If you want to be an FBI agent, it will take several years of training. The process for how to become an FBI agent starts with understanding the right steps. You will need the right training and education to take this career path.
Maybe you’ve dreamed of being an FBI agent ever since the first time you saw one on TV. But, no matter your reason for following this career path, it’s a good idea to know the job duties and the necessary steps first. So let’s look at what an FBI agent does and how to become one.
Job Duties of an FBI Agent
An FBI agent will take on many different responsibilities. If you go down this career path, you will do whatever is necessary to investigate federal crimes. Your main job duty will be to enforce federal laws, but there’s more to this career. Some of the job duties include:
- Analyzing data
- Collecting data
- Computer proficiency
- Questioning and interviewing suspects/witnesses
- Remaining in physical health
- Maintaining mental health
- Conducting raids
- Performing wiretapping
- Interrogating suspects
- Working undercover
- Studying the changes in criminal patterns
As an FBI agent, you will likely deal with traumatic situations. This will likely include the death of victims. Without the right emotional state, it can be difficult to handle this type of career.
How To Become an FBI Agent in 8 Steps
Step #1 – Meet the Minimum Requirements
Not everybody can become an FBI agent. If you want to go down this career path, you will need to meet the minimum requirements. These include:
- You will need to be a U.S. citizen
- You must be 23 years of age or older
- You cannot be any older than 36 years of age
- You will need a valid driver’s license
If you meet these requirements, you will become an FBI agent with the right training and education.
Step #2 – Get Your Bachelor’s Degree
If you want to enter a career as an FBI agent, you will need a bachelor’s degree. You don’t have to have a degree in criminal justice or law enforcement, however. It’s common for FBI agents to come from various backgrounds, including computer science, engineering, and teaching.
Sometimes, the FBI looks specifically for different backgrounds for agents. For example, they often need a specific set of skills or knowledge outside of law enforcement.
Step #3 – Gain Experience
You will have to gain at least two years of experience before applying to become an FBI agent. While this doesn’t need to be law enforcement experience, and the requirement is rather vague, it’s still necessary. You do need full-time work with a high level of expertise in your chosen field.
It’s best for the experience to relate to your bachelor’s degree, but it’s not required. If you don’t’ want to worry about the experience requirement, you can move on to get a master’s degree. This type of advanced degree will still require one year of work experience.
Step #4 – Apply to Become an Agent
After you’ve met the education and experience requirements, you can apply on the FBI website. You will need to include your resume. You will also need to submit the SF-50 if you have federal work experience. Those with prior military service will need to submit the DD-214. It’s also necessary to submit a Statement of Service Letter for your application.
Step #5 – Pass the Tests and Interview
Becoming an FBI agent requires three tests and an interview. You will start with the Phase I test. This test is a three-hour exam taken on a computer. You will be assessed about your abilities and much more.
Within the Phase I test, you will go through five total assessments, including:
- Logic-based reasoning
- Personality assessment
- Figural reasoning
- Situational judgment
- Preferences and interests
If you pass the Phase I test, you will move on to the interview phase. This is an in-person interview with many questions to expand on the application and experiences. You will also get a chance to ask questions during the interview process.
Passing the interview phase will lead you to the Phase II test. This test consists of two parts with a writing assessment and a structured interview. You will first have to pass the writing assessment before you can enter the structured interview phase.
The structured interview will last for about an hour. Three special agents will administer it. They will ask questions and assess your abilities based on the answers you provide.
Those passing Phase II will also need to pass a physical fitness test. This test will require the following to pass:
- 1.5-mile run
- Timed 300-meter sprint
- Sit-ups for one minute
You will also need to pass a medical review. Your vision will need to be at least 20/40, and you will need to have good hearing.
Step #6 – Receive a Conditional Offer
You will receive a conditional offer if you pass Phase I, Phase II, and the physical fitness test. This offer will outline the expectations and salary you will earn as an FBI agent. You will also get to see the next steps in the hiring process. Finally, you will have five days to make a decision.
Step #7 – Pass the Background Check
A conditional offer will allow you to enter into the background check section of the process. An FBI background check and polygraph test will be necessary. This will include arrest records, interviews with past employers, credit checks, interviews with friends and neighbors, and a polygraph exam. It can take as long as six months to complete the background check process.
Step #8 – Enter FBI Academy
When you get hired as an FBI agent, you’re not done yet. First, you will need to complete the FBI Academy. This is a 21-week training program with a total of 800 hours. The training will be focused on four areas including:
- Academics – You will study law, ethics, interviewing, report writing, behavioral science, interrogation, forensic science investigative techniques, and intelligence techniques. You will also study weapons of mass destruction, counterterrorism, and counterintelligence.
- Firearms Training – You will become fully trained in the proper use of firearms with live-fire training. You will receive training with a pistol, carbine, and shotgun. This will include safety training, marksmanship, and more. A total of 28 sessions will cover 110 hours of total firearms training.
- Case Exercises – You will also be trained in real-life situations through case exercises.
- Operational Skills – All FBI agents will learn skills such as surveillance, physical fitness, defensive tactics, and tactical driving.
Once you complete the training, you will graduate from the FBI academy. You will now be an FBI agent, and you will be assigned to one of the 56 locations.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming an FBI Agent
How much can I make as an FBI agent?
The salary of an FBI agent is based on a general schedule pay scale, much like the military. Entry-level FBI agents will be at level GL-10. This level has a salary of $52,440. This is the level you will be at during your academy training.
Once you have completed your training and a two-year probationary period, you can start moving up the pay scale. Most FBI agents reach the GS-13 level within five years. This level has a minimum salary of $79,468.
From here, you can advance to the Senior Executive Service level, Senior Level Positions, or Executive Pay levels.
What are the most common degrees for FBI agents?
While you can certainly get a degree in criminal justice, many other degrees are common for FBI agents. For example, it’s common for the FBI to seek out new agents with degrees in computer science, IT, finance, accounting, foreign languages, chemistry, biology, and criminal justice.
If you have experience in military intelligence, you will likely be at the top of the list for the FBI, as well.
Is it required to speak a foreign language to be an FBI agent?
No. You don’t have to know a foreign language to become an FBI agent. However, if you want to have a better chance of entering this career, learning a foreign language will help. It’s especially important if you want to work in counterterrorism.
What’s required to pass the FBI fitness test?
There are specific fitness standards you will need to meet if you want to become an FBI agent. They are different for men and women.
Men need to do 45 or more sit-ups in a minute and at least 44 consecutive push-ups. Men also need to finish the 300-meter dash in 49.9 seconds or faster. In addition, the 1.5-mile run has to be completed in under 11:09 for men.
Women need to be able to do at least 44 sit-ups in a minute and 27 consecutive push-ups. In addition, women will need to complete the 300-meter dash in 57.4 seconds or faster. Finally, the 1.5-mile run will need to be completed in 12:29 or faster for women.
If you want to become an FBI agent, you can use the steps above. Then, with the right education, training, physical health, and mental health, you can enjoy a wonderful career with the FBI.