How to Become an FBI Agent

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is a branch of the Department of Justice, and is the main US crime investigators. The function of the FBI is to enforce US laws, defend the country against any threat – foreign or domestic – and to provide support for other law enforcement agencies. Because the FBI may investigate crimes related to over 200 categories federal law, FBI agents tend to specialize in a particular area. This guide covers how to become an FBI agent, common tasks and activities, and salary.

FBI Agent Job Description, Job Duties, and Common Tasks

FBI agents often conduct surveillance activities, such as monitoring wire-tapping or working undercover. They may be involved in the investigation of large-scale criminal activities such as organized crime, drug trafficking, terrorism, and cybercrime. Additionally, the FBI is involved in investigating incidents such as airplane hijackings and terrorist threats.

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Undoubtedly, the job of FBI agent is very stressful; although the scheduled workweek might be 40 hours, many work more than that. Further, agents may be often placed in atypical situations, including dealing with people in traumatic situations and crime scenes that are grisly and involve death.

Become an FBI Agent: Education and Other Requirements

To become an FBI agent, a candidate must possess the right education, background, mental and physical constitution. The minimum education requirement for someone interested in becoming an FBI agent is a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Many agents have studied criminal justice, political science, or business, and some of them have completed a law degree. Prospective FBI agents must have an bachelor’s degree and three years of related work experience, or an advanced degree (master’s degree or higher) and two years of related work experience. The FBI considers applicants’ fluency in a foreign language as a particular strength. In addition to education and work experience, people who are interested in becoming an FBI agent should be physically fit, have a strong mental attitude, be willing to be placed in dangerous situations, and be committed to the enforcement of laws and protecting people. Often, the FBI requires its agents to either relocate to another city or to travel extensively.

Applicants who desire to be an FBI agent are required to consent to a thorough background check and to polygraph tests. As with any job, applicants participate in interviews and have their references checked. FBI jobs require a security clearance, and there may be additional requirements for that.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

Veterans who are disabled or have served on active duty are given preference over non-veterans. Knowing a foreign language or having expertise in specific areas such as accounting, piloting a helicopter, law enforcement, engineering, physical science, or IT networking, may put you ahead of other applicants.

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Did you know? The largest division in the FBI is the Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS) which manages the largest fingerprint database in the world with data on over 47 million people.

Source: HowStuffWorks

Examples of Possible Job Titles for this Career

  • FBI Special Agent
  • FBI Investigator

Career Opportunities and Employers

The Federal Bureau of Investigation employed over 13,000 special agents as of 2012 and are frequently recruiting for new special agents throughout the country.

FBI Salary & Benefits

The pay range for FBI agents is based on the federal government’s General Schedule (GS) pay scale. According to, FBI special agent trainees are paid as GS-10, step 1 and can advance to the GS-13 level in non-supervisory positions and higher in supervisory positions. You can view the current GS pay scale at the US Office of Personnel Management website. In addition to their salary, FBI agents receive benefits including health insurance, retirement benefits, and paid vacations and holidays.

FBI Training at FBI Academy

Once you are accepted as a new agent, you attend a 21-week training course at the FBI Academy in Virginia.

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Page Edited by Charles Sipe.