 3 points. It was a shock to not pass. Maybe I was not self aggradizing enough on the bio section.

    I will likely take it again next year – persevere and all that.
    But I am also very interested in hearing about the FSS you mention as well as the Mustang program. I’m currently a grad student. I did read a bit about Mustang but wouldn’t mind hearing more.

    • Jean, do you know where you were short on the 3 points? Would be helpful to know going forward I would think. HR takes Mustang applications every year on an on-going basis. You basically have to fill out a form, be at least three years in good standing as an FSS (or CS), have a bachelor’s degree, demonstrated record of continuous education showing you’re serious about taking a step into being a Generalist, and a writing sample. The committee reviews applications on just this info alone so it’s likely what you during your first three years along with your ability to write would be the determining factors to being accepted into the Mustang program.

  3. […] so you insist on taking the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) instead of trying to by-pass it. Up to you. To minimize the amount of time you spend banging your head against the wall preparing […]

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