Department of State Suggested FSOT Course List

Want to become a Foreign Service Officer and wondering if there is an FSOT suggested course list? You’re in luck! 

The Department of State created a list of the courses they suggest you take to help you prepare for the test. 

This post will dive into them and give you general suggestions for your preparation. 

FSOT suggested course list and descriptions

The suggested list is on the State Department’s website, but I’ll post what they’ve listed here.

At least one course in the following subjects can help you prepare for a Foreign Service Officer Career:

  • English Composition
  • Western Civilization
  • U.S. History
  • U.S. Political Systems
  • Comparative Politics
  • Geography
  • Principles of Economics
  • Non-Western History
  • International Trade/World Finance/Economic Development
  • U.S. Political System (Legislative Process, Role of President, Constitution, PACs, etc.)
  • U.S. Economic, Social, and/or Intellectual History
  • International Affairs
  • U.S. Foreign Policy
  • International Relations 

Yup, that’s all they share. Below, I’ve written a general description of each subject to provide more information.

English Composition: This course is designed to improve students’ writing skills by analyzing various texts and creating original written work. Students will learn how to construct well-supported arguments and effectively communicate their ideas through clear and concise writing.

Western Civilization: This course explores the development of Western culture from ancient Greece to the present day, focusing on critical events, ideas, and figures that have shaped Western society. Topics may include the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and the two World Wars.

U.S. History: This course covers the history of the United States from colonial times to the present day, focusing on key events, figures, and ideas that have shaped the country. Topics may include the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Cold War.

U.S. Political Systems: This course explores the structure and function of the U.S. political system, including the Constitution, the three branches of government, the role of political parties, and the electoral process. Students will also learn about the role of interest groups, the media, and public opinion in shaping U.S. politics.

Comparative Politics: This course compares and contrasts the political systems of different countries, with a focus on understanding the similarities and differences between different political systems and the factors that shape them.

Geography: This course examines the physical and human characteristics of the Earth’s surface, including the distribution of populations, resources, and economic activities. Topics may include climate, landforms, natural hazards, urbanization, and globalization.

Principles of Economics: This course introduces students to the basic concepts and principles of micro and macroeconomics, including supply and demand, market structures, money and banking, inflation, and economic growth.

Non-Western History: This course covers the history of countries and cultures outside of the Western world, with a focus on key events, figures, and ideas that have shaped these societies. Topics may include ancient China, the Islamic Golden Age, and the Indian Mughal Empire.

International Trade/World Finance/Economic Development: This course covers the economic interactions between countries, including trade, finance, and economic development. Students will learn about the benefits and costs of international trade, the role of international organizations, and the economic challenges facing developing countries.

U.S. Political System: This course examines the various aspects of the U.S. political system, including the legislative process, the role of the President, the Constitution, and the role of political action committees.

U.S. Economic, Social, or Intellectual History: This course explores the economic, social, and intellectual history of the United States, with a focus on key events, figures, and ideas that have shaped the country. Topics may include the Gilded Age, the Progressive Era, and the Civil Rights Movement.

International Affairs: This course covers the political, economic, and social interactions between countries, focusing on understanding the role of international organizations, the causes of war and peace, and the challenges facing the global community.

U.S. Foreign Policy: This course examines the goals, actions, and consequences of U.S. foreign policy, focusing on key events, figures, and ideas that have shaped the country’s international relations.

International Relations: This course covers the study of relations between countries, including the causes of war and peace, the role of international organizations, and the challenges facing the global community. Students will learn about the different theoretical perspectives and approaches used to analyze international relations and the significant actors and issues in the international system. Topics may include power and security, economic relations, international law, and global governance. The course will also explore the impact of globalization on international relations and the role of non-state actors in shaping world events.

General comments on the suggested FSOT course list

As a whole, many of these subjects should seem intuitive regarding a career in the Foreign Service. If you are in or have gone through college as a social study major, especially international relations/affairs, then you’ve probably taken many of these courses already. 

If the list looks foreign to you, then do not worry. Many subjects intermingle with one another, especially at the college level. If I had to distill to just three, a good set of courses in U.S. History, Political Geography, and Economics will provide you with a breadth of understanding in all the subjects listed. 

If you’re in college and thinking of becoming a diplomat and joining the Foreign Service, consider taking a course in one of the listed subjects. Note that none of these subjects are required to join the FS. You could take the test and do well on the assessment if all you do is read a periodical routinely. 

If you’re not in college and are interested in these courses, here are a few options:

  1. Look to see if you can take a class at your local community college or university. You may be able to audit the course for free.
  2. Look online for free resources. Crash Course is an excellent one if you prefer videos. Otherwise, a good 101 book, such as For Dummies book series, works. 
  3. Check out an online MOOC such as Coursera.

General comments on preparing for the FSOT

Here is an excellent post on how to prepare for the FSOT. In the end, the suggested course list above and the suggested reading list are beneficial to review, but they are not necessary for passing. The best approach is to take several practice tests and then study the areas where you have the least experience. The latter is when reviewing the book list and courses can help.

Thanks for reading! Want to receive guidance on joining the Foreign Service, including recommended preparation resources? Join a community of people interested in the FS and going through the application process. Enter your email now and join us.

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