US Department of State Reviews

Updated August 28, 2014
Updated August 28, 2014
326 Reviews

3.9
326 Reviews
Rating Trends

Recommend to a friend
Approve of CEO
US Department of State Secretary of State John Kerry
John Kerry
81 Ratings

Review Highlights

Pros
  • See the world while serving your country (in 12 reviews)

  • I worked at the Foreign Service Institute, where they train diplomats (in 22 reviews)


Cons
  • Foreign Service officers are then central employee core and taken care of (in 27 reviews)

  • The biggest challenge is that every two years, there is a rotation of mid-level Foreign Service Officers who arrive with "attitude" (in 15 reviews)

More Highlights

Employee Reviews

Sort: Popular Rating Date
  1. 1 person found this helpful  

    non-existent career trajectory for non-FSO

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Office Management Specialist
    Current Employee - Office Management Specialist

    I have been working at US Department of State full-time for more than 10 years

    Pros

    Benefits and foreign travel. Fairly good leave.

    Cons

    Lack of respect for specialists is rampant in the FS. I imagine that is why there is no mechanism to promote specialists into officers, despite their wealth of first hand experience in embassies. Specialist careers are static for perpetuity, with FSO scavenging up all the management opportunities, despite the fact most FSOs were hired for their policy crafting and writing abilities, and generally have poor organizational leadership skills. The primary thing they teach FSOs in A100 is is Kiss Up (to your FSO superiors) and Kick Down (specialists). If you are a specialist, be prepared for a culture of abuse.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  2. 7 people found this helpful  

    Should be a dream job, but the State Department lacks integrity

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Foreign Service Officer
    Former Employee - Foreign Service Officer

    I worked at US Department of State full-time for more than 3 years

    Pros

    The salary is great and you will have very unique learning experiences

    Cons

    I'd love to write a positive review, much as I would have loved to enjoy working in the US State Department after spending my entire life studying and training to be a Foreign Service Officer. As soon as I showed up for the A100 class, though, I was disgusted by the culture of politics and self promotion that permeates the department. When I got to post to do the work, I was astounded at the level of managerial incompetence. This is an institution that lacks the managerial skills to effectively manage its burdens, and lacks the integrity to address those deficiencies honestly. Instead of focusing on performing the job they're paid to do, officers focus uniformly on getting good written reviews from supervisors and building good "corridor reputations," by going along with managerial incompetence and aggressive politicking. I was astounded at just how much of an officer's work is spent on internal politics vs. doing the actual job. The culture is filled with unhappy people spending much of their work trying to figure out how to correct the mess they find, hide the problems they encounter so that they won't embarrass their managers, and politic around to get the next dream post in a far away land. It's tragic. Many officers pretend that the work "representing their country" makes up for the managerial shortfalls, but in my observations those shortfalls meant that we actually were often doing anything but the real work of out country or representing the US with integrity. The cons are balanced by the unique opportunities if you can stomach giving up integrity for politics, and the reality that you can save a lot of money in the job. Indeed, a lot of officers spend the bulk of their time figuring out how to game the system and earn more money and perks, which leads to yet more politics. The support services are often so overwhelmed that you have to do their job for them, and politic just to make sure things run smoothly. Everyone bends over backwards to help out people in positions of power, but everyone else has to push to make sure things get done. Fundamentally, the institution lacks integrity, which is tragic given how important it is and the consequences of its failures. The scandals you read about in the headlines are only the very tip of an iceberg, because State is very adept at "putting the needs of the service first" and getting officers to hide its dirty laundry in return for career opportunities.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Replace the EER process with a real peer review. It is absurd that people work to make sure they have a good EER as opposed to achieve real results, and the EER process is widely abused and manipulated. The fact that an entire month is practically devoid of task work because officers are focused on the EER cycle says a lot about where priorities lie within the culture, and should be a point of shame. Implement opportunities for officers to expose incompetence and provide anonymous feedback other than the Dissent Channel, which is too high level for the many serious but mundane issues. Until State shows integrity in the way it manages its employees, for example by not abusing junior officers in visa tours, it won't fund much integrity amongst its officers. Which is a shame cause outside of the State system they are some very good people.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  3. 3 people found this helpful  

    Project Manager

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Project Manager  in  Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Project Manager in Washington, DC

    I have been working at US Department of State full-time for more than 10 years

    Pros

    Very Good Benefits. Staff is very dedicated and smart.

    Cons

    Advancement is based on a "beauty contest" rather than accomplishments, experience and demonstrated capabilities. Less qualified candidates have been chosen consistantly over more qualified candidates.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Take some Management training.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
  4. We want your feedback – Are these company reviews helpful to you?  Yes | No
  5. 1 person found this helpful  

    Avoid State Department Management & Operations

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Financial Management Officer  in  Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Financial Management Officer in Washington, DC

    I have been working at US Department of State

    Pros

    State Department is divided into several "cones" or divisions. You'll probably be satisfied if you go in as a political, economic, consular, or public diplomacy officer. Just not a management officer.

