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Foreign Service Officer

Foreign service officers work both in Canada and in diplomatic offices in countries around the world providing advice to the Canadian government on foreign policy matters, and acting on behalf of Canada abroad.

Also Known As

Conflict Resolution Specialist, Diplomat, Dispute Resolution Specialist, Trade Commissioner, Cultural Interpreter, Immigration Officer Abroad, Political Economic Officer

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Program Officers Unique to Government (4168) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Program Officers Unique to Government (E037) 
  • 2011 NOC: Program officers unique to government (4168) 
  • 2016 NOC: Program officers unique to government (4168) 
Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Program Officers Unique to Government

2006 NOC: 4168

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group
DIRECTIVE

Interest in co-ordinating information to organize the logistics and administration of elections within constituencies and to ensure that electoral and voting procedures are followed; and in planning logistics and overseeing diplomatic protocol of official visits to Canada by foreign politicians and dignitaries

INNOVATIVE

Interest in co-ordinating administrative support services for legislative committees, royal commissions and tribunals

SOCIAL

Interest in consulting with and advising politicians and diplomats on the social, economic and political effects of government decisions on other governments in Canada and abroad

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 

It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective, and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes for this NOC group is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn About Interests

Abilities

Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Duties
Updated Mar 02, 2021

In general, foreign service officers are responsible for:

  • Scientific, technical and information exchanges
  • Economic and political reporting
  • Negotiation with host countries
  • Public affairs activities
  • Promotion of trade and financial interests
  • Administration of Canadian missions abroad
  • Management of immigration programs
  • Assistance to Canadians travelling, studying and working abroad

All foreign service officers must keep informed about the latest developments in Canadian policy including current immigration regulations, guidelines and policies.

Foreign service officers are recruited and trained by the Canadian government for service in one of four streams. The responsibilities of those in each stream vary depending on whether they are working abroad in diplomatic offices or in Canada.

The duties of foreign service officers in the political economic stream when abroad include:

  • Economic and political analysis of events in the host country
  • Advancement of Canadian foreign policy
  • Management of information regarding the host country and Canadian policy
  • Consular and administrative tasks

When stationed in Canada, they may be responsible for:

  • Advising government representatives on the positions of other countries
  • Media relations regarding Canadian foreign policy
  • Supporting operations abroad
  • Dealing with foreign diplomats in Canada

The duties of foreign service officers employed in the immigration stream when abroad include:

  • Selecting candidates who want to become permanent residents of Canada
  • Making decisions on the visa applications of visitors, students and temporary workers
  • Assisting local airport authorities in identifying passengers seeking to enter Canada using false identification and travel documents
  • Developing relationships with host governments, media, ethnic and religious groups, foreign missions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and airlines to further Canadian interests
  • Managing and training of other staff
  • Preparing briefings on migration issues or the social, cultural and economic situation of the country in which they work, to contribute to immigration policy development

In Canada, foreign service officers in this stream may be responsible for:

  • Advising the Minister and other senior management on specific immigration issues
  • Managing and developing immigration programs and policies
  • Managing assignments, postings and training for other staff
  • Providing operational support to their colleagues overseas
  • Monitoring immigration targets and changes in refugee flows
  • Developing programs and policies on sponsored relatives, students, visitors, and temporary workers
  • Analyzing or developing financial or administrative strategies
  • Negotiating bilateral agreements on issues such as border controls or illegal migration

When abroad, foreign service officers in the international trade stream are responsible for helping Canada to gain a greater share of the world market. The duties of international trade officers may include:

  • Negotiating trade agreements
  • Advising Canadian exporters and investors
  • Facilitating partnerships between Canadian and foreign researchers
  • Analyzing global economic and commercial developments
  • Promoting Canada to foreign companies
  • Positioning Canada and Canadian companies as leaders in Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Representing Canada at the World Trade Organization (WTO), Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

In Canada, when stationed in Ottawa or assigned to a regional International Trade Centre elsewhere in the country, foreign service officers in this stream may be responsible for policy formation and specialized areas of trade development.

