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Let’s face it. We’ve all seen that awesome new action movie with those secret agents in jet-black suits running around trying to catch the bad guy. They’re engaging in car chases, jumping out of helicopters, and going on covert missions to end major crimes and put the bad guys in jail! Is this what really happens on a daily basis with an FBI agent? Not exactly but the work can be extremely lucrative because of how secretive the organization actually is. The best part is that there are a wide range of career opportunities within the FBI and most offer a satisfying job combined with a nice salary. But how do you actually go about getting hired in by the FBI?
Getting an interview
The FBI has very stringent requirements for applicants, and the applicant pool is large. While details aren’t public, some estimate that the FBI receives between 10,000 and 15,000 resumes each month for a few select jobs. Yes, you read that right. Not hundreds but thousands of people apply. When last disclosed, as of February 2012, the FBI employed 35,664 people. While this isn’t exactly a small agency, it certainly isn’t hiring 10,000 people per month. The jobs are select and you must be as well if you want a shot at one. Even if you are chosen to be interviewed and all goes well, the process may take up to a year until you are hired.Employment opportunities at the Bureau are vast. The disciplines recruited give you some idea of the opportunities available to you within the agency. Click To Tweet
The FBI’s basic requirements are published on their website, but some of the more interesting are that you can’t be ably older than 36 years of age, you can’t have defaulted on a student loan insured by the United States government and you are able to qualify in one of several areas: accounting, computer science, language, and law. While there is also a “diversified” classification, few details are provided about what this pertains to. Assumptions are that it is a catch-all for incredibly outstanding candidates with very specialized skills. Unless you feel that you have something extremely unique to offer the agency, your best bet is to focus on one of the better-defined disciplines.
In addition to the resume requirements, the FBI requires that you complete a 22-week training course, which is designed to make sure that you have both the physical and mental abilities for the demands of the job. The agency also requires that you be willing to move anywhere in the world, so while the agency is largely a domestic entity, they do have an international presence.
Lastly, the FBI requires that you pass a drug test and an extremely thorough background investigation. This isn’t a “should we lend him money to buy a car” credit check; this is a comprehensive, “turn over every stone” type of investigation. Any skeletons in your closet will be uncovered.
If you really want to stand out, demonstrating cross-disciplinary skillsets is your goal.
Although it is not required, previous law experience can be extremely helpful. For example, many agents will obtain a degree in criminal justice, get a master’s in accounting, and then go on to work for a few years as a police officer. In this way, they bring not only the academic credential with them but also real-world criminal justice (and public service) experience with them to the application.
Employment opportunities at the Bureau are vast. The disciplines recruited give you some idea of the opportunities available to you within the agency. While a legal background seems like an obvious requirement, many are surprised by the other categories: accounting, computer science, and language. Upon further reflection though, these make a great deal of sense. The FBI is responsible for safeguarding the nation’s Federal banking activities and other monetary activities that occur within the borders. Investigating these types of cases requires specific forensic accounting skills. Likewise, the Bureau shares responsibility for preventing domestic terrorism and so being adept at languages (understanding foreign aggressors) makes great sense.
In regards to computer science, any modern-day investigation, especially those that the FBI is involved in, requires analyzing massive amounts of data. This level of analysis can only be performed by powerful information technology systems.
Some of the specific areas that the FBI offers opportunities in are foreign counterintelligence, counterterrorism, civil rights, cyber-crime, fraud, and money laundering. The opportunities are obviously diverse and many agents work in several areas before they find the one that is right for them. Others, specifically those with very specific skillsets, have a natural inclination to one area over another. Regardless of your direction, the FBI’s breadth offers almost anyone the opportunity to flourish in a discipline that they enjoy.
Keep in mind, popular culture has tended to glamorize the FBI. While agents do carry firearms and serve to uphold federal laws, most agents do not spend their days running through the streets with guns drawn. The days may be long, the work challenging, but the demands are much more mental than they are physical. Certainly, there are Special Agents who serve in the very physical branches of the Bureau, but most Special Agents spend more time with a mouse in their hands than they do a gun.
How To Go About Applying
Applying for a job within the FBI is actually quite simple all that you need to do to get the ball rolling is to visit the FBI Jobs website and fill out a preliminary application. After this and initial screening, you may be asked to fill out a more comprehensive application and written test and may be asked to come in for an actual interview.
For other types of jobs, you can visit USAjobs.gov to search for all open positions. On this site, the FBI lists all of the application requirements and on this site, you can create a resume and submit it when applying. If the FBI is interested, they will contact you by phone to set up an interview.