The Inside Scoop: How to Become an FBI Special Agent

Sponsored by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

Photo Courtesy of The FBI

Photo Courtesy of The FBI

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So you want to become an FBI Special Agent? 

There’s a lot to consider before beginning the application process, but the personal and professional rewards of protecting the American people and keeping our nation safe far outweigh the requirements needed to get in. 

What Do FBI Special Agents Do? 

Special Agents play a major role in working to stay ahead of constantly evolving cyber, intelligence and terrorism threats. Whether conducting surveillance, identifying leads, interviewing subjects, testifying in court, tracking down money trails, or advising on all matters related to our national security, that work entails far more than the typical 9 to 5. 

Special Agents also conduct sensitive national security investigations and enforce more than 300 federal statutes. This kind of work takes natural achievers with a range of backgrounds — from accountants and IT specialists to lawyers and linguists. In fact, more and more established professionals are opting for a second career with the FBI. 

The Commitment 

Keep in mind, there are stringent eligibility requirements all applicants must meet before becoming a Special Agent. The Special Agent Selection System (SASS) is a mentally and physically challenging process designed to identify only the most capable applicants. In all, applicants can expect to invest a year or more before receiving an offer. This is a serious commitment so, before getting started, understand that Special Agents must: 

● Adhere to the highest standards of conduct, especially in maintaining honesty and integrity. 

● Be available for worldwide assignment on either a temporary or a long-term basis. Note: Following training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA, Special Agents are eligible to request assignment to a preferred Field Office. The FBI’s greatest need is in certain offices like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Juan. If that’s where you want to be, there’s a good chance that’s where you’ll be assigned. 

● Work a minimum of 50 hours a week (which may include irregular hours) and be on call 24/7, including holidays and weekends. 

● Maintain a high level of fitness necessary to complete and pass the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) — required to graduate from the FBI Academy — and throughout your career. 

● Carry a firearm and be willing to use deadly force if necessary. 

● Be willing and able to participate in arrests, execute search warrants, raids, and similar assignments.

What Kind of Experience Do I Need? 

While the FBI encourages individuals of all backgrounds to apply to be Special Agents, it often looks for individuals with the following skills: 

● STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) 

● Accounting/Finance 

● Language/Linguist 

● Law/Legal 

● Military/Law Enforcement 

● Cyber/Technology 

● Health Care/Medical 

What Qualifications Must I Meet? 

The FBI is always on the lookout for people who have a willingness to serve with purpose and accountability, who thrive on a good challenge, and have an innate sense of curiosity that pushes them to find the right answers. Beyond those traits, you must: 

● Be a U.S. citizen. 

● Be at least 23 years old and not have reached your 37th birthday. 

● Have a bachelor’s degree or higher from a U.S.-accredited college or university. 

● Be able to obtain a Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) Clearance. 

● Have two years of full-time, professional work experience. 

● Meet the FBI’s Employment Eligibility requirements. 

● Possess a valid driver’s license with at least six months of driving experience. 

● Commit to serving as a Special Agent for a minimum of three years. 

● Successfully complete approximately 19 weeks of employment as a Special Agent trainee while housed at the FBI Academy. 

How Much Do FBI Special Agents Make? 

FBI Special Agents can enjoy lucrative careers. Salaries begin at $62,556 (may increase depending on location) along with the Bureau’s comprehensive benefits package, which includes: 

● Federal Employees Health Benefits Program 

● Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program 

● Federal Employees Group Life Insurance Program 

● Federal Flexible Spending Account Program

● Federal Thrift Savings Plan 

● Special Agents Insurance Fund (SAIF) — FBI-sponsored, elective insurance program that pays upon the death of a Special Agent, whether job-related or not. 

● Charles S. Ross Fund — Compensates the beneficiaries of Special Agents killed in the line of duty. 

● Public Safety Officers' Benefit (PSOB) — Covers all federal, state, and local law enforcement officers, firefighters, rescue workers, and any other public safety officer who loses his/her life in the line of duty. 

● Employee Benevolent Fund — Elective insurance program for FBI employees that pays a set amount to an employee's beneficiaries upon his/her death. 

● Justice Employees' Transit Subsidy (JETS) — Provides reimbursement for employees using public transportation to commute to work. 

● Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) 

● University Education Program (UEP) — Reimburses the costs of tuition associated with obtaining a certificate or degree for FBI employees who seek professional development. 

● FBI Sabbatical Program 

● Annual Leave — Determined by total years of federal government service. 

● Sick Leave — 13 days each year. 

● Federal Holidays 

● Military Leave — Up to 15 days of paid military leave each year to attend weekend drills or participate in annual reserve training, funeral honors duty, or other duties. 


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