When abroad, officers in the management and consular affairs stream are responsible for managing administrative programs at Canadian Missions. Their duties may include:

  • Administering program budgets
  • Negotiating leases and facilities for offices and staff quarters
  • Managing security issues for embassies and consulates
  • Managing human resource programs for local staff
  • Conducting cost of living surveys
  • Providing services to distressed Canadians living, working or travelling abroad
Working Conditions
Updated Mar 02, 2021
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

Foreign service officers are based in Ottawa or regional offices across Canada. Commitment to being rotational (moving to positions throughout headquarters, to regional offices in Canada and to any of Canada's 170 offices worldwide) is required. Assignments for foreign service officers usually are two to four years abroad.

Foreign service officers must be prepared to work anywhere in the world. In some countries, there are restrictions on personal movement for political or safety reasons. The housing provided is normally in good condition but, in some countries, water must be filtered and food disinfected. Food products may be unfamiliar in local markets and there may be endless line ups. It usually is not possible for spouses to work abroad.

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 02, 2021

In general, foreign service officers need:

  • An adventurous spirit
  • To be service oriented
  • Flexibility required to change lifestyles
  • Patience
  • Good judgment
  • A sense of humour
  • Awareness of local customs, culture and business practices
  • Initiative
  • The ability to work as part of a team
  • Strong listening skills and excellent oral and written communication skills

In addition, those employed in the political economic stream need:

  • A tolerance for uncertainty
  • Analytical abilities
  • Decision making skills
  • Strong negotiation skills

Those employed in the immigration stream need:

  • The ability to deal with people at all levels of society
  • The ability to handle stress
  • Decisiveness
  • The ability to assess human potential
  • Sound and consistent judgements

Those employed in the international trade stream need:

  • To be results oriented
  • Sensitivity to local customs and business practices
  • Ability to anticipate changes
  • Networking and alliance building skills
  • Enthusiasm
  • Self-motivation and proactiveness
  • To be respectful

Foreign service officers should enjoy coordinating information and taking charge of situations, finding innovative solutions to problems, and consulting with and advising people.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 02, 2021
  • Minimum Education 6 years post-secondary

Applications for foreign service officer positions are accepted once a year (usually in the fall) by the Public Service Commission of Canada. To be eligible to apply, applicants must be:

  • Canadian citizens
  • Able to reach the required level of bilingualism within one year
  • Willing to accept assignments anywhere in the world
  • Able to qualify for a top secret security clearance
  • Medically suitable to go abroad

The academic qualifications required are subject to change. For recent competitions, eligibility was open to candidates who had a degree in any field, except for the management and consular affairs stream for which the requirement was a graduate degree in administration, management, accounting, industrial or labour relations, psychology or sociology.

Process and Training

Applicants are required to take a written examination. The examination usually is administered in universities and government offices across Canada in the fall of each year by the Public Service Commission of Canada. The examination measures verbal, numerical and reasoning ability, situational judgment and written communication skills.

The names of those who have achieved satisfactory scores are forwarded by the Public Service Commission to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and to Citizenship and Immigration Canada for screening. The screening process for candidates includes reference and security checks, an interview to assess competencies and a test to assess the applicant's capacity to learn Canada's official languages.

Offers of employment are made once the selection process is complete and a match is made with available positions.

Newly selected foreign service officers are placed on probation for one or more years depending on their stream. Training is provided in the stream for which they were selected.

Political economic and international trade stream officers train for up to four years in Ottawa through the Foreign Service Development Program (FSDP). Their extensive in-class and on-the-job training includes:

  • Courses in department procedures
  • Training in Canadian policies and programs abroad
  • Necessary foreign language training
  • Courses related to the specific duties of their assignment

Immigration stream officers train for eight months to two years in Ottawa. They receive training in:

  • Immigration legislation, regulations and procedures
  • Policy issues and special programs such as refugee and humanitarian programs
  • Passport services
  • Interviewing techniques
  • Fraudulent document detection
  • Consular responsibilities involving assistance to Canadians

Management and consular stream officers spend up to two years in Ottawa being trained in departmental administration systems and procedures, consular policies and program requirements.

