Careers as an Investigative Specialist with the FBI

The role of the FBI Investigative Specialist is to provide fixed and mobile surveillance support for counterintelligence, counterterrorism or criminal investigation operations. These highly trained professionals are expected to obtain skills in physical and electronic surveillance as well some covert techniques which may include legally entering a residence to place eavesdropping devices or accessing the computer of the subject under surveillance.

While Investigative Specialists do not possess the full credentials of a Special Agent, they are often critical components of national security and investigative operations.  Using a wide variety of surveillance techniques, they ensure that a subject is always observed so that all actions and communications can be recorded and analyzed.

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The Investigative Process

Surveillance operations conducted by Investigative Specialists may involve long stretches of static observation interrupted by periods of frenetic activity.  Therefore Investigative Specialists are expected to exhibit considerable patience, the most detailed observation skills as well as the ability to appropriately respond to any situation as it unfolds.

Investigative Specialists may be assigned to cases that may extend for months, so they gain considerable familiarity with their subjects. In the course of the investigation into the mobster John Gotti, the FBI personnel grew so familiar with the subject that they could immediately discern the nature of the conversation and the subject’s emotional state merely from observing his body language.  These kinds of subtle details are often important for the successful resolution of an investigation.

The mission of Investigative Specialists is to collect evidence so that a counterterrorism, counterintelligence or criminal investigation progresses or resolves.  This is complemented by the need to collect evidence in a legally acceptable manner so that the subject of the investigation may be prosecuted, detained or deported.

FBI Investigative Specialist Job Description

Investigative Specialist jobs require the following skills:

  • Able to seamlessly blend into a crowd to observe a subject
  • Maintain constant situational awareness as the subject conducts his actions
  • Utilize available resources including telecommunications equipment, audiovisual recording devices and vehicles to maintain constant observation
  • Enter a residence and implant recording devices without the knowledge of the subject
  • Design and implement a surveillance strategy
  • Gather intelligence from the home, car, office or other locations and deliver it to the proper investigative personnel
  • Remain attentive throughout long periods of inactivity by the subject
  • Organize surveillance personnel and resources so that an operation can be conducted without interruption
  • Maintain in constant contact with supervisory Agents so that they can make adjustments or provide guidance

FBI Investigative Specialist Salary

Investigative Specialists are able to join the FBI at the GS-7 or GS-9 level depending on academic and professional experience. The highest pay grade attainable is GS-11 or GS-12 for a supervisor career.  In 2012 the salaries for these pay grades were

General Schedule Grade
Pay Range
General Schedule 7
General Schedule 9
General Schedule 11
General Schedule 12

These salaries are often adjusted for cost of living, which may be 12.5 up to 28.7 percent of base salary.  Some of these jobs may also merit bonuses for overtime, hazard and availability.

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