    Cons

    Don't ever go into anything that deals with internal management, especially if you're in the civil service or foreign service specialist. The bureaucracy is suffocating. Management is incompetent, and to get anything done, working through layers and layers of red tape is just simply exhausting. People actually take pride in finding loop holes around the regulations in order to get something done.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Why are there any financial or general service specialist in the foreign service when any generalist with no prior financial management or procurement can also take the job with a bare 2 months of training?

    Doesn't Recommend
    Approves of CEO
  6. 1 person found this helpful  

    DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT WORKING HERE!

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Senior Consultant  in  Macon, GA
    Current Employee - Senior Consultant in Macon, GA

    I have been working at US Department of State

    Pros

    You get 3 weeks of vacation and 3 weeks of sick time. The health benefits are also pretty resonable compared to other places.

    Cons

    The pay is horrible and their is no growth here. You are not allowed to express new ideas, nor are you given decent raises.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Start investing more in your employees and treat them like they are adults instead of children. If your employees are happy, you will have a more productive workplace and a lower turn over. You will also begin to get people with more talent and a greater educational background.

    Doesn't Recommend
  7.  

    Lost in the shuffle of bureaucracy

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at US Department of State full-time

    Pros

    Rare, but exciting opportunities to contribute to the management of dynamic and evolving situations related to international issues and US foreign affairs.

    Cons

    Feeling like a number lost in a system, surronded by careerist looking to impress the right person, as opposed to truly contributing to the mission.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Encourage free thinking and ambition.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  8.  

    Stay Away!

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - IT Specialist  in  Washington, DC
    Current Employee - IT Specialist in Washington, DC

    I have been working at US Department of State full-time for more than a year

    Pros

    The cafeteria has an excellent array of cuisines.

    Cons

    Management and Senior Management are incompetent.

    Doesn't Recommend
  9. 1 person found this helpful  

    No one looks out for you but you

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - IT Specialist
    Current Employee - IT Specialist

    I have been working at US Department of State full-time for more than 3 years

    Pros

    World travel: live abroad for 2-5 years, then rotate to next assignment, also abroad

    Decent vacation/leave packages

    Competitive salary for middle/senior management

    Cons

    Bureaucratic nightmare
    Health risks - overseas protection as well as medical/safety conditions of building. (Heavy mold infestation in many compounds in tropical locations.)
    Lack of trust in leadership
    Sections will appear to serve your interests while actually solely serving biased interests of Department (particularly Security & Medical sections)
    Information technology tools & applications are decades behind
    All attempts at technical innovation are delayed by Diplomatic Security to investigate security implications
    Law enforcement officers witch hunt for regulatory (non-criminal) offenses to meet a perceived quota (Google Concerned FSOs). They really are out to get you.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Draft a Foreign Service Bill of Rights, establishing clear rights & freedoms for FS professionals and limiting the abilities of law enforcement authority to within an external or criminal-only scope. Reduce funding to any activities outside of this scope.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  10. 1 person found this helpful  

    Overseas Work for U.S.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at US Department of State

    Pros

    Opportunity to live overseas and depending on specialty do some interesting work.

    Cons

    Very bureaucratic. Must be willing to live anywhere and not always get the assignment you want to the country you want to live in. Must be willing to spend many years doing work that has little to do with previous experience or degrees.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Take management training seriously and provide a feedback mechanism to see that principles are put into practice.

  11. 4 people found this helpful  

    great pros and cons but overall, competitiveness makes it dysfunctional

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Foreign Service Officer  in  Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Foreign Service Officer in Washington, DC

    I worked at US Department of State full-time for more than 10 years

    Pros

    travel, good salary & benefits, interesting work--making a difference sometimes

    Cons

    Not only is it "up or out", but Congress mandates 10% be low ranked each year for possible separation out--so if you ever don't get along with a boss, you have a sword of Damocles hanging over your head. Many good upper/middle managers mentor & bask in the (reflected) glow of their employees doing well--but lots of others like to set up their employees for failure so they can show the ambassador how they "saved the day" . I was a foreign service officer for 14 years, received lots of awards, meritorious step increases, etc. (including a Superior Honor Award, the highest you can get) and had a year of graduate school paid for--but was kicked out (without a full pension because I had not been in for 20 years or more) because of a bad boss. You really have to know how to play office politics and deal with people in mid to high level positions who never should have reached those levels.
    Also is very difficult for women employees to get ahead and still have a marriage and/or children. Not only are there few professional men who want to traipse around the world being house husbands and never getting any jobs or professional positions themselves--but the required "unaccompanied postings" mean breaking up the family for a year or more, exceedingly difficult for single moms. The promotion statistics still show the pattern of the 70s: married men (especially to traditional wives) and single women get promoted, since they can devote 100% of their time and energy to sucking up & promoting themselves.
    I am not just one embittered voice. Many years ago, State asked for a "vision statement" and officers sent in "Kiss up, kick down", "Rank has its privilege, but not accountability", etc. There were so many negative statements sent in that they dropped the idea.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Look into the facts behind the EERs

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

Worked for US Department of State? Contribute to the Community!

Your response will be removed from the review – this cannot be undone.