Credentialing investigators are employed by the Office of Personnel Management to conduct background checks on potential federal employees. Many federal employees require security clearances to perform their jobs, and background investigators interview subjects, their former employers, teachers and neighbors, to ensure the integrity and character of the subject. Because most investigators begin at the entry level, experience is not usually necessary unless you desire a contractor position or one directly with the Office of Personnel Management. However, many investigator positions for OPM credentialing are staffed through private companies, and these companies train investigators from the ground up.
Earn a bachelor's degree from a four year university or college. Most OPM investigator positions require a bachelor's degree, and some private firms that employ investigators for an OPM contract, such as CACI, suggest that a degree in psychology, criminology, political science, or English are useful toward this job. Because investigation requires verbal and written communication skills, writing and speech courses can be helpful aspects of an undergraduate education for a potential investigator.
Apply through a contractor who staffs investigators for the OPM. The OPM lists several private firms, such as CACI, Keypoint, and USIS, that hire investigators to work on the OPM contract. For an entry level position in these firms, you will need to demonstrate that you have a bachelor's degree and necessary skills such as written communication, brief writing skills and time management efficiency.
Fill out the appropriate forms and take a drug test when ordered by the employer. You will be subjected to an in-depth background check for the appropriate level of government security clearance. Most OPM jobs require Top Secret Security Clearance, and the background check can take anywhere from 60 to 120 days to complete. Let your recruiter know upfront if you forsee any obstacles from your history that could interfere with gaining a security clearance. Drug or alcohol offenses, business or political alliances in foreign countries, an arrest record, or problems with previous employers or positions may interfere with getting clearance. Once you have been cleared, you will be notified by the company through which you have applied, and your training will be scheduled.
- Build time management skills. Time management is an essential aspect of investigating as you must set your own schedule and appointments with interviewees. You are required to travel and investigate records at court houses, medical offices and other institutions. Self-direction and organization play a large role in the success of a background investigator.
- Maintain an honest record of business, employment, and social interaction if you desire a job with the OPM. Background investigations are extensive, and former employees, teachers, and even landlords will be interviewed to validate your integrity and character. Working for the federal government requires trust and honesty, so be prepared to reveal anything asked of you during investigations and questionnaires as you apply for this position.
Jan Archer holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a master's degree in creative writing. Roth has written trade books for Books-a-Million and has published articles on green living, wellness and education topics. She taught business writing, literature, creative writing and English composition at the college level for five years.