Joseph Libowsky,
former Special Agent

how to become an fbi agent

One of the most prestigious and sought-after jobs in the field of law enforcement is that of the FBI Agent. The career in the Federal Bureau of Investigation is associated with higher pay, excellent insurance and retirement benefits, and growth opportunities. The Bureau is probably one of the most desired employers in law enforcement in the United States since it is one of the highly respected and well-known investigative agencies in the world.

The question is how to make it to the training center in Quantico and what will it take to get hired as an agent. In the guide below, you will find the most important details about how to become an FBI agent, what are the requirements, and what is the hiring process.

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Basic requirements for becoming an FBI agent

The job of the FBI agent is one of the most desired careers in law enforcement. In order to become one, however, there are certain basic requirements that the candidate should meet. Check that you comply with the list below before you start browsing the job openings. There are four main criteria:

  1. Citizenship

The candidate must be a U.S. citizen. In addition to that, they must have a valid US driver license.

  1. Age

The candidate should be older than 23 and yonger than 37 years of age at the time of their appointment. An age waiver may be granted in certain circumstances for veterans older than 37.

  1. Education

The candidate should hold a diploma signifying a four-year degree from an accredited college or university.

  1. Experience

The candidate should have three years of professional work experience.

There is one more quite important requirement for those who would like to pursue a career in FBI. That is the willingness and readiness to work anywhere in the USA and abroad, to travel as needed, and work extra hours as needed.

In addition to that, you should be in the good physical shape and health in order to be able to perform your duties as an agent.

If you meet those minimum requirements, then you can think about submitting an application to become an FBI agent. Below you will find more details about the process. Learn more about the FBI Special Agent Test Prep.

FBI application process

The process of becoming an FBI agent has several steps.

  1. It starts with filling an application form. In most of the cases, it is an online application form where you need to complete certain personal information, based on which you will be chosen for the testing phase. The application form requires details about your places of residence, education and work experience. You need to fill in all the places where you have lived and also provide the addresses. Then you need to list the school(s) and college(s) you have attended. You also have to be very detailed about your work experience and give information about the employer and why your employment ended. If you had any internships, make sure to mention those as they are only a plus. If the information provided in the application form is satisfactory, you will proceed with the testing process.
  2. Phase 1 testing. This stage consists of several written tests that aim to check your basic knowledge. The testing takes place in an FBI facility. You should be prepared to present your best in fields such as mathematics, writing, reading comprehension, etc. Make sure to follow the practical tips for preparing for a written exam in order to be successful: get to know the process, give yourself enough time for preparation, check the information with peers, go to the test on time and well-rested. Note that if you are applying for a special agent, you may need to take additional tests in accordance with the field in which you are going to work. The successful candidates will pass to the second stage.
  3. Phase 2 testing. The second part of the testing includes a check of your writing skills and an oral interview with a board of FBI Special Agents. As the in-person interview is one of the stressful elements of the process, make sure to prepare for it in advance as well. Be prepared to answer all the questions openly and honestly. Put on appropriate clothes that are both suitable for the occasion and comfortable. Make certain to smile as it will help you boost your self-confidence, and enter the room determined to succeed.

Upon finishing phase 2 testing, the successful candidates will receive a Conditional Letter of Appointment that outlines the following steps of the hiring process. It gives information about the FBI background check and the other set of tests that the candidate needs to pass in order to get a step closer to becoming an agent. Keep in mind that not all candidates will receive such letters since the Bureau chooses only those people who have the necessary skills needed at the time.

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FBI physical fitness test, background check, and medical examination

Becoming an FBI agent includes a series of checks and verifications concerning your past, your mental and physical health. Once you pass the testing and receive a Conditional Letter of Appointment, you should be ready for more tests. Here are three of the serious tests that each candidate needs to pass in order to stand a chance of working at the Bureau.

  1. Physical fitness test

Physical fitness is an essential requirement for becoming an FBI agent. Therefore, you will need to pass a test, which consists of four components: 300-meter sprint, a 1.5-mile run, sit-ups, and push-ups. There are set standards for both men and women that you need to meet in order to pass the test.

