How to Become an FBI Agent: Education, Training, Application Guide (2022)

Other Useful Degrees for the FBI

Candidates for the FBI can be several types of degree-holding citizens. This type of law enforcement utilizes a diverse range of tactics, knowledge and skills to catch criminals and defend the nation from threats. With the right application, almost any serious degree can be useful to someone interested in becoming an FBI agent. The study of human behavior and the mind can be pursued through Psychology, Sociology, or Law degrees, and utilized in investigations, court cases, and more. Other useful degrees include Human Resources, Marketing, International Studies, English, Journalism, and Visual Arts. The FBI looks for a hybrid set of skills and abilities, hiring people with many different types of degrees as long as the applicant can meet all other requirements for the job.

Minors for Prospective FBI Agents

All of the majors listed above would make an excellent minor of study for anyone interested in becoming an FBI agent. For example, majoring in Criminal Justice with a minor in Finance would be an excellent combination, and would likely set up a seamless pathway for a career working in the FBI’s white-collar crime division. An agent who majored in Computer Science with a minor in International Studies would help the FBI investigate cybersecurity risks from outside threats.

Internships with the FBI

While studying to earn a bachelor’s, master’s or PhD, students can apply for a 10-week paid Honors Internship with the FBI. This is a great way to explore the career possibilities of working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The application process for this program is rigorous, just as applying for any job with the Bureau can be.

The FBI actively recruits top students in numerous fields, so students interested in a career with the FBI may find the internship route to be a desirable and fulfilling pathway. Though it takes time to become an FBI Special Agent, it is never too early to consider the requirements while gathering the educational qualifications for the job.

(Video) Want to Become an FBI Agent? Here’s How

FBI Agent Requirements

The Basic Requirements

Along with the educational requirements of becoming an agent of the FBI are the rigorous, stringent Basic Requirements. These include age, citizenship, fitness, and an applicant’s overall background.

  • First and foremost, only U.S. citizens may apply for a position. Non-citizens will not be considered. Applicants need to have lived in the United States for the last three to five years. The age range to qualify for a position as an FBI agent is 23 to 37 years old. While certain waivers are available, only people who meet this age category will be considered for the position. This is to ensure not only mental maturity and experience, but also physical strength and endurance.
  • The application process will include a meticulous background check and security clearance. This is more than the standard records inquiry that employees might meet with other positions, as the FBI will look into employment, medical history, military records, law enforcement, credit, and more. FBI applicants must go through written tests, a detailed criminal background check, numerous drug tests, and even a polygraph, or lie detector test.
  • FBI agent qualifications include a rigorous physical fitness test (PFT), one of the most daunting challenges of the application process. This test includes exercises such as sit-ups and push-ups, and extends to sprints, mile runs, and more. The FBI provides a preparation guide to all those seeking employment as an FBI agent. To make the preparation for this test more accessible, applicants can download the FBI Physical Fitness Test App.
  • Medical testing is also required for aspiring agents, assuring that the applicant does not have any underlying physical condition that could cause trouble later in their career. Applicants should also have had their driver’s license for at least six months before applying.

Visit the FBI’s website for more information on application requirements.

The Final Requirement: Prior Years of Experience

Even after all the previous requirements; the age restrictions, the fitness mandates, and the educational demands, aspiring agents still need at least two years of relatable experience. However, with the possession of a graduate degree, the requirement may be dropped to one year.

This experience will have to apply to one’s desired area of employment. To work in cybersecurity, agents may bring up to three years of prior experience managing information technologies or building computer databases.

Many FBI agents will bring well over three years of law enforcement experience, especially in the area of investigations. For those working in the financial area, experience could include working in a public accounting firm or managing the finances of a large company.

