The U.S. Department of State is developing a rank-ordered list of eligible hires for a limited number of Foreign Service Special Agent (SA) vacancies based on the needs of the Department. Learn more about a career in the Foreign Service and about the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
Joining the Foreign Service is more than just salary. Refer to the Benefits section for more information on total compensation.
This is a 2501 Foreign Service position equivalent to the 1811 Civil Service series.
Diplomatic Security (DS) Special Agents (SA) are sworn federal law enforcement officers who are responsible for the security of personnel, property, and sensitive information throughout the world. DS SAs also are responsible for the protection of the Secretary of State, certain foreign dignitaries during their visits to the U.S., and others as designated by the Secretary of State. DS SAs investigate passport, visa, and document fraud, as well as federal crimes in the Special Territorial and Maritime Jurisdiction.
DS SAs, depending upon assignment, are responsible for Department of State security policies, provision of a range of security services, management of security operations, supervision of subordinate staff, and the performance of some, or all, of the following functions:
- Conducting protective security services for the Secretary of State, other U.S. government officials, and visiting foreign dignitaries.
- Leading and managing U.S. diplomatic mission security programs at overseas posts to include protection of personnel, facilities, and sensitive information, along with oversight of the U.S. Marine Security Guard and local security guard programs.
- Conducting investigations, to include administrative investigations, criminal investigations, counterintelligence and counter-terrorism inquiries, and investigative work preparing for court appearances, and testifying in court and other legal proceedings.
- Conducting or implementing programs involved with safeguarding classified and sensitive information and materials, as derived from Presidential Directives or Executive Orders.
- Assessing physical security threats against U.S. interests, properties, systems, and other diplomatic installations and personnel abroad, as well as investigating actual or potential hostile intelligence attempts to subvert U.S. personnel and interests overseas.
- Leading, managing, or implementing security-related aspects of new office building construction; developing and implementing counter-terrorist access controls for existing and new buildings.
- Conducting, leading, and managing security-related training, and training assistance programs for U.S. foreign affairs agencies' personnel, and police / security officials of designated foreign governments.
- Responding to emergency situations, which may include the use of firearms, defensive tactics, and medical procedures.
- Communicating and coordinating with others in Diplomatic Security, the Department of State, other government agencies, local and foreign security and law enforcement, non-government agencies, and the American public overseas, including cultivating and maintaining contacts.
- Preparing and reviewing written documents, attending meetings, delivering briefings, making recommendations, answering questions, and participating on committees and task forces.
- Performing managerial work such as determining staffing requirements, assigning work, monitoring and supervising, evaluating performance, resolving complaints, procuring supplies and services, budgeting, maintaining internal controls, and other administrative tasks.
- Keeping informed of current events, updating knowledge and skills, and maintaining mental and physical fitness to do the job.
When assigned abroad, which is about half a typical career, SAs serve as security program managers at U.S. diplomatic or consular posts. At overseas posts, DS SAs are referred to as Regional Security Officers (RSO) and are responsible for the leadership and management of a broad range of security programs to protect personnel, facilities, operations, and information against foreign intelligence, criminal, and terrorist activities. DS also conducts overseas investigations for the Department of State and other federal agencies. DS RSOs are assigned regional responsibilities, and may serve FS posts in several countries, which may require frequent travel.
Conditions of Employment
- Be a U.S. citizen and available for worldwide service.
- Be at least 20 years old to apply and not older than 36 years.
- Be able to pass a preemployment physical readiness test.
- Be able to obtain/maintain Top Secret Security Clearance and TS/SCI access.
- Be able to meet the minimum medical qualification standard.
- Be able to meet additional physical requirements specific for the position.
- Be able to obtain a favorable Suitability Review Panel determination.
- Be able to testify in court.