FBI standards for the physical fitness test:

  • 1-minute sit-ups:
    • Men: 45-47
    • Women: 44-46
  • Maximum pushups:
    • Men: 44-49
    • Women: 27-29
  • 300-meter sprint:
    • Men: 46.1-49.9 seconds
    • Women: 56.0-57.4 seconds
  • 5-mile run:
    • Men: 10:35-11:09 minutes
    • Women: 11:57-12:29 minutes
  1. FBI background check

The FBI conducts a thorough background check of every successful candidate who has made it so far into the hiring process. If you have worked as a police officer the process will be familiar to you – you will be aware of the common disqualifiers. In a nutshell, what the FBI checks includes your credit history, record of any arrests, convictions, proven or undetected felonies, interviews with your previous employers and neighbors. They will also check personal and business references. Make sure to be as honest and open as possible and give details when requested. Other issues include drug abuse, bad credit, and poor employment history.

As part of the background check, you will also need to pass a polygraph exam.

  1. Medical examination

If you have passed the above two hurdles, the third step is to go through a thorough medical examination. The aim is to make sure that you do not have any health issues that can prevent you from doing your job as an FBI agent or that may turn out to be dangerous for you in the future. The test includes checking your hearing and vision as well as your blood pressure. Based on the results FBI health specialists will decide whether you qualify for the job or not. If you have some minor health issues they will not necessarily disqualify you but can help you pay attention to them.

Only the candidates who have passed the physical fitness test, the background check and the medical examination can proceed further to the FBI training academy in Quantico. Prepare to Pass using the FBI Special Agent Test Prep.

Types of FBI special agents and how to become one

All of the above is valid in the case you want to become a special FBI agent. As you can imagine, however, there are a few more additional requirements for this job that depends on the field of expertise you have chosen for your employment.

  1. FBI Special Agent Entry Programs

There are five divisions in which a special agent can work:

  • Language
  • Law
  • Accounting
  • Computer Science/Information Technology
  • Diversified

Based on the field you have chosen for your career development, you will have to show certain qualifications and respectively pass additional tests at the Phase 1 testing. Once you prove that you are fit for one of the above categories, the FBI will choose the best among the candidates who have the critical skills needed for the position.

If you want to qualify for any of the FBI Special Agent Entry programs you need to have minimum a Bachelor’s degree in the related field. A master’s or any other higher qualification is only a plus.

  • Language

If you want to pursue a career as a special agent in this track you must be proficient in a given foreign language. You need a bachelor’s degree that may be in any field, not necessarily a degee in the given language. You must, however, pass the language proficiency test administered by FBI. You need to demonstrate sufficient knowledge in reading, writing, listening and speaking. Knowing more than one foreign language is an advantage.

  • Law

A significant requirement for the candidates in this track is to hold the title of Juris Doctor. This means they have to earn a law degree (a doctorate) from an accredited law institution. Internship in a law firm will also be an advantage.

  • Accounting

For the candidates in this track, the requirement is to have a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Three years experience working in the field is also needed. The candidate should also be able to pass the exam for a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or an equivalent administered by FBI. For those, who are already a CPA, the work experience requirement is dropped out.

  • Computer Science/Information Technology

This entry program is suitable for candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology or another related field. Those who graduated as electrical engineers are also qualified. If you have the skills but not the diploma, another option is to earn either a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) certification or a Cisco Certified Internet Working Expert (CCIE) certification, which will be an addition to your four-year degree in a different field.

  • Diversified

This track is for all those candidates, who do not meet the criteria for any of the above programs. To apply for this field, you need any four-year degree combined with three years of work experience or a graduate degree and two years of experience. The best candidates for this field are former police officers or people with experience in the field of investigations.

  1. How to become a special agent

The process is the one described above. The difference comes in the specific education requirements for each program. In addition, the candidate will also complete a series of written tests in the field of their expertise at the phase 1 testing stage.

As long as you have this additional requirement for specific education and skills and you are able to pass all other tests and checks, you are an ideal candidate for an FBI special agent. If you are one of the best, you will also have the chance to be trained at Quantico and eventually be employed by the Bureau.

Keep in mind, that you can be disqualified at any stage of the process or dismissed from service if you do not follow the recommendation, do not meet the requirements, or do not follow your duties.

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Hopefully, the information above can help you move one step closer to becoming an FBI agent. As you can see, the requirements and the hiring process are quite tough, as is the job itself. On the other hand, however, it is quite rewarding and will allow you to use all your special knowledge and skills to serve society.

Learn more about the FBI Special Agent Test Prep.