So you think you might want to join the FBI? Passionate about law enforcement and keen to take on a challenging and demanding career?
Special agent jobs certainly are considered quite prestigious, and with the FBI even more so with its reputation as one of the top law enforcement organizations in the world. A career as an FBI agent is one of the most sought-after law enforcement jobs. It is well paid and offers good training and career prospects, with excellent healthcare and retirement benefits.
Here we will go through exactly the criteria you must meet and the steps to take to join the FBI. It is an extremely difficult process and it takes a lot of time and dedication to shaping yourself into a candidate the FBI will hire.
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Meet the Minimum Requirements for FBI Agents
You must meet the following to be eligible for consideration for an FBI agent job:
- be a U.S. citizen or a citizen if the Northern Mariana Islands
- be between 23 and 37 years old (some exceptions to the maximum age are granted for veterans)
- hold a valid driver license
- be ready and willing to work nearly anywhere in the world
- don’t have any disqualifying factors (criminal record, drugs use, default on student loan etc.)
Once you’ve checked that the basics are in order. Here is what you will need to do:
Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree
All FBI special agents must hold a bachelor’s degree, and some work experience, as follows:
- hold a four-year degree from an accredited institution, plus at least three years of work experience;
- or, hold a graduate degree plus at least two years of work experience
There are a variety of different degrees that will allow you to submit an application for the FBI. Currently, five entry programs exist for special agent candidates, which all require different degrees in their respective fields:
- Computer science and information
- Law (must have Juris Doctor)
Entry via the diversified entry program has the most general degree requirements – requesting only a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts. Diversified entry is most often used by applicants from other law enforcement o investigative backgrounds.
For the language entry, you must hold a bachelor’s degree in any field, and be fluent in a second (or more) language. You must also pass the language proficiency tests in reading, writing, listening and speaking.
Consider also graduate school study, as the higher qualification and specialized knowledge could give you an advantage in a competitive application process. Graduate studies in fields criminology could also lead to entering higher paid and more specialized positions within the FBI. See some recommendations at the end.
Things to do during college:
- Physical fitness: start early building your strength and endurance, as a physical examination is part of the FBI recruitment process.
- Do an internship: expand your experience outside of classes. There are paid and non-paid internship opportunities available through the FBI.
Step 2: Online Application and Testing
You must complete an online application. The FBI will consider your application in relation to the FBI’s current requirements and list of Critical Skills, which include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Foreign Language Proficiency
- Intelligence Experience
- Law Enforcement/Investigative Experience
- Physical Sciences Expertise
- Military Expertise
- Law Experience
- Diversified Experience
Only some applicants will be contacted to start testing.
- Phase I Testing – this involves a number of written tests of basic abilities, including some additional tests for applicants with specialized experience. Testing will take place at a local FBI facility.
- Phase II Testing – If Phase I is passed, then candidates move onto Phase II, which includes a writing test and an in-person interview with a panel of FBI Special Agents.
Step 3: Physical Fitness Requirements for FBI Agents
If you have passed everything so far, then the next step is the physical fitness test. All applicants must pass the strict FBI physical abilities test, to ensure they’re physically capable of performing the rigors of the job.
The test consists of:- sit-ups, pushups, a 300-meter sprint, and a timed 1.5-mile run.
Step 4: Background Check
The FBI will check everything – thoroughly. Checking includes:- a polygraph exam, credit check, and interviews with neighbors, previous employers, coworkers, and friends.
Step 5: Medical Testing
Here you will be checked for any underlying health issues. If you’ve got this far, you will be screened on issues like- high blood pressure, vision, and hearing. Results won’t necessarily disqualify you, but FBI health specialists will look at your overall physical exam to determine whether or not you are healthy enough for the job.
Step 6: The FBI Academy
Finally, if you are still looking good, you will be invited to Special Agent class at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA. This is a 21-week training program in which you will live on campus, and spend long hours studying, as well as learning firearms proficiency, defensive tactics, and other special skills. It is tough, and you will need to demonstrate your physical, mental strength – you will be required to pass many tests and proficiencies during the training.
Step 7: Becoming an FBI Special Agent
This is the goal – getting hired by the FBI as a special agent. If you get through this grueling and competitive process it will be the culmination of years of planning and hard work.
Some top Degrees to Join the FBI
There is no one perfect area to study to enter the FBI, but keeping in mind the entry programs these are good choices.
The Bachelor of Accounting degree is the offer by the Wharton School of Business at UPenn tops the 2017 ranking of the best programs at accounting.com. It provides an innovative, interdisciplinary, and competitive degree. Its broad program includes studies in- economics, finance, statistics, behavioral science, humanities, and the natural science, as well as accounting principals.
Underscored by a strong liberal arts education this degree at Claremont McKenna College in California was designed to emphasize the tenets of the arts and sciences, and also include the typical accounting requirements.
If you are considering entry in the Law program these are a couple of the top Law Schools:
As a top Ivy League school, Yale is widely recognized for providing top law education. Hands on experience start early with over 20 law clinics, and it is possible to also complete an MBA alongside the JD.
Law students pursuing a traditional J.D. at Stanford can customize their education as early with electives, as well as have options to complete a variety of combined degrees.