The FBI Special Agent is an esteemed position reserved for individuals who are committed to upholding the values and ideals of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI Special Agents are trustworthy and honorable, and they possess a strict moral compass and a commitment to protecting the nation’s economy and infrastructure, while upholding democracy.
As an intelligence-driven and threat-focused federal organization, the goal of the FBI is to defend the United States by upholding and enforcing criminal laws, assisting and serving alongside agencies and partners from all levels, and protecting the nation from terrorist and foreign intelligence threats.
The job of an FBI Special Agent is exacting, demanding, and challenging, yet also highly rewarding. Because of the specialized nature of FBI Special Agent jobs, the FBI has very strict entry requirements in place. To qualify for a position as an FBI Special Agent:
- Candidates must be at least 23 years old, but younger than 37 at the time of appointment. Veterans, however, may be granted an age waiver if they are older than 37.
- Candidates must be a United States citizen or a citizen of the Northern Mariana Islands.
- Candidates must hold a four-year degree from a college or university accredited by one of the institutional associations recognized by the United States Secretary of Education.
- Candidates must possess a valid, U.S. driver’s license.
- Candidates must have completed at least three years of professional work experience.
All FBI Special Agents must qualify for at least one of the five FBI Special Agent Entry Programs to be eligible for employment:
- Computer Science/Information Technology
Upon qualifying for one of the above Entry Programs, candidates are further prioritized based upon Critical Skills they possess, which may change according to the positions for which the FBI is recruiting. Critical Skills may include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Foreign Language Proficiency
- Intelligence Experience
- Law Enforcement/Investigative Experience
- Physical Sciences Expertise
- Military Expertise
- Law Experience
- Diversified Experience
Online Application and Testing
All FBI Special Agent applicants must complete an online application. Based on the application, only a select few will be contacted to begin testing.
- Phase 1 Testing – Phase 1 testing, which takes place at an FBI facility, consists of a number of written tests. Those with specialized experience may also need to take additional tests in their field of expertise.
- Phase 2 Testing – Upon passing Phase 1 testing, candidates move onto Phase 2 testing, which includes a writing test and an in-person interview conducted by a panel of FBI Special Agents.
Conditional Letter of Appointment
Those candidates who pass Phase 2 testing may then receive a Conditional Letter of Appointment, which is a conditional job offer that provides additional details on the FBI Background Investigation and the following required tests. However, even those candidates who pass Phase 2 testing may not receive a Conditional Letter of Appointment, as the FBI only grants them according to the critical skills needed by the Bureau at any given time.
FBI Background Check and Physical Fitness Test
All FBI Special Agent candidates who receive a Conditional Letter of Appointment must then pass a thorough FBI Background Check and meet all FBI Special Agent Physical Requirements. The Physical Requirements involve passing a fitness assessment that includes a 300-meter sprint, sit-ups, a 1.5-mile run, and push-ups.
The FBI Background Check includes: a credit check; arrest check; polygraph examination; and interviews with past employers, neighbors, and personal and business references.
FBI Special Agent candidates who meet the Physical Fitness requirements and have passed the FBI Background Check must then undergo a thorough Medical Examination, which includes a vision and hearing test.
Only those FBI Special Agent candidates who have passed all of the above phases of the application process are scheduled for training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
FBI Special Agent Requirements
In addition to meeting all FBI Special Agent requirements for employment, candidates in the following specialty areas must also meet additional requirements:
Linguists must be English-speaking candidates with professional-level language fluency in reading, writing, speaking, and listening in both English and their foreign language of expertise. Linguists must take a battery of tests, including listening and reading tests, translation tests, and speaking tests to be considered for employment as an FBI Special Agent Linguist.
FBI Police Officers
FBI Police candidates must meet all of the above FBI Special Agent requirements, with the exception of the age requirement, as FBI police officers must be at least 21 to be eligible for appointment with the FBI. Depending on the FBI grade level for which they apply, candidates must meet specific educational and experience requirements. In general, however, FBI Police Officers must possess specialized work experience, a bachelor’s degree in Political Science or a comparable degree program, or a combination of the two.
Further, FBI Police Officer candidates must complete a twelve-week Uniformed Police Training Program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia, as well as the FBI Police Advanced Training Program at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
Intelligence Analysts with the FBI have all levels of experience and expertise. However, the FBI requires at least a four-year undergraduate degree to be considered for an FBI Special Agent position as an Intelligence Analyst. Intelligent Analysts may be hired according to their work experience, areas of study, or domain expertise. In addition, candidates who meet all preliminary FBI Special Agent requirements must undergo three phases of testing, which include: computer-based tests on analytical thinking, logical reasoning, and personal experience; writing assessments; and structured interviews.
SWAT Team members are part of the SWAT Operations Unit (SOU) within the FBI Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) Tactical Operations. In addition to meeting all FBI Special Agent requirements, SWAT members must undergo a highly competitive selection process, which includes passing rigorous fitness and marksmen tests to become SWAT-certified.
Behavioral Analysts, who are part of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (BSU), must possess extensive investigative case experience, education, and specialized training to be eligible for work as an FBI Behavioral Analyst.
Snipers, who are part of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), are fully qualified FBI Special Agents who have at least three years of either law enforcement or military tactical experience. All candidates must compete for a place on the HRT by attending a two-week course and then completing a series of HRT Selection tests, which include: physical fitness assessments, firearms skills, problem-solving ability, leadership, and team compatibility.