US Department of State

  www.state.gov
  www.state.gov

US Department of State Reviews in Washington, DC

Updated October 22, 2014
Updated October 22, 2014
355 Reviews
3.9
355 Reviews
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US Department of State Secretary of State John Kerry
John Kerry
97 Ratings

Review Highlights

Pros
  • See the world while serving your country (in 14 reviews)

  • If you work for the Foreign Service, you get to see the world in so many meaningful ways (in 28 reviews)


Cons
  • The biggest turn off for me were actually the foreign service officers (in 31 reviews)

  • This can dramatically impact work-life balance for years at a time (in 10 reviews)

More Highlights

162 Employee Reviews Back to all reviews

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  1.  

    Summer Internship

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

    I have been working at US Department of State as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    Tremendous exposure to the inner workings of the foreign policy machine.

    Cons

    Human Resources are a disaster. The internship itself was totally unorganized and provided very little guidance or mentorship.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    State needs to consider restructuring its internship program to fall more in line with private sector standards of organization.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  2.  

    Positive internship within HR dept

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Intern in Arlington, VA
    Former Employee - Intern in Arlington, VA

    I worked at US Department of State part-time (less than an year)

    Pros

    Learned a great deal of how the govt works especially in HR matters

    Cons

    Nothing really. I dont have anything

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Nothing

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  3. 1 person found this helpful  

    Foreign Service for 25 Years

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

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

    Pros

    If you have a strong motivation for public service, there are few places where you can have as much impact during a career. Working abroad, you are part of a much smaller team as compared to DC. Living abroad is great. Whether good or bad, the Department takes care of most of the complicated parts of living overseas. Housing and maintenance of your residence is included. You don't have to get your own visa. There is usually a commissary of food and alcohol so you don't have to do without your favorites from the States. It can be living in a bubble but the lack of hassle is nice.

    Cons

    It is a bureaucracy. Overseas, the bureaucracy is less but the home office can be insane! Moving from place to place involves far too many steps. Each time it feels like the bureaucracy is doing it for the first time. Despite the process for entering the Foreign Service being so rigorous, there are far too many bad managers. Most career managers are good but people promoted to the deputy chief of mission often have almost no management experience and then are managing 100 people. No wonder they fail. Except at the highest levels, members of the Foreign Service don't make policy. As a result, some find themselves advocating for policies against which they strongly object. One has to make peace with that.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Get more management training for mid-level officers. Actively identify bad managers earlier. Doing 360 reviews at the time of assignments is not enough. Ensure that feedback from subordinates is taken seriously. Change the evaluation system so it doesn't depend so much on the quality of the writing of your boss and doesn't overstate accomplishments and their significance.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
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  5.  

    Great Place to Intern

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

    I worked at US Department of State as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    The kinds of projects you work on and the experience and knowledge you gain, not to mention the advantage of being able to put State on your resume, somewhat make up for it being unpaid. Worked with smart, hardworking people -- State Dept. employees are 'diplomatic' in how they communicate with each other, so office atmosphere is very congenial. Plus, there are usually happy hour parties every other Friday.

    Cons

    I worked in a 'functional' office instead of a regional office, so I was able to work about 22 hours a week and still attend grad school full-time. Work consisted of day-to-day tasks and one long-term project -- not too stressful. However, I've heard from other interns that the regional offices are understaffed and desk officers are overworked, and interns are just running around putting fires out all day. If possible, do an internship at an embassy or consulate overseas -- more responsibilities, substantive work.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  6. 2 people found this helpful  

    Disappointing and deflating

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Rather Not Say in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Rather Not Say in Washington, DC

    I worked at US Department of State full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    Depending on what office, bureau or embassy you're at you meet some of the most fascinating people from around the world. The travel opportunity is unlike most and for Foreign Service Officers (FSO) it's obviously mandatory. The living facilities are fantastic for FSOs and they often get bonuses (can be substantially large) regardless of government cutbacks (separate funds than other departments and agencies). Most FSO are able to fly business class internationally which I suppose if a pro depending on what your view point is. Happy hours, receptions, and happy hours are common and many supervisors find holes so they Department pays for it. Working under a political appointee makes life much easier. Looks great on a resume when you leave. They have no problems buying you the most expensive desk chair, keyboard, lamps, or couch for your office if it's what you want. Very large salaries compared to other U.S. Government departments and agencies.

    Cons

    This was probably the least fulfilling and most deflating job I've ever had for quite a few reasons. The Foreign Service Officers for some reason have the largest sense of entitlement and arrogance you will come across at any organization. Obviously there are a select few that are exceptional but they are hard to come by. They truly believe that their work in combat zones is just as commendable as what our troops do (literally heard this from more people than I can count). You can't speak out about anything because of fear you'll be isolated.