Foreign Service Specialists generally spend the majority of their careers assigned to overseas missions and at times, live away from family and/or in difficult or isolated conditions. SAs generally will be assigned to one of eight domestic Field Offices for their first two years of service (including training). There may, however, be occasions when new SAs will be assigned to other domestic units, support temporary duty assignments, or sent directly overseas. Needs of the service will have a significant bearing on SA assignments; sometimes domestic assignments will be shortened for re-assignment to a Regional Security Office at an overseas post.
SAs must be willing and able to travel extensively, and on short notice, throughout the world using whatever means available. Traveling and assignments abroad may involve working in remote areas where traditional comforts and medical facilities are limited. SAs may be required to travel to locations of civil unrest, where conditions are potentially hostile, and where performance of duties are conducted under hazardous circumstances.
Candidates must possess at the time of application at least one year of work experience or academic achievements that reflect progressively increasing levels of responsibility.
Work experience must demonstrate basic knowledge of management, such as supervision, initiative, and leadership, and teamwork, English skills, including writing, speaking, and listening, conceptual skills, such as planning and organizing, critical thinking, active learning, and sound judgment, interpersonal skills, including perceptiveness, persuasion, working with others, cultural adaptability, objectivity, and integrity.
Knowledge of security principles and procedures and the administration of security programs, such as conducting investigations, threat assessments, service in a law enforcement agency, or service in the U.S., military, is preferred, but not required. Proficiency in a foreign language is preferred, but not required.
Applicants with 18 credit hours of graduate level study may substitute that academic achievement for a year of work experience. Applicants who do not have a minimum of 18 credit hours of graduate study may substitute the following educational achievements for one year of work experience: 2.75 GPA (or above) for the bachelor's degree and two internships totaling at least four months duration.
Applicants are required to qualify with firearms during initial training and maintain that proficiency thereafter. Applicants must be willing to use and carry firearms throughout their career. Applicants must not have been convicted of any felony charge or be prohibited from possessing a firearm.
SAs must perform duties in the field that are physically and mentally demanding. SAs must be willing and able to meet these physical demands in high-stress, life-and-death situations. For this reason, SA applicants must satisfy medical, suitability, and physical readiness standards that are more rigorous than for other professions. Applicants must be fit for strenuous physical exertion and pass a Bureau of Diplomatic Security-administered pre-employment physical readiness test. The current physical readiness standards can be found at https://careers.state.gov/downloads/files/prt-test-standards and the Physical Readiness Guide can be found at https://careers.state.gov/uploads/40/cb/40cb27c284be5d1700aef20231c253b4/DS-PRT-Guide-Revised-161019.pdf. Please note that these standards are subject to change.
SAs are required to perform protective security assignments with physical demands that may include, but are not limited to, intermittent and prolonged periods of running, walking, standing, sitting, squatting, kneeling, climbing stairs, quickly entering and exiting various vehicles, pushing, pulling, dragging objects or people, wearing heavy body amour and gear, as well as carrying and fully operating a variety of firearms. SAs must also endure long or unusual hours, inclement weather, lack of sleep, rest, or meals, jetlag, extremes of heat and cold, and wet or polluted environments. Applicants must pass a thorough medical examination authorized by the Department of State's Office of Medical Services.
SA applicants must meet certain minimum sensory standards, including various tests for vision in each eye, with and without correction, as well as audio-metric standards for hearing in each ear (use of a hearing aid is not permitted), sufficient to satisfactorily perform an Agent's duties. For example, uncorrected distant vision must be 20/100 or better in each eye and corrected to 20/20 in one eye and 20/30 or better in the other eye. Applicants must also pass color vision and depth perception tests.
SAs conduct raids, make arrests, and perform other law enforcement or related functions that may require running, jumping, kneeling, squatting, dodging, lying prone, as well as wrestling, restraining, and subduing suspects, attackers, or detainees. SAs must be able, if necessary, to conduct security inspections that may require crawling under vehicles and other low clearances or in tight spaces such as attics and crawl spaces.
It may also be necessary for SAs to assist with installing or maintaining security countermeasures, which might involve lifting heavy objects and working on ladders or rooftops.
