Learn How to Become an FBI Agent
1) A bachelor's degree plus three years of work experience are required. (Common degrees for FBI Agents are Computer Forensics, Information Security, Computer Crime/Cyber Crime, Biology, and a Criminal Justice Degree.) Currently, desired skill sets for special agents are in computer forensics, information security and cybercrime. Applicants with these skills have the greatest chance of being hired by the FBI.
2) Review the requirements to make sure you qualify.
3) Go to the FBI website and find the Special Agent Employment section where you can find job application information.
4) Find your local FBI field office and contact them for more application and testing information.
FBI Special Agent Career Information
The FBI was founded in 1908 and has evolved into the one of the most specialized and sophisticated investigative agencies in the world. The primary goal of the FBI is to provide national security to the citizens of the United States. The FBI's major investigative priorities are counterterrorism, counterintelligence, cybersecurity, public corruption, civil rights, organized crime, white collar crime, major thefts and violent crimes.
An FBI Special Agent's primary role is as an investigator. FBI agents also provide criminal justice services to federal, state, county and international law enforcement agencies. In the majority of cases, Special Agents assisting other agencies may not be involved in the arrest and prosecution of the case. Many times the special agents will have moved on to a new investigation before an arrest has officially taken place.
Most importantly, special agents are responsible for protecting the United States from terrorist and foreign intelligence threats. Special Agents don't have a typical 9-to-5 job. FBI jobs can require many hours away from home and family, sometimes weeks on end during an investigation. There are also many special agents stationed overseas. Though being an FBI Special Agent can be a very demanding job, the rewards are well worth all the hard work.
FBI Special Agent Requirements
The application process for the FBI is rigorous and competitive and some of the best advice out there is to get skills that set you apart from the other applicants, such as:
- Speaking a foreign language fluently
- Having specialized computer skills
- Earning an advanced college degree
The specific requirements for an FBI Special Agent are as follows:
- You must be a United States Citizen, between the ages of 23 and 37
- You must have an accredited four-year college or university degree (no exceptions)
- You must have three years of professional work experience
- You must have a valid driver's license and be available for assignment anywhere in the FBI's jurisdiction
FBI Special Agent applicants must also meet FBI physical requirements and pass an in-depth background check. When all these qualifications have been met, new special agents attend an intensive 18-week training program at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
What Salary Can an FBI Special Agent Expect to Make?
Now that you know how to become an FBI agent, you'll be wondering about the FBI salary you can make. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2012-13 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for police and detectives, which put special agents in this category, is $55,010. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
4-Year College or University Degree Requirement
One of the primary requirements to become an FBI agent is to get a college degree. The FBI does not have a preference for educational background or what an applicant's 4-year degree is in (though an education that develops analytical and research skills is desirable). Example degrees the FBI mentions on its website are a law degree, an accounting degree and an engineering degree.
Many colleges and universities have developed specialized criminal justice and homeland security degree programs to prepare students for jobs with agencies like the FBI. The following schools offer 4-year degrees in criminal justice, homeland security, accounting, and engineering. Scroll down and request information from the schools that interest you most.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data published March 27, 2012.
Online Criminal Justice Schools
- BSCJ - Law Enforcement (Online)
- MSCJ - Law (Online)
- Bachelor of Arts - Law Enforcement Administration (Online)
- Bachelor's - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement (Online)
- Bachelor of Science - Criminal Justice - Law Enforcement (Online)
- Bachelor's in Criminal Justice - Police (Online)
- Master's in Criminal Justice with Federal Law Enforcement Specialization (Online)
- M.S. in Criminal Justice - Law Enforcement (Online)