The Federal Bureau of Investigations is the top law enforcement organization in the country as well as one of the federal government’s most important domestic and international intelligence and counterterrorism agencies. The prestige that accompanies a position in this hallowed institution is complemented by highly lucrative salaries that exceed most of those found in other law enforcement or intelligence agencies.
There is considerable variation in the professional duties that the Bureau’s almost 36,000 employees perform, but almost all of these Agents, specialists and technicians are paid according to the General Schedule system that the federal government has established.
Progressing through FBI General Schedule Pay Grades
The General Schedule system has 15 levels with each level broken up into 10 steps. In order to advance to the nest GS level, an employee must first obtain all ten steps. The slowest rate of progression is stipulated as one year for steps 2, 3, and 4, two years for steps 5,6, and 7 and three years for steps 8, 9, and 10. This slow pace of promotion is rarely implemented for most FBI personnel, as the “quality step increase” may award successful employees with a promotion at any time. In 2012, the General Schedule as used by the FBI was detailed as:
These salaries are almost always adjusted to reflect the higher cost of living associated with a job posting. The FBI provides a cost of living adjustment (COLA) of between 12.5 and 28.7 percent to almost all of its employees. Employees may also receive significant bonuses for extended work hours, extended availability, and occupational hazards.
FBI Special Agent Salary
Due to the rigorous screening process and challenging professional duties for its Special Agents, these employees are provided a number of salary advantages not typically found in other categories of FBI employees. Due to their highly valuable skill sets, the FBI agent salary begins at the GS-10 pay grade. In addition to this elevated status, Special Agents also receive a Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP) which is a 25 percent bonus on top of salary plus COLA. As law enforcement officers, FBI Agents also merit retirement after 20 to 25 years of service rather than the typical 30 years required of most federal employees. Agents may cap their career at the GS-13 step 10 if they remain as active field personnel.
FBI Professional Staff Salary
Although not quite as prestigious as the Special Agent position, many professionals are employed in a variety of roles that support critical FBI operations. These white collar careers include jobs as an intelligence analyst, linguist, surveillance specialist, scientists, and administrators. While these positions do not require the qualifications that Special Agents jobs require, many of them do have steep professional and academic requirements. In general, these jobs allow entry at the GS-7 level or higher, with a promotion potential of GS-14. In addition to the COLA, many of these jobs can merit an Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime bonus which is between 10 and 25 percent of salary plus COLA. Entering pay grade is most often influenced by possession of advanced degrees like a master’s or PhD, high military rank, prior law enforcement experience or substantial professional achievement.
FBI Supervisor and Executive Salaries
Special Agents and professional staff who obtain a supervisory or management position may elevate their promotion potential to GS-14 or GS-15. These positions typically require extensive time served as a Bureau employee and demonstrated excellence in their area of specialization. While some of these supervisors may serve in the field, others function as Agents-in-Charge or as instructors.
The FBI operates a number of elite units that require exceptional physical, mental and professional skills. These groups like the Hostage Rescue Teams and Counterterrorism Fly Teams select only the most qualified among FBI personnel, military special forces and elite law enforcement tactical veterans. Due to their demonstrated mastery of tactical competencies and importance to the Bureau, many of these elite members are awarded a supervisor status which grants them a GS-14 or GS-15 pay grade.
The highest levels of the FBI are the executives which include the Director and Assistant Directors who manage major divisions. The salaries of these executives are determined according to the Senior Executive Service pay scale. Unlike the GS system, the SES does not have a detailed salary structure, but allows the FBI to determine the salaries for its leadership within certain parameters. The minimum salary within the SES is 120 percent of the GS-15 step 1 salary, while the highest was set at $179,700 for 2010. In addition to salaries, the executives within the Bureau may receive annual bonuses of between $10,000 and $20,000, depending upon job performance.