If you want a job that lets you stay physically active, protect the general public and access a high earning potential, consider becoming an agent of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Pursuing a career as an FBI agent involves meeting certain federal requirements and completing a series of screenings, tests and training. Learning about this process can help you determine if becoming an FBI agent suits your interests and professional goals.
In this article, we explain how to become an FBI agent and discuss the eligibility and education requirements.
FBI agent eligibility requirements
The FBI has specific criteria for candidates to meet to be eligible for a job as an agent. While there are many specialized fields within the agency, the FBI requires candidates for any role to meet these conditions:
Be a U.S. citizen
Be between 23 and 36 years old, with some exceptions for veterans and former federal law enforcement employees
Maintain peak physical fitness and be in excellent health
Meet educational and work experience requirements
Meet specific physical fitness requirements
Be able to pass a background check and obtain Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) clearance
Have a valid driver’s license
Meet other eligibility requirements the FBI outlines for all employees
Automatic disqualifiers for FBI agents
The FBI disqualifies candidates from FBI agent positions if any of the following factors apply to them:
Failure to file local, state or federal income tax returns
Failure to pay court-ordered child support
Engagement in treasonable acts
Failure to register with the Selective Service System when applicable
Failure to pass a urinalysis drug test administered by the FBI
A default on a student loan issued by the U.S. government
Participating in drug use while holding a security clearance
Any felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor conviction
A violation of the FBI’s Employment Drug Policy
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Physical requirements for FBI agents
The FBI requires all aspiring agents to show proof of specific vaccinations and updated medical documentation from their personal physicians and to pass additional medical exams. The agency also administers its Physical Fitness Test (PFT) to gauge candidates’ fitness levels. The test consists of the following:
A timed 1.5-mile run
Total number of continuous pushups, untimed
A timed 300-meter sprint
Total number of sit-ups performed in one minute
FBI agent education requirements
Explore the degree and work experience requirements to meet before becoming an FBI agent:
The FBI requires agents to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited educational institution in the United States. While the agency doesn’t have requirements for a specific field of study, some majors may be more beneficial in preparing for an FBI job than others. Choosing a specific major may be especially helpful if you want to become an FBI agent in a certain area of the field, such as digital forensics or criminal profiling. Degree options that may be helpful include:
Although not necessary, some agents choose to pursue a master’s degree either before becoming an agent or during their careers. A graduate degree may improve your chances of finding a specialized position and allow you to advance in your career.
If you have a bachelor’s degree, the FBI requires you to have two years of full-time professional work experience. While some aspiring FBI agents have previous work experience in the military or law enforcement, you can have work experience in any field. If you have a master’s degree or another advanced degree, the FBI only requires one year of full-time work experience.
How to become an FBI agent
Once you meet the eligibility requirements, you can take these steps to pursue a career as an FBI agent:
1. Submit an application
The first step is to complete and submit an online FBI agent application. As part of the application, the agency asks you to provide personal information confirming you meet the eligibility criteria. This includes providing a physical fitness self-evaluation, which you can complete by performing the FBI physical fitness test requirements and recording your results.
2. Complete Phase I
Once you’ve passed the prescreening process, you can schedule a time to take the FBI Phase I Test. This test evaluates your logical, behavioral and cognitive skills. Candidates earning a 70% or higher score on the FBI Phase I Test can proceed to the next stage, a meet and greet with agents. You will meet with interviewers who familiarize you with the Special Agent Selection System (SASS). While this step has a conversational approach, the purpose is to allow agents to assess your professionalism, demeanor and communication skills.
3. Pass the physical fitness test (PFT)
The next step is to complete the physical fitness test (PFT). Passing the PFT requires exceptional physical fitness, so you may find it beneficial to begin training before you reach this step. The PFT consists of four exercises, each with its own scoring criteria. The FBI requires candidates to complete pull-ups as an additional exercise, but candidates don’t receive a score on this portion unless they apply to the tactical recruitment program.
PFT exercises include sit-ups, a 300-meter sprint, pushups and a 1.5-mile run. You can receive a score of -2 through 10 for each activity, with 10 being the highest. To pass the PFT during the application process, earn a score of 9 or higher, with a minimum of one point in at least three events and no less than zero points in any event.
4. Complete Phase II
Once you’ve successfully completed the meet and greet, you can take the FBI Phase II Test. This test is more in-depth than Phase I, as it has you complete a written exam involving a sample case and attend a formal interview. After reading and evaluating the information, you’ll use the data to prepare a thorough report. The interview, which lasts approximately 60 minutes, includes questions about your proficiencies from a panel of interviewers.
5. Receive a conditional appointment offer
Once you pass the physical fitness test, the FBI extends a conditional appointment offer (CAO). The agency usually contacts candidates quickly with this offer, so you may not have to wait long for a CAO. The FBI typically requires a response within a week. After accepting your CAO, you can proceed with the process to ensure you meet all the requirements before attending field training.
6. Pass a background investigation
After accepting your CAO, the FBI begins your background investigation to prepare you for SCI clearance. This allows you to access sensitive information that may not be available to the public. The background investigation often takes about six months, but it may take longer if you’ve lived, worked or traveled in many areas. The process includes the following:
Personal security interview
Credit and arrest checks
Interviews with references
Verification of education
New FBI agent training
Once you pass a background check and another PFT, you can attend the basic field training course (BFTC) at the FBI Academy near agency headquarters in Quantico, Virginia. The course lasts 16 weeks, during which instructors educate candidates on the knowledge and skills necessary to work effectively as an agent. The curriculum includes:
Coursework in interviewing, defensive tactics and firearms
Practical simulations of situations you may encounter as an agent
At least one PFT with a minimum score of 12 and at least one point in each of the four exercises
After the BFTC, candidates prepare for assignment to an FBI field office. At this point, you officially become an FBI agent. The FBI has 56 field offices across the United States, and you may receive an appointment to any of them. You can prepare for your assignment by taking steps to move, such as giving notice at your current job, informing friends and family and arranging your finances. The FBI typically pays essential costs for an agent’s move.