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A career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is guaranteed to be an exciting and rewarding experience. One day at the FBI is never the same as the next. Individuals who choose to become a part of this unique agency are afforded the great honor of serving our country each and every day. FBI agents work on matters of great importance with both domestic and foreign implications.
These matters include organized crime, cyber crime, terrorism and foreign counterintelligence, drug-trafficking, interstate criminal activity, bank robbery, air piracy, kidnapping, civil rights violations, financial crimes and public corruption. In short, the agency handles virtually any circumstance that involves the violation of any of the existing 300 plus federal statutes.
The FBI performs a wide range of functions which necessitates a workforce possessing diverse skills and backgrounds. As expected, the FBI will consider a person with a law degree or law experience, experience in intelligence related fields or with certain intelligence training, and those who have law enforcement or investigative experience. However, the agency doesn’t limit recruiting to individuals with criminal justice backgrounds. The FBI is a multifaceted organization handling increasingly complex challenges and tasks. With this being the case, the FBI requires persons possessing education and/or experience in accounting, finance, engineering, computer science, information technology, language or the physical sciences. Having experience or education in more than one of these areas will serve to amplify a person’s value to the agency.
In addition to the intellectual skills, the FBI looks for individuals who are capable of meeting rigorous physical standards. An FBI agent is routinely faced with situations where physical aptitude is necessary and truly will make the difference between life and death. Without suitable physical conditioning, an FBI agent would not be capable of adequately protecting him/herself or other FBI agents as required. Persons with physical disabilities which would interfere with their ability to operate a firearm or to perform defensive tactics and/or their ability to participate in raids would not be considered a candidate for a position as a special agent. Any person being considered for such a position would need to pass a vision and hearing test, a medical review and a physical fitness test.
These general requirements are just a small part of the total requirements and qualifications which must be met in order to become a special agent with the FBI. The process begins long before a person even puts in an application for consideration. Any person who is considering a career with the FBI will need to begin preparations as early as possible. Certain applicable restrictions which would disqualify a candidate from consideration are acts which may have been performed long before the idea of becoming an FBI agent ever enters the mind. The teen years are generally fraught with uncertainty, rebellion and experimentation, all of which could damage or even devastate the opportunity. It is important that you refrain from engaging in any illegal behavior. Even childish pranks like vandalism and shoplifting could hinder your chances of becoming an agent in the FBI. The FBI performs an extensive background check that will date as far back as your childhood.
Since an FBI agent is charged with the responsibility of upholding our federal laws, violations of any laws will cause an applicant to be rejected. One such infraction is generally perpetrated in the teen or high school years; drug use. Drug use, whether habitual or experimental, will disqualify a candidate for consideration regardless of how substantial his/her other qualifications may be. The only exception of this clause is marijuana. A person who has used this drug less than fifteen times in their lifetime and not within the three years immediately preceding the date of application may still be considered. Any person who has ever used any other type of illicit drug should not even attempt to submit an application.
After successfully completing high school, college is the next logical and necessary step. Choose a degree program which meets one of the areas considered a critical skill to the FBI. These degree programs include computer science, accounting or finance, prelaw, information technology, electrical engineering, or one of the physical sciences. If your interests lie elsewhere, you can choose an alternate degree program. Since you will need to meet additional critical skill requirements as detailed on the FBI website if you choose a degree program in another field, it is important that you develop a general plan for how you will meet these skills after graduation. Specific work experience is required for some of the FBI entry programs. Advanced degrees are also considered when determining if a candidate meets the qualifications. You may want to consider obtaining a master’s or doctorate degree in an area of interest to you. Or you may complete a JD (law degree). An advanced degree is only a prerequisite if you are not obtaining a degree in an area specified by the FBI and you will not meet the other requirements, such as language proficiency. The advanced degree will help you attain acceptance into the FBI’s Diversified entry program. You can use the qualifications below to help determine which path you intend to pursue.
In order to be considered for a position within the Federal Bureau of Investigation you must be a citizen of the United States or of the Northern Mariana Islands. You must be at least 23 years of age but not yet 37. You must have received a four year degree from an accredited college or university. The accreditation must be recognized by the United States Secretary of Education. You must have a valid driver’s license. You must be willing and able to travel to any location as ordered by the FBI to complete an assignment. There are five special agent entry programs under which a person could qualify for entry into the FBI; accounting, computer science/information technology, language, law and diversified. Three years of work experience in the professional fields previously noted is also required.
