Serve the Public Good
Are you driven to improve your community? You’re not alone.
The numbers don’t lie when it comes to the amount of people who work in areas of Law + Government. Over 22 million people, or 16.7% of the U.S. workforce, work in federal, state, and local governments, over 1.3 million lawyers practice within the United States, and close to 300,000 individuals work as paralegals or legal assistants.
With so many people working together to build society at its core, opportunities are prime for Gauchos looking to make a difference. Careers in Law + Government share some similarities and a few key differences--learn how you can join the movement of public servants and prepare yourself for a successful future.
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Discover Options: Department of State
For complete information on assessing yourself, choosing majors, and exploring careers, review our starter tips to Discover Options in all careers as well as the specialized tips on this page.
Exploring Foreign and Civil Service
The U.S. Department of State (also known as the State Department) plans and carries out foreign policy in the United States. While many individuals who work for the Department of State are located overseas, others live and work domestically.
The following information frequently references the Department of State career website, which should be consulted for all official career information. Specifically, this information focuses on two functional areas: Foreign Service and Civil Service.
Careers in Foreign Service often refer to international opportunities that are outside of the United States. Click the items below for details about various roles within this functional area of the Department of State.
According to the Opportunities Overview from the Department of State, Foreign Service Officers are diplomats who work abroad to support the United States through consular services (e.g., visas), political initiatives (e.g., elections), and other international issues.
These professionals work in five different Career Tracks:
- Consular: Faciliate adoptions, help evacuate United States citizens, combat fraud to protect borders, and fight human trafficking.
- Economic: Collaborate with foreign governments and other agencies on technology, science, economic, trade, energy, and environmental issues, both domestically and overseas.
- Management: Develop solutions in fast-paced situations, managing all embassy operations from real estate to personnel to budgets.
- Political: Analyze host country political events and negotiate with all levels of foreign government officials.
- Public Diplomacy: Promote the interests of the United States abroad, manage cultural and informational programs, and coordinate exchange programs.
As described on the Opportunities Overview from the Department of State, Foreign Service Specialists support embassies and consulates of the United States through various efforts related to operations and security.
These professionals are grouped into eight categories:
- Construction Management
- Facility Management
- International Information and English Language Programs
- Law Enforcement and Security
- Medical and Health
- Office Management
Within these categories, there are 19 Specialist Career Tracks at over 270 posts overseas, in Washington, D.C., or elsewhere in the United States.
The Consular Fellows Program is a limited non-career appointment of up to five years and requires language proficiency in one of the following languages:
- Chinese Mandarin
The primary responsibility for Foreign Service Consular Fellows is to adjudicate visas for foreign nationals. It is important to note that the Consular Fellows Program does not guarantee future employment with the Department of State.
Careers in Civil Service often refer to domestic opportunities within the United States. These professionals support foreign policy in the United States through various diplomatic initiatives overseas, including international trade, human rights, and family relations. Click below to see how this work is organized within the Department of State.
Positions in Civil Service are organized into 11 job categories:
- Foreign Affairs
- Human Resources
- Management Analysis
- General Accounting and Administration
- Budget Administration
- Legal Counsel
- Passport Visa Services
- Public Affairs
- Contract Procurement
- Information Technology Management
- Foreign Language and Professional Training
Key Career Resources
After understanding the basic differences between Foreign Service and Civil Service, you may be wondering what life is actually like in these positions and personal lives.
Here is a list of resources to help you gain first-hand insight into these roles:
Career Diplomacy: Life and Work in the U.S. Foreign Service (written by Harry W. Kopp and Charles A. Gillespie): Insider’s guide that examines Foreign Service as an institution, a profession, and a career.
DipNote: Official blog of U.S. Department of State.
Employee Videos: Department of State posts several videos which highlight a variety of positions in each area, as well as fellowships.
Foreign Service Blogs: Extensive list of Foreign Service blogs, many of which are unofficial and personal to the writer(s).
Inside a U.S. Embassy: Diplomacy at Work (edited by Shawn Dorman): Unique perspective into the work and lives of the diplomats and specialists who make up the Foreign Service.
If you are considering Department of State as a career path, it is important to determine which area (i.e., Foreign Service or Civil Service) and which specific track could be the best fit for you. Consider taking the Foreign Service Career Track Quiz to explore your best fit in the Department of State.
A variety of areas of study can help you prepare for a career at the Department of State, however, we generally recommend focusing your studies on global cultures, foreign languages, and interpersonal communication.
Popular major choices at UCSB for this career path include global studies, sociology, anthropology, and options related to language and culture. There are many minors at UCSB that can supplement your major, including global peace and security, women, culture and development, religious studies, professional writing, as well as any language minor. Review our Majors and Beyond page for more details.
The Department of State has created a resource to help you learn Which Office is Right for You? to match your major to relevant areas, however, not all majors are listed and this information should be used as a loose guideline. In all cases, we encourage you to consider your individual interests, personality, strengths, and values, when choosing majors and careers.
Did You Know?
There is a Diplomat in Residence in California who is available to talk about their experience as a Foreign Service Officer or Specialist.
According to the Department of State, the Diplomat in Residence is able to offer personalized advising and answer questions related to career opportunities in Foreign Service and Civil Service.
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