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Where can immersion students work? More might want to look at the State Department

August 1, 2022

According to the website The Hill:

A 2020 Council on Foreign Relations report notes that at the State Department, “language-designated positions overseas are 15 percent vacant, and 24 percent of those staffed are filled by officers who do not meet the minimum language requirement.” The Defense Department has over 30,000 language positions, many of which it cannot fill. This  deficit has greatly hampered the United States in diplomacy, intelligence gathering, war fighting, and nation building.

I read the report, and it makes some interesting points:

The first is the importance of the State Department and American diplomatic efforts overall:

The State Department’s ranks are still among the most talented professional public servants anywhere in the government. When properly empowered and entrusted with significant responsibilities, American diplomats play essential roles in consequential outcomes for the country.

Second is the crucial, but often underappreciated work the State Department does in the realm of climate change. Today’s college students are increasingly focusing on sustainability, environmental and climate change as areas of study, with 39% of students saying it’s the important topic facing the world.

Traditionally, the State Department has played the leading role in negotiating international climate agreements, including the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, the most ambitious climate agreement ever reached.

Finally, there is a big need for Chinese speakers (or there was in 2020):

DOS still has more Portuguese speakers than Arabic and Chinese combined.

DOS still has more Portuguese speakers than Arabic and Chinese combined.

Given these things, the Foreign Service might be someplace high school students getting ready for college might aim for. There’s change afoot, including a newly improved selection system that is the first significant change to the process since 1930. As the State Department said last month:

The Department is moving away from the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) as a pass/fail gateway test and expanding focus on a candidate’s education and experience for a more holistic approach in the selection process.

As high school students get asked “what are you going to do with Chinese in college,” this is perhaps something for them to think about as they put together their class lists and consider the future.

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