After you complete orientation and training in Washington, D.C., as a newly hired Foreign Service Officer, you are assigned overseas, or at this time even possibly have a domestic assignment. Typically, the first two overseas tours (usually two years each) are designed to develop your talents in different working environments and ensure that you attain foreign language skills. You will hold a variety of positions within a five-year probationary period in order to demonstrate your qualifications for tenure as a career Foreign Service Officer and to see if the Foreign Service is the right fit. As part of this process, you will perform two to three years on average of consular work, and may expect an assignment to at least one hardship post.
You are given the opportunity to express your preference for postings from a list of positions available at the time of entry into the Foreign Service. Personal and professional goals, training requirements, and medical and educational concerns for family members are the types of considerations the Department takes into account. When making assignments, however, the needs of the Service remain paramount. It is possible you may not serve in positions related to your career track during the first two assignments. However, if you have critical language skills you should expect to serve in positions using your language skills in their first or second assignment. Later, as you move to the mid-career ranks, you may be required to serve again in a country that uses that language skill.
All officers are considered worldwide available and must be prepared to go where needed; you must be ready, at any time, to meet the needs of the Service. You should be aware that an increasing number of posts are considered "hardship," that is, in isolated, unhealthful and perhaps dangerous environments. Some posts will not allow accompanying family members.