(Video) Road to Quantico: How to become an FBI Agent, EPISODE 1 (Intro & Why Be an FBI Agent)

FBI Employment Disqualifiers

Like all employers, the FBI understands that people make mistakes, especially when young. However, due to the highly-secure and nationally-important nature of the position, FBI agents will be held to a much higher standard when it comes to criminal history. While small offenses (traffic tickets, for example) will not eliminate one from contention, a misdemeanor will lower chances, especially if it occurred at an adult age. A felony will essentially eliminate applicants from the position. Even seemingly minor and non-criminal issues, like defaulting on student loans, can result in elimination from the job.

Other disqualifying issues include conviction for domestic violence, failing to pay child support, failing to file tax returns, or not meeting the FBI drug use guidelines. Not only does the Bureau have strict guidelines that agents must not use drugs, but a major disqualifier is lying about past drug use on an application. Candidates must not have used marijuana, even with a medical prescription, within the three years prior to applying.

What to Expect Working as an FBI Agent

FBI Agent Training at Quantico

Once the rigorous requirements to become an FBI agent are passed and a new agent is hired to work for the Bureau, the official education and training begins. Before beginning field work, FBI agents must pass through New Agent Training at the FBI Academy. This approximately 20-week course is one of the most difficult training programs law enforcement officials will ever go through, and it will test both physical and mental limits.

In over 800 hours of training, agents will be subject to four major concentrations:

  • Academics
  • Case exercises
  • Firearms training
  • Operational skills

Hogan’s Alley, the famous mock town built by Hollywood set designers and populated by actors imitating criminals and terrorists, is a location for some of the realistic case studies for recruits during basic training. Finally, agents have to pass the arduous physical fitness tests that include sit-ups, sprints, push-ups, mile runs, and sprints.

Continuing Education & Training

Upon completion of the New Agent Training program, agents are finally ready to contribute to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, but their education and development is far from over. Even the most experienced FBI agents will go through training programs that keep them at the forefront of law enforcement techniques. The FBI’s training programs include tactical training, leadership development, driving skills, and basic field training courses.

FBI Special Agents are expected to adhere to the highest standards of integrity and conduct, and will be required to maintain their physical fitness throughout their careers at the Bureau. Maintaining a Top Secret SCI clearance is a mandatory part of the job, so after passing the rigorous requirements to get the job, agents keep their personal and professional standards of conduct high. Throughout this career, agents will be monitored to make sure they are fit, mentally, physically, and morally, to serve in the job.

(Video) Becoming an Agent: Inside the Classroom

Careers with the FBI

There are numerous job tracks at the FBI. On the Operation & Intelligence side, there are Special Agents, Intelligence Analysts, Surveillance Specialists, Forensic Accountants and Language Analysts. Other career paths include Information Technology (IT), STEM, Arts and Communications, Business Analysis and Administration, Facilities and Logistics, Legal, Medical, Counseling, and Police and Security. Depending on the job type, FBI employees may work in any of the field offices around the United States, overseas, or be stationed at the FBI Laboratory or National Headquarters. Applicants should research the options available to them in order to best capitalize their skills and represent the Bureau with the best of their abilities.

Closely Related Careers

There are hundreds of different career options that are closely related to working as an FBI agent. These include different law enforcement organizations, both at a local and national level, and security and investigation jobs. Jobs closely linked to FBI agents include police officers, sheriffs, private investigators, game wardens, cybersecurity experts, and correctional officers. Those preparing for a career as a Special Agent may find themselves more attracted to a related career, perhaps working for a large corporation or nonprofit organization, protecting the financial, legal, or human rights of Americans. There is also the option of moving up into the FBI after working in one of these jobs, into positions that include intelligence analyst and leadership roles.

The Job Environment for an FBI Agent

What does the world look like after one becomes an FBI agent? On a daily basis, where are the jobs located, and who works in the offices? What tools are needed for a specific job? It turns out, the work environment for FBI agents is just as diverse as their educational backgrounds.

FBI special agents are placed in cities all over the country and overseas, and travel is often a mandatory part of the job. Depending on the specific position, an FBI agent may spend an entire day in an office, sorting through documents and working on a computer, or on location at a crime scene, logging evidence and building an investigation. They may also spend a day or more in a courtroom, providing expert witness information during criminal cases. Of course, an FBI agent’s work can be dangerous, as they are often responsible for catching violent criminals and making arrests.

