How To Become an FBI Agent

An FBI agent working on their laptop

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is tasked with keeping the country safe and upholding the United States Constitution. This is no small feat, given that communities across the nation are vulnerable to a variety of threats every day.

While the FBI hires many kinds of professionals, the most well-known position at the agency is that of a special agent. Special agents work in a variety of areas, including cybercrime, public corruption, civil rights, counterintelligence and more. If a career along these lines interests you, consider applying to the FBI.

Eligibility Requirements

The first thing for every FBI applicant to research is the basic eligibility requirements. Candidates for any position in the FBI must be United States citizens who are in compliance with the agency’s drug policy and can obtain a Top Secret/Sensitive Compartment Information (TS/SCI) clearance.

In addition, those who apply for the special agent position must meet the following eligibility criteria at the time of their application:1

  • Be between 23 and 36 years of age
  • Hold a bachelor’s degree
  • Have two years of full-time work experience, or one year plus a master’s degree
  • Meet the special agent physical fitness requirements2
  • Have a valid driver’s license and at least six months of driving experience

Furthermore, aspiring special agents are required to travel to one of the FBI’s 56 field offices several times during the application process. Applicants are responsible for their own travel arrangements and accommodations, which are not provided by the agency.

Automatic Disqualifiers for Becoming an FBI Agent

In addition to the eligibility requirements, there are automatic disqualifiers that prevent people from even applying to the FBI. For example, you are automatically disqualified if you are not a United States citizen or if you have ever been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor.

You are also automatically disqualified if you have ever:3

  • Committed knowing or willful acts or activities intended to overthrow the United States government by force
  • Defaulted on a United States government-backed student loan
  • Violated the FBI’s drug policy
  • Failed a urinalysis drug test administered by the FBI
  • Failed to pay court-ordered child support
  • Failed to file local, state or federal income tax returns
  • For males only: failed to register with the Selective Service (unless exempted)

What Steps Do I Need to Take to Become an FBI Agent?

Of the many steps to becoming an FBI agent, most come from the eligibility requirements and the application process. Aspiring special agents need to follow all the required steps to ensure success in their career endeavors.

Earning a Degree

While the special agent position doesn’t require any particular subject area for the bachelor’s degree, a criminal justice degree is certainly a practical choice. This route offers a thorough grounding in the principles of criminal law and community protection. You might also consider declaring a minor that would provide additional relevant skills, such as a second language or forensic psychology.

After College

You’ll need to accumulate full-time work experience before you can apply to the FBI. Two years are required if you hold a bachelor’s degree and one year if you have a master’s. While there are no specific requirements for work experience, it’s best to look for jobs in a relevant field. Aspiring special agents might seek a civilian job in law enforcement, such as that of a crime analyst, police dispatcher, bailiff, private security guard or victim advocate.

The Special Agent Application Process

You can begin the application process after ensuring that you meet the minimum eligibility requirements, are free of automatic disqualifiers and can pass the Physical Fitness Test (PFT), . You’ll need to attach your college transcripts and any military documents along with your resume. The resume must follow the Federal Resume Template.4

After Submitting the Special Agent Application

Once you submit your application, multiple steps remain before placement. First, your information will undergo a preliminary screening. If you pass, you’ll be invited to take a computerized test within 21 days of the invitation. In a proctored setting, you’ll take a three-hour test that examines the following areas:5

  • Logic-based reasoning
  • Figural reasoning
  • Personality assessment
  • Preferences and interests
  • Situational judgment

You’ll receive results within an hour of taking the test. If you receive a passing score, you’ll be invited to complete the required information section of the application. This section includes a self-evaluation of the PFT.

Once you submit this information, you may be invited to attend a meet and greet session with evaluators, who will validate the information you provided and determine your physical, mental and ethical fitness.

If you are deemed suitable to be an FBI special agent candidate, you’ll be invited to move forward with Phase II of the application process. The first step in Phase II is a written assessment test and a structured interview with three special agents. If you pass this portion of the application process, you’ll be invited to take the PFT.

You must take the PFT within 14 days of being notified of your eligibility. If you fail the PFT the first time around, you will have two more chances to pass. If you pass the PFT, you’ll be extended a Conditional Appointment Offer (CAO). A CAO is an offer of employment as a special agent contingent on your successfully passing a thorough, rigorous background investigation and the Basic Field Training Course (BFTC), which includes 800 hours of intensive training and lasts about 19 weeks.

If you successfully complete the BFTC, you will graduate and be sworn in as a new FBI special agent by the FBI Director or the director’s representative. You’ll then be assigned to your field office to begin your career. Periodically, you will return to the FBI Academy to complete refresher courses and specialized training to enhance your skills.

How Much Do FBI Agents Make?

Since FBI special agents are employed by the government, they are subject to governmental pay scales based on locality.6 A new FBI agent earns a salary at the GL-10 special base rate for law enforcement officers' pay grade. Those without prior work experience in the government will be at the GL-10, step 1 pay level.

While working through the Basic Field Training Course (BFTC), agent trainees earn at this pay level and also receive locality pay and availability pay. The same applies to special agents who have graduated from the BFTC and been assigned to their first field office. Locality pay is adjusted according to the agent’s geographical location.7

If you’re passionate about protecting your country and joining the FBI, Grand Canyon University is pleased to offer a variety of degrees that can help you reach your goal, including the Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies. Click on Request Info above to begin your academic journey at GCU.


Retrieved from:

1Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI Jobs, Eligibility in April 2021.

2Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI Jobs, Physical Requirements in April 2021

3Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI Jobs, Employment Eligibility in April 2021

4Federal Bureau of Investigation, Working at the FBI, How to Apply in April 2021

5Federal Bureau of Investigation, Special Agent Selection Process-All You Need to Know to Apply in April 2021

6The United States Office of Personnel Management, Policy, Data, Oversight-Pay and Leave in April 2021

7Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI Jobs, FAQS in April 2021

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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