Surveillance Specialist Careers

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The Federal Bureau of Investigations uses a host of support personnel to conduct surveillance operations.  These Surveillance Specialists are chosen for their ability to blend in with a crowd, follow the commands of the lead Agent, and perform the challenging responsibilities required to monitor potential criminals and terrorists.  Surveillance Specialists are not required to join the Bureau as a Special Agent nor do they have to go through the FBI’s rigorous training program.

Despite the many resources that the FBI has at its disposal including electronic eavesdropping, GPS tracking, and satellite surveillance, there is often no substitute for a concerted human surveillance operation.  In order to monitor all of the activities and interactions a suspected perpetrator may conduct, a Special Surveillance Group is often assigned to watch them continuously.

Surveillance Specialist Job Description

Due to the evolving sophistication of many terrorist and espionage operations, as well as the public’s growing awareness of the capabilities of federal authorities, the Surveillance Specialist jobs have become much more challenging.  Because the target is likely to be looking for individuals who are exhibiting suspicious or awkward behavior, the Surveillance Specialists use a variety of intricate maneuvers that allow them to maintain a façade of normality while still obtaining detailed intelligence.

Surveillance Specialist jobs involve using professional and personal skills to tail a suspect and gather as much information as possible.  This may require setting up and manning a static post in an adjacent building or it could mean following a target through the streets of New York on a bicycle.  The FBI often requires its Surveillance Specialists to travel to locations throughout the country in order to bring their unique skill set to an operation.

Surveillance jobs with the FBI will involve performing the following duties:

  • Plan, organize and implement a surveillance operation
  • Covertly establish a surveillance post in a mobile vehicle or at a fixed location
  • Monitor communications between targets and other individuals
  • Take photographs, videos, sound recordings and other types of electronic surveillance for analysis and admission into a legal proceeding
  • Analyze intelligence and distribute to the appropriate FBI personnel
  • Maintain a high level of attentiveness and professional performance during extended surveillance operations

Surveillance Specialist Salary

Unlike many jobs within the FBI, a Surveillance Specialist does not need to first join the Bureau as a Special Agent.  This allows the Bureau to recruit more individuals that meet its surveillance needs, but these Surveillance Specialists do not receive all of the salary and job benefits that a Special Agent receives.  Surveillance Specialists may join the FBI at a GS-7 or GS-9 pay grade, depending on law enforcement or academic background.  They also have the potential to rise to the GS-12 level if they assume a supervisor or executive position.  In 2012, the salary ranges for these levels were:

General Schedule Grade
Pay Range
General Schedule 7
$33979-$44176
General Schedule 9
$41563-$54028
General Schedule 12
$60274-$78355

These bases salaries may be adjusted for cost of living.  Surveillance Specialists who consistently work extended hours may be eligible for Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime, which can be an additional 10 to 25 percent of base salary.