The Pros & Cons of Becoming an FBI Agent

(Video) Becoming an Agent: The First Week

Like all jobs, becoming an FBI agent has its advantages and disadvantages. There are highly-rewarding aspects of the career, as well as reasons why many people don’t make it as an agent.

When working as an FBI agent, one carries the pride that comes with serving the country for the greater good. Agents are taking dangerous criminals off the streets and helping to preserve the rights of citizens. Depending on the area of work, FBI agents may protect the country from terrorism, cyber hackers, organized crime, and domestic threats. Satisfaction rests in working for a highly-elite organization that only takes the best candidates in the nation.

There are certainly drawbacks to a career as an FBI agent. The job is highly stressful, and agents may be subject to dangerous situations where their lives and the lives of others are at risk. Agents will take on long, seemingly endless hours (a minimum of 50 hours per week is required), ready for duty at a moment’s notice. FBI agents are on duty 24 hours a day, prepared to face traumatic situations and violent, often ghastly crime scenes; scenes that can rattle even the steadiest of people.

An Honor-Bearing and Rewarding Career

The career of an FBI agent is waiting for dedicated, capable applicants. Just to be considered for the job, agents must meet some of the most stringent requirements in the country. When the rigorous process of education, applying, training, and testing is complete, agents have a career that allows them to serve the country and their fellow citizens every single day. From the office to the field, the life of an FBI agent is exciting, challenging, and rewarding.

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FAQs

How old is the youngest FBI agent? ›

You must be at least 23 years old at the time of your appointment. You must also be younger than 37, unless you qualify for an age waiver available to veterans.

What college do most FBI agents attend? ›

Top 15 Best FBI Colleges in America to Become an FBI Agent
Sr. NoName of the InstitutionLocation
1Arizona State UniversityPheonix AZ
2University of Michigan- DearbornDearborn, MI
3California State UniversityLong Bean, CA
4Indiana UniversityBloomington, IN
11 more rows
5 Nov 2020

What do you need to get into the FBI? ›

FBI Eligibility
  1. Be a U.S. citizen.
  2. Public record must be in good standing with no felony convictions.
  3. Adherence with FBI drug policy.
  4. Pass urinalysis and background investigation.
  5. Student loan repayments must be in good standing.
  6. Filed all required annual federal, state, and local taxes.

What degree do you need to be an FBI agent? ›

All FBI agents must hold a bachelor's degree at minimum, and many possess a master's degree or higher. FBI agents often earn degrees in fields such as criminal justice or political science, though the Bureau does not maintain any specific academic major requirements for applicants.

Can a FBI agent have tattoos? ›

Kellie: Yeah, they are allowed. Now I would suggest that if you're looking to get a tattoo, be very judicious in where you place it, just because the image of the Academy in the FBI is extremely important. So just be judicious in your placement of your tattoo.

What age do FBI agents retire? ›

Under Public Law 108-458, the FBI may raise its mandatory retirement age to 65 for up to 50 employees per year. Note: Positions affected by a mandatory retirement requirement typically have a maximum entry age of 37 so that the person can work for 20 years before retirement at 57.

What looks good on an FBI resume? ›

For the definitions of the FBI Core Competencies, click here.
  • Leadership.
  • Interpersonal Ability.
  • Collaboration.
  • Organizing and Planning.
  • Problem Solving/Judgment.
  • Flexibility/Adaptability.
  • Initiative.
  • Communication.
9 Oct 2017

Where is the FBI Academy located? ›

All special agents begin their career at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, for 20 weeks of intensive training at one of the world's finest law enforcement training facilities. During their time there, trainees live on campus and participate in a variety of training activities.

How hard is it to join the FBI? ›

The FBI accepts fewer than 20% of applicants, making jobs within the bureau highly competitive. Applicants typically begin their candidacy through one of the FBI's various entry programs, all of which are tailored to specific FBI career tracks.