Foreign service officers receive foreign language training if required prior to their posting abroad.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 02, 2021
  • Certification Not Regulated

Applicants are required to take a written examination. The examination usually is administered in universities and government offices across Canada in the fall of each year. The examination measures verbal, numerical and reasoning ability, situational judgment and written communication skills.

The names of those who have achieved satisfactory scores are forwarded by the Public Service Commission to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade for screening. The screening process for candidates includes reference and security checks, an interview to assess competencies and a test to assess the applicant's capacity to learn Canada's official languages.

Offers of employment are made once the selection process is complete and a match is made with available positions.

Newly selected foreign service officers are placed on probation for one or more years depending on their stream. Training is provided in the stream for which they were selected.

Political economic stream officers train for up to four years in Ottawa. Their training includes:

  • Courses in department procedures
  • Training in Canadian policies and programs abroad
  • Necessary foreign language training
  • Courses related to the specific duties of their assignment

Immigration stream officers train for eight months to two years in Ottawa. They receive training in:

  • Immigration legislation, regulations and procedures
  • Policy issues and special programs such as refugee and humanitarian programs
  • Passport services
  • Interviewing techniques
  • Consular responsibilities involving assistance to Canadians

International trade stream officers train in Ottawa for up to four years. The first year is generally divided into assignments of a trade promotion nature. The second year is spent training for their assignments and receiving the necessary foreign language training.

Management and consular stream officers spend up to two years in Ottawa being trained in departmental administration systems and procedures, consular policies and program requirements.

All officers receive foreign language training if required prior to their posting abroad.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 02, 2021

Political economic stream officers, international trade stream officers and management and consular stream officers are employed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Immigration stream officers are employed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Five to six thousand applications are received each year. From those applicants, only several hundred make it to the screening stage and approximately a quarter of those interviewed are selected as potential candidates. The number of positions available varies from year to year.

After a probation period, officers whose performance satisfies the needs of the program are promoted to the next level. For the management and consular stream, advancement is dependent on work performance and the availability of positions at the next level.

Foreign service officers may request cross-stream assignments to broaden their knowledge.

In Alberta, the 4168: Program officers unique to government occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 0% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 0 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Note
NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 02, 2021

New recruits entering the Foreign Service Department Program whose proficiency in either official language is not sufficient will receive official language training for up to 52 weeks. During this period, participants will not be employees of the federal government but will receive a stipend of 80 percent of the starting salary for the training period. If they cannot achieve the required proficiency in the 52 weeks allotted, they will not receive an offer of employment into the Foreign Service Officer Development Program (FSDP) or the Management Consular Officer Training Program (MCTP).

In addition to their salaries and their health, dental and pension benefits, foreign service officers may receive a premium for serving abroad, a cost-of-living allowance or a hardship allowance. Foreign service officers also may receive:

  • Supplemental vacation leave with payment of some travel costs
  • An allotment for moving personal effects
  • Equivalent-to-Canada medical care
  • Child care subsidies and paid educational costs for children overseas

While serving abroad, foreign service officers and their families are usually housed in government leased and furnished accommodations but must pay rent. In certain regions, mainly in Western Europe and the United States, foreign service officers are required to seek a private lease, but will not be required to pay rent above the levels paid by their colleagues housed in government leased accommodations.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Program officers unique to government

2016 NOC: 4168
Average Wage
$59.45
Per Hour
Average Salary
$109,640.00
Per Year
Average Hours
35.4
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
12
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

Source
2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 4168 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production), and other forms of compensation.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $25.64 $74.73 $51.40 $39.10
Overall $29.88 $82.97 $59.45 $50.69
Top $33.33 $91.21 $64.18 $50.69

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

ALL INDUSTRIES
Public Administration

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
25%
25%)
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
N/A
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
0%
0%
Vacancy Rate
N/A
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Business, Management and Administrative Studies
  • Communications
  • Humanities and Languages
  • Sciences
  • Social Sciences, Law and Religious Studies
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 02, 2021

Global Affairs and International Trade recruitment website: www.international.gc.ca/global-affairs-affaires-mondiales/corporate-ministere/contact-contactez/jobs-emplois.aspx?lang=eng

Citizenship and Immigration Canada website: www.canada.ca/en/services/immigration-citizenship

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 02, 2021. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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