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RQ: What is the Retention Rate for SEOs?

with 3 comments

This week’s reader question:

Do you know the approximate retention rate for SEOs after 1, 2, 5, 10+ years?  What are some reasons SEOs leave the Foreign Service?

I do not have any “official” statistics on retention rates, so I will rely on a relatively small sample size to make some tentative conclusions.  I hate doing that, so if your experience is radically different… it’s not my fault.  All of the numbers I’ll mention should be taken with a grain of salt- I don’t know how everyone’s careers ended up or why.

Between my classmates and the classes before and after, about 50 SEOs entered the service.  Six (that I know of) left just after the first year was up.  Another five or six left after their first overseas assignment, several of which I know left because they felt it was not the best situation for their families (Side note: eligible family member (EFM) employment is usually the #1 reason why FSOs and FSSs quit).  About a dozen SEOs left for greener pastures in the private sector, but as far as I know they were after the money.  One SEO I know of did not get tenured.  Two converted to the FSO side.  Three retired recently due to age.  The other 15-20 or so SEOs left from my “era” are still around at various stages in their careers; I guess the final tally comes out to around a 50% retention rate.

The two most-cited reasons I usually hear people leave are spousal employment/lack of career opportunities for spouses and better pay in the private sector.  Also keep in mind this was pre-recession; I’m not sure what the going rates are these days for ex-SEOs, but I imagine you would be quite comfortable.  Some don’t like the travel, and some don’t like the lifestyle (although I don’t quite understand my one friend who joined the Foreign Service and said right off the bat that he didn’t want to live overseas…).  You’ll notice that tenure only appears once, and I don’t know of any SEO who has ever been involuntarily separated.


Written by OSB

29/04/2011 at 06:21

3 Responses

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  1. Thanks for this post – it is interesting to see retention rates and the reason why people choose to leave.

    I am a DS Special Agent candidate on the register which is quite long now. Do you have any insight on future hiring? Will DS be opening another vacancy announcement in FY2012 even though there is quite a long list of cleared candidates awaiting a class?

    DS Hopeful

    02/05/2011 at 11:14

    • I don’t know what the hiring plans are. Usually they put through around 100 special agent candidates per year these days, as there are usually 4 classes available to State at FLETC.


      02/05/2011 at 16:51

      • Thanks for the information. Appreciate it.

        DS Hopeful

        02/05/2011 at 19:29

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