What is the FBI fitness test? ›

To pass the FBI fitness test, you have to complete a certain number of four exercises — sit-ups, push-ups, a 300-meter sprint, and a 1.5-mile run — with no more than a five-minute break between each one. The target number is different for men and women. The better you do at each exercise, the more points you earn.

How hard is the FBI Academy? ›

Before beginning field work, FBI agents must pass through New Agent Training at the FBI Academy. This approximately 20-week course is one of the most difficult training programs law enforcement officials will ever go through, and it will test both physical and mental limits.

Who does the FBI hire? ›

The FBI has a wide variety of career opportunities for individuals from all backgrounds and experiences. Our professional staff employees serve as intelligence analysts, financial experts, scientists, security specialists, linguists, and more. Learn about these and other careers at fbijobs.gov.

Is criminology good for FBI? ›

Applicants with degrees in criminology, criminal justice or psychology will certainly have an advantage with law enforcement expertise, but they may have a tougher time getting selected for Special Agent positions than candidates with specialized skill sets.

Can you join the FBI without a degree? ›

To qualify for an FBI agent position, you must have a college degree, according to the law enforcement and intelligence agency.

How many hours do FBI agents work a day? ›

Depending on their case assignments, FBI agents may work a very strenuous and variable schedule. The FBI says that special agents must "work a minimum of 50 hours a week (which may include irregular hours) and be on call 24/7, including holidays and weekends." They are on call for possible assignment 24 hours a day.

Can FBI agents tell their family? ›

Most FBI agents and CIA case officers are not covert, so the majority have no issue with telling their families what they do, broadly speaking.

What disqualifies you from joining the FBI? ›

Candidates cannot have used any illegal drug, other than marijuana, within the ten (10) years preceding the date of the application for employment. Additionally, candidates cannot have sold, distributed, manufactured, or transported any illegal drug or controlled substance without legal authorization.

Can FBI agents have dyed hair? ›

Hair must be of reasonable length without faddish or exaggerated style or color.

How many vacation days do FBI agents get? ›

Work for what matters
13-26 DAYS Annual Leave
11 DAYS Federal Holidays13 DAYS Sick Leave
15 DAYS Military Leave*12 WEEKS Parental Leave

Do FBI agents get to choose where they work? ›

Once an agent finishes the 20-week training program, comprising over 800 hours of academic, case exercises, firearms and operational skills training, he gets sent to whichever FBI office has an opening for him. The FBI's website is clear that a prospective agent should be able to work wherever he is needed.

Where do most new FBI agents get assigned? ›

New agents are assigned to the criminal squad of their field office for the first two years of their career. They can transition into intelligence, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, cyber or specialty after that.

How many pages is a federal resume? ›

While the length of your Federal resume is a personal choice, the general rule of thumb is one – three pages depending upon your level of experience. However, if you are building your resume in USAJobs, the average length is four to five pages.

What do FBI special agents do? ›

Some agents also work in specialized areas across the FBI such as training, fingerprinting, lab services, and public affairs; many also serve as supervisors or managers. Special agents are always on call to protect their country and may be transferred at any time, based on the needs of the FBI.

How much does the FBI Academy cost? ›

School information

The cost to attend FBI Academy ranges from $2,000 to $50,000 depending on the qualification, with a median cost of $10,000.

How long is the FBI hiring process? ›

Timeframe: Candidates will receive their CAO shortly after passing the Phase II Writing Assessment and Interview. Timeframe: The average background investigation takes approximately six months, but can take up to 18 months or more depending on where an applicant has lived, worked and traveled.

What handgun does FBI use? ›

So when the new agents come to us, the Firearms Training Unit, we train them on three specific types of weapons. Their primary weapon, their sidearm, is a Glock 19M; it's a brand new weapon—that's predominantly what we're going to teach them with.

