Foreign Service Reference List

Since a lot of people have questions about how to prepare for the FSOT or FSOA, I’ve decided to put together a list of resources that I’ve found interesting or helpful.  It’s by no means a list of all the materials out there, but it could be a good start.  I’ll update this as I think of or find more resources that can be helpful.

Career Diplomacy by Harry Kopp and Charles Gillespie – This is a great overview of the Foreign Service.  The authors cover the history of the Foreign Service, the hiring process, career trajectory, corporate culture in the Foreign Service, changes in the Foreign Service due to a changing world, what the Foreign Service does and doesn’t do, and so on.  It’s a good primer on the Foreign Service and how it works.

The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis – I read this book for a class in grad school and it was a really interesting read on the Cold War and U.S. foreign policy during it.  It’s not a detailed guide of everything that happened during the whole Cold War but is a little more analytical and a really good starting place.

Inside a U.S. Embassy: How the Foreign Service Works for America edited by Shawn Dorman– This book is primarily a series of 1-3 page summaries and stories about life and work in the Foreign Service.  The first part of the book is summaries of different jobs in the Foreign Service including information on some of the Foreign Service Specialist jobs, the second part covers several different issues in the Foreign Service like dissent, language learning, working with locally hired staff, and family issues.  The third part is “A Day in the Life” accounts from officers all around the world so you can see what some of the daily work is like.  The fourth part of the book covers extraordinary and challenging situations like work after the tsunami in Southeast Asia, surviving an attack on an embassy, being evacuated from post, and other unrest.  The last part covers the hiring process.

Rise to Globalism by Stephen Ambrose and Douglas Brinkley – This book covers U.S. foreign policy from 1938 through Clinton’s second term.  It’s a chronological look at most of what happened in U.S. foreign policy, though not every single event is captured since there’s only so much you can fit in one book.

The West Wing television series – I know it’s not exactly “reading” but The West Wing did actually help me answer a couple of questions on the written exam.  It’s a good, entertaining overview of how the federal goverment works which is important for passing the FSOT and for working as a Foreign Service Officer.

FS Yahoo Groups – There are several FS-related Yahoo Groups that can be quite helpful.  There is some misinformation on all of them, so be careful.

Department of State careers website – There’s a ton of useful info on the official DOS careers website.  There are study guides, quizzes to help you figure out which career track is best for you, and even forums where you can ask questions and get responses by HR representatives.  Check it out at

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