SAs must possess and maintain a valid U.S. driver's license and be skilled at driving and maneuvering a motor vehicle defensively or evasively in a variety of situations, and at various speeds. Individuals must be able to pass specialized driving courses during initial training. Those invited to the in-person assessment will be required to provide proof of a valid U.S. driver's license.
SA candidates will be trained in many of the above skills to include firearms training, defensive tactics, how to physically restrain a suspect, and specialized driving techniques. SA candidates must be able to participate in and complete all aspects of their training. Any physical condition that would cause the candidate to be a hazard to himself/herself or others, including those they are protecting or placing under arrest, is potentially disqualifying.
Applicants must successfully complete all aspects of the seven month initial training program for their candidacy and their employment to be continued; failure to pass any aspect of the initial training, including Physical Readiness Tests, is grounds for separation.
All SA candidates must undergo a thorough background investigation to determine eligibility for a security clearance. SA candidates and, with few exceptions, all immediate family members, must be citizens of the United States in order for the candidate to qualify for SCI access.
The background investigation will also determine the extent to which candidates can provide credible testimony. Candidates must disclose as part of the investigation information that could be used to impeach their character, including: (a) any finding of misconduct that reflects on the truthfulness or possible bias of the applicant, including a finding of lack of candor during an administrative inquiry; (b) any past or pending criminal charge brought against the candidate; and (c) any credible allegation of misconduct that reflects upon the truthfulness or possible bias of the candidate that is the subject of a pending investigation. Applicants whose backgrounds contain impeachment information of the kind described above may be unqualified for this position.
At the time of application, applicants must possess at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university.
If your Diplomatic Security Special Agent Test (DSSAT) results qualify, you will be asked via email from the Department of State to submit documentation demonstrating your educational achievements. If you do not submit this documentation by the deadline indicated in the email, your candidacy will not continue.
Official or unofficial transcripts may be submitted. Your transcript must include your name, the school's name, the degree, and date awarded. A transcript missing any of these elements or any pages will not pass the minimum qualifications and your candidacy will not continue. Copies of diplomas may not be submitted in lieu of transcripts for education above high school level. Education from a program or institution within the United States must be accredited at the time of completion by an accrediting institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation.
Education completed in foreign high schools, colleges or universities may be used to meet the education requirements if you can show that the foreign education is comparable to that received in an accredited educational institution in the United States. It is your responsibility to provide such evidence when applying. Only accredited organizations recognized as specializing in the interpretation of foreign education credentials that are members of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) or the Association of International Credential Evaluators, Inc. (AICE) are accepted. If documentation from an accredited organization is not provided, your candidacy will not continue.
For further information on the evaluation of foreign education, please refer to the Office of Personnel Management and the U.S. Department of Education. The U.S. Department of State neither endorses nor recommends any individual evaluation service.
U.S. Department of Education: http://www.ed.gov
EMPLOYMENT ELIGIBILITY VERIFICATION PROGRAM (E-Verify) - Verification of employment eligibility in the United States is required.
U.S. law requires companies to employ only individuals who may legally work in the United States - either U.S. citizens, or foreign citizens who have the necessary authorization. This agency uses E-Verify to compare information from the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) records to confirm employment eligibility. If the employee's information does not match DHS and/or SSA records, the employee is given an opportunity to resolve the problem. If eligibility cannot be verified, employment will be terminated.
By authority of the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act, the Department requires that all career candidates (except for preference-eligible veterans) be at least 21 years old to be appointed and must be appointed prior to the month in which they reach age 37. There is no waiver for current GS-1811s seeking a 2501 appointment at or above age 37 (except for preference eligible veterans.)
For more information about how Veteran's Preference is applied in the selection process, please visit https://careers.state.gov/about/diversity-inclusion/veterans-program-office/.