Is working for the FBI fun? ›

FBI agents say the job is often exciting, and working on such significant, challenging issues is very rewarding. One of the most significant downsides of working as an FBI agent is so many additional work hours in sometimes very challenging situations.

Can FBI agents be married? ›

While FBI marriage rules are not included in employment eligibility and disqualifiers, they can still come into play during security background checks.

Do you have to be a cop before FBI? ›

Yes. You can become an FBI agent if you have no prior law enforcement experience. One path to becoming a federal agent is through a four-year degree in one of the appropriate fields relating to the job being applied for and three years of relevant work experience.

Is FBI Phase 1 test hard? ›

The first phase after you submit your application is the FBI Phase 1 Test. If you don't excel on this test you will not be able to continue on with the recruitment process. The FBI test only has a 30% passing rate. It is not only important to pass the exam but it is important to score well.

Are FBI agents allowed to drink alcohol? ›

All federal government agencies have strict drug-free workplace policies and the FBI is no different. But the policy against drug use doesn't address alcohol use. That said, the FBI probably won't tolerate excessive drinking within its ranks because of the problems that can arise.

Can you wear glasses in the FBI? ›

The federal government's law enforcement agency has strict requirements for agents, including everything from physical agility to hearing. One of the qualifications FBI agents must have is good vision, although it accepts those who correct poor eyesight with glasses, contact lenses or laser surgery.

Can you have your phone in the FBI Academy? ›

1) Security regulations do not allow for personal laptops (even phones) in their controlled space.

What happens after FBI training? ›

Following graduation, new agents report to their first field office, where they'll be on probation and are assigned a training mentor. Over a three-year period, agents must reach specific checkpoints and objectives before they can operate more independently in investigations.

How often does FBI Academy start? ›

The FBI National Academy is held four times a year, when up to 250 candidates go through a 10-week course.

Can you tell someone you work for the FBI? ›

FBI yes in general terms. In fact FBI love to hold their badge and credentials in your face every time you see them.

What percent of the FBI is female? ›

There are over 9,816 special agents currently employed in the United States. 16.9% of all special agents are women, while 83.1% are men. The average age of an employed special agent is 43 years old.

Is SWAT FBI? ›

FBI Special Weapons and Tactics Teams are specialized part-time tactical teams (SWAT) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI maintains SWAT Teams at each of its 56 field offices throughout the country.

How do you join the FBI Academy? ›

How do you become an FBI agent?
  1. Begin the application process. ...
  2. Pass phase one and two testing. ...
  3. Pass the physical fitness test (PFT). ...
  4. Receive a conditional appointment offer. ...
  5. Pass a background check. ...
  6. Complete the Basic Field Training Course (BFTC) training at the FBI Academy. ...
  7. Accept an assignment to an FBI field office.

Do all FBI agents carry guns? ›

Agents are allowed to carry personal weapons, provided they do not violate the policies regarding firearms. Unless otherwise instructed, agents are required to be armed at all times.

What time do FBI agents wake up? ›

The Day Starts at 7:00 a.m. ...

An Agent's day begins early. Today, I woke up to begin firearms training at 7:00 a.m. Assigned to the Washington Field Office, Agents may practice at an indoor range at FBI Headquarters or at an outdoor range at the FBI Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

Do FBI agents live comfortably? ›

FBI agents are by no means wealthy, but they earn enough to live comfortably. They also can travel, qualify for promotions and develop their skills. FBI agents are paid according to the General Schedule (GS) payscale and receive a generous FBI agent benefits package.

Do you get paid while at Quantico? ›

Salary and Compensation: New Special Agents, called New Agent Trainees or NATs, are paid on the GL schedule for Federal Law Enforcement Officers (LEO), beginning as a GL-10, step 1, while in training at Quantico.

Who is the youngest FBI Most Wanted? ›

Ruth Eisemann-Schier
FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive
Status
PenaltySeven years
StatusParoled (after four years), deported
11 more rows

How old is the youngest Secret Service agent? ›

Must be at least 21 years of age at time of application and younger than 37 at the time of receipt of a conditional offer of employment to continue in the application process.