Each of the five entry programs has specific requirements which must be met for a candidate to warrant consideration.
• Certification as a CPA or
• Possess at least a four year accounting degree along with three years of experience in accounting at a professional firm or equivalent setting in a public position. Or
• Possess at least a four year degree in finance, economics or business along with two years of experience in a professional position performing as an auditor, business owner, fraud investigator, financial analyst or white collar crime law enforcement. Having a certification as a certified fraud examiner, certified financial analyst or certified internal auditor.
• A BS or BA degree, a proficiency in a language useful to the FBI and the successful completion of the language tests administered by the agency. Languages which are currently considered useful to the FBI include Arabic, Chinese (all dialects), Farsi, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Pashtu, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Urdu and Vietnamese.
Computer Science/Information Technology:
• A degree in computer or information technology related degree or
• A Cisco Certified Network Professional certification and a BS or BA
• A degree in Electrical Engineering or
• A Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert certification and a BS or BA
• A BS or BA degree and three years of full-time work experience or
• An advanced degree and two years of full-time work experience.
The Law program’s only requirement is a JD degree from an accredited law school.
After completing the college degree program, anyone pursuing a career with the FBI will first need to acquire two to three years of work experience. Experience is requisite to gaining admission into any of the five FBI entry programs. Because the FBI does have such diverse requirements, individuals pursuing a career in the agency have the opportunity to select a specialized field which holds the most interest for them. Due to this fact, the work experience is not limited to the field of law enforcement. The work requirement can be satisfied with law enforcement or military experience. But work in the accounting or finance fields in a professional environment are also acceptable. Management experience in the computer science or IT fields or an engineering field are also in demand skills. Decide which entry program for which you intend to apply and tailor your education and work experience to meet the requirements for the program. The FBI’s diverse needs make it possible to engage in work you find satisfying and enjoyable and still have the opportunity to work within the agency.
Applying to the FBI Academy
After completing all of the prerequisite education and work requirements, you can submit an application for consideration. This is actually a seven step process which begins with the submission of an online application. The application will be reviewed and the most qualified candidates will be contacted to begin the second step, Phase I testing. This process consists of several written tests to evaluate the person’s abilities. The third step, Phase II testing, will only be extended to those who passed the Phase I testing. Phase II analyzes the candidates qualifications and compares them to the other candidates. The FBI also determines if their current needs require specific candidate’s skills. The testing includes written tests and interviews with a panel of FBI agents.
A person who passes the first three steps of the process and meets the current needs of the FBI will be offered a Conditional Letter of Appointment. This letter offers a conditional position with the FBI and details the next steps of the process, including the background investigation. After receiving the letter, job candidates will begin the physical fitness testing. The physical fitness test is administered by the FBI Field Office that is processing their application. This test is to determine if the applicant will be able to successfully complete the physical training which will be taught at the FBI academy. An applicant who doesn’t pass the initial test cannot continue to the next phase of the process. The letter of conditional appointment may be rescinded until such time as the applicant can successfully pass the physical fitness test.
Following the successful completion of the physical fitness test, the applicant will need to submit to a background investigation and a medical examination. The background investigation will include a polygraph test, credit check, arrest record search, interviews with past employers, neighbors, personal and business references and persons with which the candidate associates. The agency will also verify educational achievements. Once successfully completed, the candidate will receive the Top Secret security clearance necessary to become an agent with the FBI. The medical examination will determine if there are any medical conditions which might preclude a person from being able to perform their job duties.
Once these steps have all been completed, the candidate’s qualifications and education will be carefully reviewed to determine which of the five career paths is the right fit for them. The FBI will then assign the candidate to one of the five career paths; intelligence, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, criminal or cyber. The candidates will then attend the FBI academy and must meet all of the training requirements. After completion of these requirements, the candidates will graduate from the FBI academy and be sworn in as FBI Special Agents.
Though graduation from the FBI academy officially qualifies a person as an FBI agent, the learning process doesn’t end there. FBI agents are continually being tested and trained to meet the changing needs due to the evolving and developing threats to the United States. Expect to spend your career with the FBI learning new techniques and skills which will serve to enhance your abilities and augment your aptitude in skills which will allow you to effectively contribute to the agency. Once in the FBI, your career options are endless. You will have the opportunity to explore numerous facets of your profession and the daily privilege of serving your country.