How To Be an FBI Agent

We all know the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) from TV shows – real and fictional – books, and of course movies. Who wasn’t terrified the first time FBI Agent Clarice Starling meets Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs? The agency’s prevalence in pop culture is a major reason the FBI is so well-known worldwide. As former FBI director Robert Mueller told a class of graduating recruits “go anywhere in the world and tell someone you are an FBI special agent, you will immediately have their respect.” Believe it!

How exactly do you become an FBI agent? While not the easiest career path, for the right people the FBI is a great home. Let’s examine what it takes.

Desirable Personal Traits of an FBI Agent:

  • unflappable moral code
  • sound judgement and discretion
  • extreme work ethic
  • highly ambitious / curious
  • specialized knowledge / education (linguistics, accounting, sciences)

Special Sought After Skills and Experience

  • Work experience / schooling in chemistry, physics, and biology
  • Investigative or law enforcement experience
  • Military / Spec Ops experience
  • Accounting or finance expertise / being a CPA
  • Fluency in ANY foreign language (in particular: Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, French, Pashtu, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Russian)
  • Engineering training and work experience
  • Knowledge of computer science and IT (programming, networking, web applications, cyber security)

Some areas of work FBI agents are involved in include:

  • terrorism
  • foreign counterintelligence
  • interstate criminal activity
  • kidnapping
  • air piracy
  • fugitive and drug trafficking
  • white-collar crime (think art heists!)
  • bribery
  • mail crime
  • bank robbery
  • organized crime
  • cyber crime
To become an FBI Agent, you must:
  • be a United States citizen between 23 and 37 years of age
  • hold at least a bachelor’s degree
  • be in good physical shape

The application process for becoming an FBI agent is notorious for its toughness. You will go through a range of rigorous physical and mental tests, including written tests and interviews. The FBI will conduct thorough background checks including credit checks, criminal background checks, interviews with associates (friends, roommates, landlords, colleagues). You will be required to take a physical test, a drug test, and in some cases – a polygraph test. Successful completion of the FBI application process will land new FBI agents at the FBI academy in Virginia for four months.

What FBI skills are in demand?

Terrorism and any related intelligence gathering skills are more in demand now than ever. One of the most sought after skills is speaking and writing different languages. Other skills in demand are: international relations, information technology (this one is growing rapidly as well), engineering, accounting, human resources, public affairs, and electronics.

Further FBI career resources:

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