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How to Break Into the FBI

Steve Berman

As America tries to pull itself out of the biggest recession in decades, job seekers are looking for two things: security and opportunity. What better way to fulfill those two requirements than to apply with the FBI, an organization in charge of America’s security that also happens to be in the middle of a major hiring push?

While you don’t exactly have to be the second coming of Jason Bourne or even Austin Powers to become an FBI employee, they won’t let just anyone apply. Not to worry. We’ve outlined a path to help simplify the somewhat complicated task of becoming a Federal Investigator.

What type of FBI employee should you be?

The FBI has several different positions they need to fill, but they fall under two different umbrellas: special agents and professional staff. Special agents are those fight cyber crime, organized crime, terrorism, and several other threats to national security. Professional staff could be described as a little safer wing of the FBI, with positions in fields like intelligence analysis, IT, linguistics, and business management. In 2010, the FBI plans to fill 900 special agent and 2,550 non-Agent positions.

What are the qualifications?

If you want to become an FBI employee, there’s a pretty thorough background check you’ll have to agree to, including a polygraph test. If you’ve ever been convicted of a felony, defaulted on a student loan, or regularly used illegal drugs, it’s probably a good idea to look elsewhere for a job.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, there are other qualifications you’ll need to meet. The FBI requires that all employees are U.S. citizens who’ve earned a bachelor’s degree. To be a special agent you must be at least 23 but younger than 37 at the time of your appointment, and you must have a minimum of three years of professional work experience.

What are the next steps?

The FBI is looking for upstanding, driven individuals who know what they want. Before satisfying your inner action hero and striving for a special agent position, you’ll need to figure out which of the five Special Agent programs you want to be accepted into: accounting, computer science/information technology, language, law and a program called “diversified.”

Those looking for professional staff positions have so many options available, it’s best to check the job listings on the FBI’s careers website (USAJOBS) to see which opportunities are right for you.

Once you’ve filled out a preliminary application online, the top applicants are invited to undergo an oral interview and a secondary written test. Make it past this step and then it’s on to the polygraph test, a physical, and a fitness assessment test.

While law enforcement experience and/or an advanced degree aren’t necessary to earn a position with the FBI, both can be very helpful as competition for jobs with the Bureau is extremely high.

The FBI has stepped up their hiring over the past year, but they also get over 10,000 applicants annually. So make sure to excel in school, demonstrate a commitment to your community and justice in general, and load up on those extracurricular activities. That and keeping your nose clean will help your chances of breaking into the world of national security, all while boosting your own financial security.


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