How old is the oldest FBI agent? ›

Walter Walsh
Colonel Walter Walsh
Walter Walsh, aged 101, attends the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 100th anniversary gathering in 2008
BornMay 4, 1907 West Hoboken, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedApril 29, 2014 (aged 106) Arlington, Virginia, U.S.
Alma materRutgers Law School
10 more rows

Who is the youngest person ever on the FBI most wanted list? ›

The Most Wanted list was barely a toddler when Ollie Gene Embry landed there in 1951, for the blissfully simple crime of robbing a bank. Embry and three friends took just over $8,000, so they at least did better than Malcolm Lorenzo Jones, and they probably remembered to bring a bag, too.

Can you say you work for the FBI? ›

You can tell people that you work for the FBI. I've known some agents and family members of agents who all said quite openly that they wre in the Bureau. Now for the CIA, you will either get a flat out lie or some sort of vague answer. Of course you can say you work for the FBI...if someone asks....why not?

What is the average age of a FBI agent? ›

The average age of an active FBI agent is 43, Zippia says. At any age, you have to meet all the FBI's other requirements, from physical fitness to passing a background check.

Can you have tattoos in the Secret Service? ›

The Secret Service prohibits special agents from having visible body markings (including but not limited to tattoos, body art, and branding) on the head, face, neck, hand, and fingers (any area below the wrist bone). A tattoo of a wedding band is permitted.

How do I join the FBI Academy? ›

How do you become an FBI agent?
  1. Begin the application process. ...
  2. Pass phase one and two testing. ...
  3. Pass the physical fitness test (PFT). ...
  4. Receive a conditional appointment offer. ...
  5. Pass a background check. ...
  6. Complete the Basic Field Training Course (BFTC) training at the FBI Academy. ...
  7. Accept an assignment to an FBI field office.

Who does the FBI hire? ›

The FBI has a wide variety of career opportunities for individuals from all backgrounds and experiences. Our professional staff employees serve as intelligence analysts, financial experts, scientists, security specialists, linguists, and more. Learn about these and other careers at fbijobs.gov.

How long does it take to become an FBI agent? ›

It can take seven or more years to meet the minimum qualifications to become an FBI agent, and if one is accepted into training, it will take another 20 weeks to graduate. What does an FBI agent earn? New FBI agents earn between $61,100 and $69,900 their first year.

Does the FBI call your phone? ›

Since criminals sometimes use “spoofing services” to choose the number or name that shows up on your phone, the call may appear to come from a government agency, from a consulate, or from the FBI or the police, but it actually does not. These calls are fake or “scam” calls.

Do all FBI agents carry guns? ›

Agents are allowed to carry personal weapons, provided they do not violate the policies regarding firearms. Unless otherwise instructed, agents are required to be armed at all times.

Where is FBI Most Wanted? ›

On the FBI spinoff series, the Fugitive Task Force is an elite squad tasked with hunting down the most hardened criminals. Like many of David Wolf's crime procedural dramas, FBI: Most Wanted is set in New York City.

Is it hard to become an FBI agent? ›

The FBI accepts fewer than 20% of applicants, making jobs within the bureau highly competitive. Applicants typically begin their candidacy through one of the FBI's various entry programs, all of which are tailored to specific FBI career tracks.

Who was the most wanted man in history? ›

Listing
  1. Thomas James Holden.
  2. Morley Vernon King.
  3. William Raymond Nesbit.
  4. Henry Randolph Mitchell.
  5. Omar August Pinson.
  6. Lee Emory Downs.
  7. Orba Elmer Jackson.
  8. Glen Roy Wright.

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2. FBI Physical Fitness Test (PFT) Protocol
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3. FBI Phase 1 Test Prep: Master the 2022 Special Agent Exam
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4. How teenagers are learning to become FBI agents
(CBS Mornings)
5. Special Agent Test Prep
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