By-Pass the FSOT (Part 3): The Skill Code Change

What is a “Skill Code Change”?

A skill code change request is a request by any State Department employee to switch into another career track after she has demonstrated she has already been doing an outstanding job in that career track.

For example:

Say you are a Foreign Service Specialist (FSS) in the IT career track (IMS). You’ve taken to serving at small posts where the Department has trouble finding people to take consular and management jobs. Since you’re on the ground, you take up responsibilities as the post consular and management officer while still fulfilling your regular IT duties. After one tour you’ve become good enough in consular and management functions that the Department allows you two more tours as a management officer. When all is said and done, you’ve got three management tours under your belt and you’ve shown you can do the job.

Now comes the skill code change: you’ve been doing the management job for so long you might as well just convert, and under the rules of this program, you can do exactly that. This applies for any job you can consistently do well, e.g. Management to Political, Consular to Economic, OMS to IRM, IRM to Consular, CS to Public Diplomacy etc.

I will be covering the exact details of how this program works in a later post.

By-Pass the FSOT

If you’re selected to be an FSO through a skill code change, you can by-pass the FSOT but you still need to take the Foreign Service Oral Assessment (FSOA)!

Get into State FIRST, then prep for the FSOT:

As with the Mustang Program, the beauty of this option is that if you get into State Department as CS or FSS, the pressure to get a job in foreign affairs is taken off you and you can prepare for the FSOT at your leisure (that is if you’re still set on being an FS Generalist).

If you have more questions about the program, leave a comment and I’ll answer any questions.


6 Responses to By-Pass the FSOT (Part 3): The Skill Code Change

  1. wayfarer says:

    This sounds great, though I think the FSS positions are even harder to land than the FSO ones.

    I speak as a 27 year old with a Master’s and intl work experience but not in my field. I’ve been studying for the FSOT for over a year. I’m also learning a language to help with the scoring.

  2. Wayfarer, definitely a good idea to get a critical need language under your belt to help boost your scores. Which critical language are you learning?

    I’ll have to go digging for exact numbers, but there is not that much of a disparity between the number of FSS versus FSO positions. If your goal is to get into the Foreign Service, there were two FSS application openings in the last week for IMS and Courier positions.

    I think the challenge is finding an FSS job that fits you, i.e. courier, IT, diplomatic security, medical, etc. I’d strongly encourage you to try any of these paths and see if you get a call back.

    Better to be an FSS and already in the service than on the outside waiting to take a test?

  3. Jane says:

    Is FSO more respected or ranked higher than the FSS in the state department? Why everybody wants to become a FSO eventually? Or does it have better career development or opportunity?

    • I think there are a lot of reasons why people obsess about being FSO’s versus FSS. The career path to ambassador is very clear as an FSO and it’s rare for an FSS to become ambassador. In fact, I’ve never heard of it. There is also a certain prestige people attach to passing “the test” and they get bragging rights. But passing the test is like getting an Ivy League degree: what is important is not that you got the degree, but what you do with it after graduation. FSS can have tremendous impact on how things get done overseas, and there are plenty of FSO jobs where you have minimal impact.

  4. Dan says:

    The FSS career path does not lead to an ambassador position. But there are other prestigious FSS careers that can be obtained, CIOs for IMS for example. And also the competition among FSOs to be an ambassador is tremendous, not even considering their limited availability due to political appointees. Keep this in mind if selected. Not every FSO can reach that level.

  5. Good post however , I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Bless you!

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