The Federal Bureau of Investigation, commonly known as the FBI, is an American agency tasked with investigating several federal crimes, including money laundering, public corruption, drug trafficking, and tax evasion. Thanks to countless movies and television shows, the agency is today a household name. As often portrayed in the silver screen, FBI agents often work individually or in pairs, their badges carefully clipped along their belt lines.
So, besides a knack for investigation, what else do you need to impress the FBI and get hired? Keep reading to learn the general education and experience requirements, as well as gain helpful tips that can help you stand head and shoulder above other candidates.
1. Meet the Basics
Like many federal agencies in the United States, employees are required to be American citizens with a clean criminal and drug background. If you have a shoplifting charge on your record, or you used to do drugs back in the day, consider yourself disqualified. The agency also conducts credit checks on applicants to ensure they have a clean financial history. Student loan defaulters, this is the end of the road for you! It is also routine for the agency to interrogate your social background. Expect your friends, neighbors, domestic workers, and foreign contacts to be approached for more information about you. In short, to work for the FBI, you must meet high standards of integrity.
Beyond the background, education and experience requirements needed for all FBI hires, special agents must be no younger than 23 and no older than 37 years old at the time of application. In addition, they must be physically fit. So if you want to give criminals a chase in downtown Manhattan, you better start beating your body into shape. Other requirements for special agents include:
- Possession of a valid driver’s license
- Have six months of driving experience
- Have lived in the US in at least three of the last five years (unless deployed overseas by the federal government)
2. Know the Available Positions
If your knowledge of the FBI only revolves around your collection of Hollywood films, you will be forgiven for thinking that the agency only hires the special agents who comb crime scenes, execute search warrants, or hunt down criminals in dark tunnels and even filthy strip clubs. Behind the scenes, there is an army of librarians, accountants, translators, administrators, and other professionals from diverse academic backgrounds working collectively to ensure criminals are arrested and promptly sent to jail. But heck, who wants to work as an accountant for the FBI? The thrill, no doubt, is in working as a special agent!
Nonetheless, the first step to finding a job with the FBI is familiarizing yourself with the various positions that are up for grabs, and then finding one that suits your background or area of interest. In a 2014 interview with Cosmopolitan, Supervisory Special Agent Brooke Gaynor notes that the agency recruits for various positions throughout the year, except for special agents whose application is only open during specific months. In 2015, the agency plans to hire over 3,500 new employees, 720 of whom are special agents. Evidently, only the best of the best receive the honor of working for the FBI.
3. Get a Degree and Gain Specialized Experience
The minimum employment requirements for many positions include a bachelor’s degree and a few years of professional work experience. If you aspire to work with human tissues or test body fluids at an FBI laboratory, for instance, then you must earn at least a bachelor’s degree in forensic or biological sciences. If you want to get hired as an ammunitions specialist, then a degree in firearms technology will give you the best preparation. Field agents typically come from law enforcement and criminal justice backgrounds.
Is there any specific academic field that can give you an edge? Well, with the recent surge in cyber-attacks, the agency is currently looking to hire more professionals with training in computer science or IT.
After getting your degree, proceed to find employment in a relevant field and gain some experience. This will help you to perfect your craft and develop the particular skills that are required for the job.
In the case of special agents, however, the FBI may substitute education for experience. This means that if you have a master’s or a doctoral degree, you only need two years of experience, instead of the three that is required for bachelor’s degree holders.
The FBI also runs the Honors Internship Program, which is open to undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral-level students. The paid 10-week summer program enables selected interns to work alongside FBI staffers and develop relevant job skills. Interns are drawn from diverse fields including archeology, business, engineering, aviation, history, and foreign languages. Although securing an FBI internship doesn’t guarantee you fulltime employment when you complete your studies, it will give you a competitive edge. FBI Honors Interns don’t need any specialized experience to qualify for fulltime employment. They only need a degree with a GPA of at least 3.0. It is tough to get the internship, though that should not discourage you from giving it a shot.
4. The Application Process
Once you have met the requirements outlined above, head over to the FBI Jobs website, create an account, fill out an application form, and submit. You only have one chance to fill out your form, so verify the information for accuracy before submitting. If your application passes the initial screening, you will be contacted for further processing. Next, you will be required to complete a series of written tests and in-person interviews conducted by FBI staff to assess your suitability for the job. Normally, professional staffers are hired at this stage. However, selected special agents are offered a conditional letter of employment, which means they will need to pass other tests, such as a medical examination that includes hearing and vision tests, before securing full employment. Agents must also demonstrate a high problem-solving, investigative, critical-thinking, and analytical ability.
5. Complete New Agent Training
It is not over yet for special agents. The last step to getting the opportunity to serve and defend your country is to join the FBI Academy and receive new agent training. Lasting 20 weeks, the training prepares new agents for real-life situations they will encounter. Expect to undergo intense physical training and learn more about firearms, behavioral science, ethics, and civil rights. At the end of the training, you will graduate at a ceremony attended by family and friends, receive your badge, credentials and firearm, and head out ready for your first assignment.
See also: How to Become a Detective
Special Agent Gaynor advises FBI job applicants to use social media networks wisely. As you can expect, the agency’s hiring specialists will comb through your profiles on Facebook, Twitter and whatnot, looking for little pieces of information that can discredit your integrity.
Finally, life in the FBI is challenging as it is rewarding. For special agents particularly, no day is ever the same. One day you could be gathering information from a source in Alaska, and the next you could be providing testimony in a court of law in Arizona. Hard work and dedication to FBI’s mission will play a big part in your career progression.
Over to you, and best of luck. If you have any thoughts, questions or remarks, feel free to use the comments sections below.