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A Career with the FBI
by: Diana Clarke

Do you have what it takes to become an FBI special agent? Do you have a sincere desire to enforce federal laws and investigate crimes?

This job requires hard work and can often times be dangerous and stressful. You'll undoubtedly be in close contact with crimminals and victims of crime. But a special agent's job is rewarding if you enjoy serving the public. Long before applying for a job as an FBI special agent, you'll need to plan carefully what you need to do to qualify.

The FBI Special Agent

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agents are the Government's primary investigators, who investigate criminal violations of over 260 statutes not assigned to another federal agency. Agents may conduct surveillance, monitor wiretaps, examine financial records, or participate in undercover assignments, just to name a few.

The FBI investigates organized crime, white collar crime, such as health care fraud, counterterrorism, copyright infringement, civil rights violations, bank robbery, extortion, kidnapping, terrorism, espionage, violent crimes, drug trafficking, and other violations of Federal statutes.

The following was adapted from The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Facts and Figures 2003, FBI Priorities (

The FBI's priorities are to:

  1. Protect the United States from terrorist attack.

  2. Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage.

  3. Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes. Combat public corruption at all levels.

  4. Protect civil rights.

  5. Combat transnational and national criminal organizations and enterprises.

  6. Combat major white-collar crime. Combat significant violent crime.

  7. Support federal, state, county, municipal, and international partners.

  8. Upgrade technology to successfully perform the FBI’s mission.

Entry Requirements

  • Be a U.S. citizen, or a citizen of the Northern Mariana Islands

  • Be at least 23 of age but under 37

  • Be available to work when and where needed

  • Pass hearing and vision tests, including a color vision test

  • Possess a valid driver's license.

  • Be in excellent physical condition

  • Possess a national or regionally accredited 4-year degree in a foreign language, law, accounting, or another field plus three years of full time employment.

The FBI looks for job applicants who have skills in interrogation, report writing, surveillance, and giving testimony. The selection process also includes cognitive tests, an interview, background check, polygraph test, and drug test.

The FBI also looks for individuals with character traits, such as honesty and sound judgement.

Physical Training Requirements

An example of a requirement would be the PRT, a 1.5 mile run test, passed with scores of 14 minutes 10 seconds or under for females and 12 minutes 40 seconds or under for males.

Forensic Science

The candidate for a scientist position must first qualify under an existing entry program and have a degree in physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, nursing, bio-chemistry, Forensics, Medical specialties, or related field. The candidate for a Forensic Scientist position should major in biochemistry, biology or biotechnology. The Forensic scientist analyzes evidence such as hairs, firearms, DNA, photographs, fingerprints, and handwriting examples and testifies verbally and in writing.

Advice from a former FBI profiler

John Douglas, a former FBI profiler, offers the follow advice for aspiring FBI special agents:

  • Seek leadership opportunities.

  • Develop skills the FBI desires.

  • Do community service.

  • Maintain a clean record--no jail term or felony and good credit.

  • Maintain good grade point average.

  • Consider ROTC.

  • Complete an internship.

Don't major in a course you dislike, such as accounting, because you think it will help you to become a special agent. "Make sure your primary focus is finding a career you enjoy," says Douglas.

For more information on employment as a FBI Special Agent, check your phone directory for your state FBI office. Or visit the FBI online.


the Occupational Outlook Handbook 2002-2003, US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Federal Bureau of Investigation (

John Douglas's Guide to Careers in the FBI,1998, Kaplan Books, Simon and Schuster, New York.

Diana Clarke has taught job search skills to students in Silicon Valley. Her career and business articles have appeared in publications including the San Jose Mercury News, Cupertino Courier and the Saratoga News.


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