How to Become an FBI Agent
By Eric Hammer
Let's get one thing straight right from the start: there is
no shortcut to become an FBI agent. Everyone who works for the
Federal Bureau of Investigation must pass through a rigorous
set of skills tests and physical ability tests before they will
be given a conditional appointment to the bureau.
In addition to these, you will be required to submit a tremendous
amount of documentation (the form required runs for about 10-15
pages and requires many additions) to check your security. Everything
you have done in the past will be examined minutely and if you
pass, you will be given "Top Secret" security clearance
at the FBI.
Now, all that having been said, there are certain ways that
you can ensure that you'll be one of the lucky few picked to
go through that grueling process (many applicants are turned
down even if they meet the basic requirements because the bureau
just doesn't feel that the skill set they've developed until
now will fit with their needs).
Military or police training is a big plus. Fluency (true fluency,
not that you took one semester of high school Spanish) in a foreign
language is also a big plus. If you have a background in accounting
or computers, those can count strongly in your favor as well.
Note that the FBI has five options for people who wish to
become an FBI agent. While all agents are called "special
agents," you will be given the choice of Intelligence, Counterintelligence,
Counterterrorism, Criminal, or Cyber (note that the choice is
not always up to you - it may depend on the needs of the bureau
at the time of your appointment). Those in counterintelligence
and counterterrorism may also work in a further specialized field
dealing with WMD (weapons of mass destruction).
How Much Can You Make?
As of this writing (in December, 2010), the base salary for
a new FBI special agent (all agents are "special agents")
is $43,441. However, this is supplemented with a number of additional
payments making the average first year salary (post training)
$63,804 for the year. Salaries do go up on a regular basis with
the FBI based on a set pay scale so while you'll never get rich
on an FBI salary, the pay is decent.
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
Those turned down for the FBI may want to consider working
with the local police force in special teams such as hostage
rescue, criminal profiling or other task forces. Military work
also sometimes appeals to those who don't make the cut for the
FBI and is often easier to get.
Generally, you should not expect to make extra money as a special
agent (if you are making extra money, even if it's done legally,
expect internal affairs to be going over your finances with a
fine tooth comb).
In general, you'll need to be in excellent physical shape
with no apparent disabilities which prevent you from firing a
weapon in order to become an FBI agent.
Qualifications / Requirements
In addition to holding a four year degree from an accredited
school, you'll also need to be a United States citizen (or a
citizen of the Northern Mariana Islands, which is legally a protectorate
of the United States of America - they have a status similar
to that of Guam and Puerto Rico, though they are a bit more independent
than those islands, having their own flag and citizenship but
being considered under the legal "protection" of the
United States whereas the population of other U.S. possessions
are legally considered citizens of the United States).
You must also be at least 23 years old and no older than 37
years old, plus you must have held down a job for at least three
years prior to application to the FBI (it helps if it was the
same job and it was a position of some responsibility, not a
cashier at Starbucks).
Finally, as previously noted, you must be in excellent physical
health. You will be required to pass a physical examination prior
to appointment. You will have a maximum of three chances to pass
that exam after which, if you don't pass, you will be permanently
Assuming you have met the qualifications listed above, then
your first step is to fill out the online application at the
FBI web site (see below). You will be contacted by a representative
of the bureau for further instructions.
Check out these helpful resources to find out more about how
to become an FBI agent:
Federal Bureau of Investigation: Careers - This is an unusually
detailed and well laid out web site which really offers an extremely
comprehensive explanation of what you need to know and do in
order to become an FBI agent. The site is so comprehensive that
the rest of the material here may not be necessary, though we
provide it in case you want still more information. (Link no
FBI Academy: New Agent Training - For those curious about
what you will be learning once you have been officially appointed
to the FBI, this is an excellent introduction.