The Department of State Suitability Review Panel and standards are defined in Chapter 3 of the Foreign Affairs Manual. For more information please visit: https://fam.state.gov/.
No applicant will be considered who has previously been separated from the Foreign Service under sections §607, §608, §610 or §612 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, as amended, or who resigned or retired in lieu of separation under these provisions. In addition, no applicant will be considered who has previously been separated for failure to receive a career appointment under section §306 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, as amended, or who resigned or retired in lieu thereof.
A Foreign Service Specialist separated for failure to receive a career appointment under section 306 may not re-apply to be in the same skill code, but may apply for another skill code or to be a Foreign Service Generalist.
Executive Branch agencies are barred by 5 US Code 2302(b)(2) from soliciting or considering prohibited political recommendations and are required to return any prohibited political recommendations to sender. In addition, as mandated by 5 US Code 3110, relatives of public officials may not be appointed, employed, promoted, or advanced in or to a position if such employment is advocated by their relative.
It is the policy of the Federal Government to treat all employees with dignity and respect and to provide a workplace that is free from discrimination whether discrimination is based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity or pregnancy), national origin, disability, political affiliation, marital status, membership in an employee organization, age, sexual orientation, or other non-merit factors.
The Department of State provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities. Applicants requiring reasonable accommodations for any part of the application or hiring process should advise the Department at OAA@state.gov within one week of a vacancy announcement opening or receipt of an invitation to the oral assessment. Decisions granting reasonable accommodations are made on a case-by-case basis.
A career with the U.S. government provides employees with a comprehensive benefits package. As a federal employee, you and your family will have access to a range of benefits that are designed to make your federal career very rewarding. Opens in a new window Learn more about federal benefits.
Benefits include health and medical coverage, federal retirement benefits, and paid leave. Overseas benefits include tax-free housing overseas, tax-free education allowance for dependent children between K-12 overseas, and an unrivaled opportunity to see the world and experience different cultures. Special Agents assigned domestically are eligible for situational telework.
Additional Salary Information
The salary listed is from the FS Overseas Pay scale and the FS Washington DC Pay scale. Newly hired agents will begin earning an additional 25% Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP) once they have started the Basic Special Agent Course, which commences after the Department orientation course.
For information on Foreign Service salary, please visit https://careers.state.gov/benefits/fs-entry-salaries/
Review our benefits
Eligibility for benefits depends on the type of position you hold and whether your position is full-time, part-time or intermittent. Contact the hiring agency for more information on the specific benefits offered.
You will be evaluated for this job based on how well you meet the qualifications above.
Candidates will be evaluated on their total background including experience, education, awards, training, and self-development as it relates to the position. Selection for this position will be made only from among candidates possessing the best qualifications. Part-time work experience will be prorated.
Selected candidates will complete approximately seven months of specialized initial training and orientation. About three months of that training will occur at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Brunswick, Georgia. Orientation will take place in the Washington, DC area and additional training will be provided in Blackstone, VA. During their careers, SAs must serve both overseas and domestically, for assignments of one to three years in duration. Additional training, including training for high risk, high threat assignments, will be periodically required throughout a Special Agent's career.
The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) program develops and tests proficiency in job-related subjects that include criminal law, federal court procedures, use of firearms, physical readiness, personal defensive tactics, driving skills, emergency medical procedures, protective security techniques, and criminal investigations. Proficiency is measured through a series of scored practical exercises, as well as subject matter-specific and comprehensive written examinations. Failure to successfully complete any portion of the training program is grounds for separation. Upon satisfactory completion of FLETC, students will continue with approximately four additional months of DS Basic Special Agent training.
Within one year after graduating from the Basic Special Agent Course, newly hired SAs will be required to enroll in the "Advanced Tactics, Leadership, and Skills" (ATLaS) course offered through the Diplomatic Security Training Center. The ATLaS course is 11 weeks long and focuses on enhanced tactics, training and leadership skills. All SAs are required to take this course and complete a refresher course every five years.
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