Careers In The FBI
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is responsible for upholding national security and the safety of all US citizens through intelligence and law enforcement duties.
Anyone pursuing a career as an FBI Special Agent must meet stringent requirements and possess a diverse set of skills to meet the demands of this challenging profession.
Types Of FBI Jobs
The FBI is assigned to investigate a range of activities, including:
- Organized crime
- Public corruption
- Violent crime
- Civil rights
As an FBI agent, you may use your skills in any of these fields, and the agency seeks top talent in everything from STEM subjects, law and psychology, to accounting, education and healthcare.
How To Get A Job In The FBI
To be considered for a post, you must be a US citizen between the ages of 23 and 36. You'll also need to hold - at a minimum - a bachelor's degree in a valued discipline, and two years' work experience in your field of expertise.
On meeting these requirements, you'll then go through a rigorous selection process, which can often take up to a year to complete.
FBI Application Process Stages
Application And Screening
The first step is to complete the online application, and submit your resume and any required documentation.
You should closely follow the Federal Resume Guide, and provide real-world examples of the following core competencies:
- Interpersonal ability
Your application will then be screened to determine your suitability.
Phase I Test
Successful applicants are then invited to take the computerized Phase I test. This is a proctored, three-hour psychometric assessment, and considered the most challenging part of the process, with around just 30% of candidates achieving a passing score.
The test is split into the following five sections.
This verbal reasoning test measures your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. You'll be presented with paragraphs of text and will need to use the information provided to draw logical conclusions on the inference that may or may not lead on from the evidence given.
Questions are multiple-choice, with five answer options per paragraph, and there are 11 problems to work through in total.
This is another measure of your problem-solving skills, but this time in the form of an abstract reasoning test. You'll work through nine questions, each containing a sequence of shapes and patterns, with one part of the sequence missing.
The task is to identify rules and relationships that define the order of the arrangement and use them to determine which of five possible options completes the sequence.
The personality test is used to assess how your character traits match up to those required of an FBI agent. You'll see two statements placed on either side of a sliding scale, and will need to pick which of the two you agree with more.
The statements given may bear no relevance to each other and you may agree or disagree with both to some extent, however, you must always pick one over the other and cannot leave the slider in a neutral position.
You'll have 100 statement pairs to work through in total.
Preferences And Interests
This follows on from the personality test, and focuses on your specific response to various statements about your character.
37 questions present different scenarios around behavioural styles and working preferences. You'll rank each of these from strongly agree to strongly disagree.
The situational judgement test contains 19 questions, all of which revolve around hypothetical scenarios you'd likely encounter in the working environment. Each scenario is accompanied by five different courses of action, and you must select which you'd take in response to the situation described.
As with the personality sections of the test, there are no right or wrong answers here, and it's in your best interests to answer questions honestly.
Meet And Greet
If you achieve the required score in the Phase I assessment, you'll be invited to an in-person meet and greet session for additional screening.
Though not a formal interview, you will be asked to discuss your resume in more detail, and will be further assessed on FBI core competencies. Only those seen as competitive candidates at this stage will progress to Phase II.
Phase II Test
Phase II is made up of two parts.
In this two and a half hour exam, you'll be asked to read through a large amount of information, which you'll use to compile two detailed, well-crafted reports.
In this test, you're being measured on your analytical, decision making, and communication skills, as well as spelling, grammar and punctuation.
In the second part of Phase II, you'll attend a one hour interview in front of a panel of three.
You should prepare to answer a range of performance-based questions, using your past experience to demonstrate key skills, competencies and behaviours.
Conditional Appointment Offer (CAO)
At this stage, successful candidates will be given a Conditional Appointment Offer. This is a provisional offer of employment that will become official provided you meet certain conditions assessed in the latter stages of recruitment.
This process can take around six months, and includes medical, fingerprinting and drugs tests, credit and criminal record checks, a polygraph exam, Personal Security Interview (PSI), referencing and document verification.
Physical Fitness Test (PFT)
The PFT is designed to ensure you're physically capable of fulfilling your duties and includes sit-ups, pushups, pullups, a 300-meter sprint and a 1.5-mile run.
You'll need to achieve a baseline score here, with unlimited attempts for one year after your background investigation is complete.
Basic Field Training Course (BFTC)
To complete the selection, you'll attend an on-site training course. This is 20 weeks long for New Agent Trainees (NATs) or 12 weeks long for New Intelligence Analyst Trainees (NIATs).
It's designed to prepare you for life in the FBI through skills lessons and practical exercises. Successful completion of the BFTC will result in your official career placement.
Tips To Get Hired
Earn A Relevant Degree
Forward planning is essential to a successful FBI application, and you should consider your major carefully. Science, law enforcement, computer science and information technology, finance, and foreign languages are some of the best degrees to hold as an applicant.
Though not essential, a master's degree or PhD in a relevant subject will help you stand out from the competition.
Gain Professional Experience
Requirements state that you must have at least two years of work experience in your field, and you should use this time to focus on the core competencies sought by the FBI. You'll be judged on these throughout the selection, and the more examples you can give of them in action the better.
As a student, you can also apply for an internship with the FBI. The 10-week placements offer the chance to explore your career options, and look great on your application.
Prepare To Ace The Phase I Test
The Phase I test is designed to be challenging, and a lot of applicants are eliminated from the selection at this stage. The good news is that with solid preparation, you can achieve the score required to progress.
Take plenty of practice tests to familiarize yourself with this form of assessment, build on your critical reasoning skills, and boost your confidence.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Hard To Get Hired By The FBI?
The FBI has a level of responsibility matched by a few other organizations, and therefore needs employees of the highest calibre. As such, the recruitment process is tough, and only those that meet exacting standards will be successful.
How Can I Increase My Chances Of Getting Into The FBI?
Dedication is key here. Start your preparation early by pursuing academic excellence and quality work experience. You should also place great emphasis on preparing for selection, working on your cognitive abilities, interview techniques, and physical fitness.
How Do You Get The FBI To Recruit You?
There are no shortcuts to getting hired by the FBI. Competition for special agent positions is high, and around just 3% of applicants are successful. The only way in is to apply, and prove yourself an exceptional candidate.
Can I Join The FBI With No Experience?
Whilst law enforcement experience is not a prerequisite to joining the FBI, experience in general is. You must be able to demonstrate a high standard of work in your field, and that you can apply your skills effectively.