Crime never takes the day off. It doesn’t recognize holidays or birthdays. Crime occurs whenever and wherever it desires. It takes a special person to sacrifice personal time with family and friends to subvert the criminal element. Is that person you? Are you willing to forgo your time to serve the public and help to diminish the activity of criminals in the United States and abroad? If so, then a career as a Special Agent (SA) in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) might be on the horizon for you!
Do FBI agents get days off? Technically, yes, FBI agents are guaranteed holidays, paid vacation hours, and sick leave when they are hired as Special Agents. Full-time Special Agents are required to work a fifty-hour work week and must be on-call for emergencies during weekends and holidays, which makes having an active social life a bit harder than it is for the Average Joe.
If you are looking for a thrilling career in the FBI as a Special Agent, this article has been designed to help you answer some of the questions you may have and assist you in following the path to your future in the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
What is the FBI?
According to fbi.gov, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is “an intelligence-driven and threat-focused national security organization with both intelligence and law enforcement responsibilities.”
The FBI is the investigative body of the United States Department of Justice and is a full member of the United States Intelligence Community. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has full authority to investigate any crimes assigned to it and to provide cooperative services to other bodies of law enforcement, like fingerprint analysis, forensic assays, and training. The FBI also collects, analyzes, and shares intelligence to better be prepared to combat security threats to the United States and its citizens.
The mission of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is to “protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.”
What are the Requirements to Become an FBI Special Agent?
The FBI requires that all applicants for any position within the Federal Bureau of Investigation be:
- A United States citizen
- Able to obtain a Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) governmental clearance
- Comply with the FBI Drug Use Policy
Special Agent applicants must meet these standards as well:
- No younger than 23 years of age and no older than 36 years of age upon submission of application. Applicants must enter duty no later than the day before that of their 37th birthday
- Obtain a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited United States college or university
- Have no less than two years of full-time professional work experience
- Have a valid U.S. driver’s license and no less than six months of driving experience
- Meet all the fitness standards for a Special Agent
- Be able to report to one of the 56 FBI Field Offices for interviews and testing numerous times during the application process
Though it seems like there are a lot of hoops to jump through, becoming an FBI Special Agent is a fairly simple process as long as you meet all these requirements.
How do I Become an FBI Special Agent?
You can check all of the requirement boxes off, so what do you do now? First and foremost, you’ll need to apply for the Special Agent Selection System (SASS) by clicking here and completing the online application. If you pass the initial screening process, you will be invited to take the three-hour Phase I exam at the Field Office of your choice. Upon invitation, you will have 21 days to schedule your test that consists of five core areas of assessment: Figural Reasoning, Personality Assessment, Logic-Based Reasoning, Situational Judgement, and Interests/Preferences.
After receiving a passing score on the Phase I exam, you will be required to complete the Required Information portion of the SA application which includes the Special Agent Physical Fitness Test self-evaluation, critical skills, and self-reported language sections. Following the completion of the Required Information section, applicants will be scheduled for a meet and greet session with their selected Processing Field Office with one or more evaluators. A face-to-face interview will be conducted to review your application, validate all submitted information and evaluate your ability to move forward into Phase II.
Phase II of the SASS involves a writing assessment and a panel interview with three Special Agents. Upon completion of Phase II, candidates will be required to pass an official Physical Fitness Test (PFT) conducted at your local Field Office. Once you pass both Phase II and PFT, you will receive a Conditional Appointment Offer. Your hiring, however, will be contingent upon the successful completion of all SASS components, like the medical clearance, background investigation, drug screening, polygraph examination, credit check, fingerprinting, and verification of education.
The entire process can take upwards of a year to complete and, in some cases, two years.
What Types of Training do FBI Special Agents Receive?
The initial 20 week Basic Field Training takes place at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. It is during this time that you will learn about the fundamentals of law, behavioral science, forensic science, interview techniques, and many other topics that will enable you to be an active member in the fight against crime.
In addition to many classroom hours, Special Agents are also trained in defensive tactics, firearms, surveillance, cyber surveillance, counterterrorism, and other defense topics. Did I mention that SA training is brutally physical, too? No? Well, it is! Not only will you be building your mind in the FBI Special Agent Academy, but you’ll also be building your muscles at the same time. As an FBI SA candidate, you will be required to maintain a high level of physical fitness.
Training for Special Agents doesn’t end with their graduation from the academy, it is a career-long process of continuing education in academic endeavors, operational skills, firearms, physical training, and other topics.
What are the Physical Fitness Standards for an FBI Special Agent?
There are four main measures of physical fitness used by the FBI:
- Maximum number of sit-ups in one minute
- 300-meter sprint
- Maximum number of continuous push-ups, no time limit
- 1.5-mile run
The scoring scales for each exercise differ for male and female candidates. Candidates must score a minimum of twelve and pass all four measures to become a Special Agent.
The following table gives you an idea of the minimum qualifications to receive an overall score of 12:
|Situps||Sprint||Push ups||1.5 mi run|
|Male||43||49.4 seconds||40||11:34 minutes|
|Female||41||59.9 seconds||22||12:59 minutes|
Remember, this is the MINIMUM required to receive the minimum score required by the FBI to pass the PFT.
Are There Drawbacks to Working for the FBI?
As with any career choice, you’re going to have a few mud pits amongst the mountains. Working as an FBI Special Agent is dangerous. You’re dealing with criminal elements that may feel that your life is less important than their mission. Stress-related health issues can arise, such as anxiety, depression, cardiac and digestive issues, sleep deprivation, and chronic pain. Lastly, we all know how fickle the government can be. Changes in the guard can result in an unexpected relocation for a Special Agent and their family. Special Agents may also have to adjust to policy and funding changes that negatively impact their jobs.
Does the FBI Work Weekends?
Crime doesn’t take a vacation and takes no interest in keeping banker’s hours. FBI Special Agents are required to work a fifty-hour work week and be available on-call weekends and holidays. With that said, there is a difference between being on duty and working.
FBI Special Agents are always on-duty and are required to carry their issued sidearm at all times. This does not, however, mean they are always working. It simply means that as a Special Agent, you are always aware and prepared for any criminal element that you may encounter at any time.
Do FBI Special Agents Have Time for Family?
FBI Special Agents do have to work long hours, which can lead to missing out on quality family time. There will be cases that pull you away from home for periods that you cannot make up for. However, at the end of the day, it is about managing expectations of and from your family. Honesty about the level of commitment required to be an FBI SA is imperative. As an FBI Special Agent, you may not always have a lot of free time to spend with your friends and family. With that knowledge in hand, you simply have to make the best of the time you do have and be open in communication with your family.
There are also many programs offered by the FBI that are designed to enable Special Agents to meet family and career goals simultaneously.
How much do FBI Special Agents make?
FBI Special Agents in training are paid on the GL scale for Federal Law Enforcement Officers beginning as a GL-10, step 1, which is $52,440/yr plus availability and locality pay. Salaries are adjusted after training completion by the Field Office assignment. After the two-year probationary period, SA’s are paid according to the General Schedule (GS) payscale and can attain a GS-13 level within five years. FBI Special Agents also receive several benefits from their employment including health and life insurance, paid vacation and sick leave, and a full retirement plan.
How many people work for the FBI?
The Federal Bureau of Investigation employs around 35,000 individuals, including Special Agents and many support personnel such as linguists, scientists, and intelligence analysts.
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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun and I’m so grateful that you’re here.
Civil servants are some of the hardest working, most generous people I know. I have been passionate about all types of civil service career paths for years now and enjoy sharing everything I continue to learn about them.
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