Becoming an FBI agent is a dream job for some, and a reality for a few. This exciting career choice is often dramatized on TV. From crime-fighting across states to solving complex cases, FBI agents and professional employees are hand-picked and carefully trained to excel in their fields. Applicants meeting the minimum requirements can expect a rigorous process that includes testing, thorough background checks and a clean bill of health. The FBI employs more than 30,000 people, including professional staff.
Entry-level FBI agents must qualify for one of five paths. These include accounting, foreign languages, computer science, law and diversified. The diversified career path is available to anyone who has a bachelor's degree and three years work experience, in any discipline -- or a master's degree with two years work experience. The law career path requires a juris doctorate or JD degree. People who meet the requirements for one of the paths are recruited based on the critical skills the FBI currently needs and whether the applicant has them. In 2013, critical skills included a science background, military experience, certain foreign languages and specific education majors.
FBI agents require top security clearance and this doesn't come easy. Expect a thorough background check -- the kind that uncovers every stone. Your records and credit will be scrutinized; you must pass a polygraph test; and an illegal drug test. Anyone or everyone who knows you could be interviewed about you. Past drug use -- depending on the substance and lapsed time -- can automatically disqualify you. A felony conviction, defaulted student loan or failing a urinalysis are additional disqualifiers. This investigation can take a few months and the answers you provide in writing are subject to verification on a polygraph test.
For your safety, the FBI has physical fitness and health requirements for it's agents. The nature of FBI work can be dangerous and some agents will face life-or-death situations. Applicants must pass a standardized physical fitness test based on the number of sit-ups in a minute, time taken for the 300-meter sprint, time taken for the 1 1/2-mile run and the number of push-ups you can do. You must first pass a self-assessment, then pass a test at the field office, and eventually, pass the official test in three tries or less. Additionally, your vision must be 20/200 or better, you must not have had laser eye surgery in the past 6 months, you must pass a color vision test and hearing test, and have an acceptable medical history.
You must be a U.S. or Northern Mariana Island citizen to apply and be between the ages of 23 and 37. Additionally, you must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited school recognized by the US Secretary of Education. Agents are required to have at least three years of work experience and a driver's license. Applicants cannot be picky about where they will work -- you will be required to accept placement any place the FBI chooses to send you.
Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.