    Speaking of troops they treat veterans like trash. There's absolutely no respect for them (probably has something to do with how they talk about "serving" like they are a veteran) and I watched multiple veterans have their career paths blocked for standing up for what's right. If you're on loan from DoD they can't touch you but no matter what you think they do talk trash behind your back always talk down to you. Unfortunately my mind was not blown when a 39 year old FSO demanded that he get the same respect as a Marine Colonel. Just what I came to expect at State.

    The new generation of mid level management is a serious problem; the older the supervisor the better from my experience (50yo and up). Good ideas are consistently ignored or blocked from being channeled to the executive levels. Money is thrown around like it's falling off trees and pretty much anything a section head wants they get. It's just flat out abuse of tax payers money. I watched a podium get purchase for 25k and a dining room table for almost quadruple that. Holiday decorations are actually a major priority for supervisors which I found to be appalling when I saw civil service have their bonuses denied (Civil service has tiny bonuses compared to FSOs. Like I mentioned before they come from different funds).

    Another issue is that it's nearly impossible to get fired if you're civil service and not capable of collecting retirement. Most civil service is worked to the bone for their first five or ten years and then they stop caring. They get paid complete garbage (especially when you compare to FSO salaries) and put up with the unbelievable attitudes of FSOs so maybe that has something to do with it.

    The ambassadors and secretaries (not a desk secretary) I worked with were pretty good to go for the most part but that's because most are old school State. The problem here is I think State treats FSOs like they are corporate execs in the private industry and that's where the arrogance and entitlement stems from.

    The Foreign Service uses the term "serving" a TON but in reality it looks as though it's U.S. tax payers serving them. Sure some FSOs go to what is called the "big three" (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan) but State pays tons of money to make sure they get their pools, booze, business class flights and great housing. Money is thrown down the drain and it's just flat out depressing if you truly care for Americans suffering from the economy.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Check the integrity of your mid-level management. More oversight on the higher scale FSOs and new SFS. It should be a privilege to work in the Foreign Service and that should be instilled back into the ranks.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  7.  

    Logistics Advisor

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

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

    Pros

    Excellent benefits, a lot of training opportunities and great options to grow.

    Cons

    You need to know someone to be hired or promoted.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    n/a

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  8.  

    Great place to work!

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

    I have been working at US Department of State full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    Culture of hard work, senior management interested in continuously improving the Department, compensation is on par with other gov organizations, opportunity for advancement, encouraged to think outside the box and to be creative.

    Cons

    Horrible work life balance, senior management interested in continuously improving things - even when there is no need, up our out FS system makes employees overly competitive, serious cultural divide between FS and CS.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Sometimes things are not broken. Don't try to fix everything - over and over again.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  9. 1 person found this helpful  

    My experience at DoS has had its highs and lows. Living overseas was the highlight.

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

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

    Pros

    Benefits: Health and medical coverage, federal retirement benefits, paid leave, and a chance to see the world and experience different cultures are major benefits of a career in the U.S. Foreign Service. Overseas benefits include paid housing or a housing allowance and paid education for dependent children between K-12.

    Additional Benefits: Tax free housing overseas, tax free educational allowance, etc. (See Benefits on our website for more information.) website is careers.state.gov.

    Any Foreign Service Specialist hired after October 1, 2013, who demonstrates FSI-tested Arabic language ability, will receive a one-time recruitment bonus.

    Cons

    A large bureaucratic society - sometimes comes across as cold and uncaring.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  10.  

    An excellent learning experience, albeit unpaid.

    Former Employee - Collections in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Collections in Washington, DC

    I worked at US Department of State full-time (less than an year)

    Pros

    I had a great time learning about the operations and history of the State Department. It also had the added benefit of being tailored towards the industry I wanted to work in (museums), which you wouldn't normally think of State having. The employees I worked with were kind and extraordinarily helpful, and the office I worked in had a good mix of civil service and foreign service officers, so I was able to see both sides of the types of careers available at State. I was also able to attend a number of events focusing on the Department specifically and DC in general, which all helped my decision to seek further employment opportunities in the District.

    Cons

    The fact that it was unpaid was a huge con. I know that this is in large part due to factors beyond their control, but it was frustrating nonetheless. I also found the bureaucracy to be a little stifling, particularly the security clearance process. A uniform approach to clearance is all well and good, but it is a bit ridiculous for a museum intern with no criminal history and fairly minimal foreign travel to have a clearance take as long or longer than someone who was actually working with secret documents, as opposed to documents that had been declassified years ago.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Allow for more flexibility in the clearance process, and pay your interns! Expand the Pathways programs so that "normal" interns aren't left in the cold after working for free.

  11. 1 person found this helpful  

    Soul sucker

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

    I have been working at US Department of State full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    Good money, interesting work, friendly environment

    Cons

    Government work is soul sucking. No incentives, productivity is meaningless for advancement, no difference between hard workers and lazy ones when it comes to raises, etc. Terrible management and ever increasing bureaucracy that totally stifles productivity.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

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