Careers In The Secret Service
As a federal law enforcement agency, the United States Secret Service is responsible for two primary duties - the protection of past and present political figures and their families, as well as visiting heads of state, and the investigation of financial crimes against the US.
It employs more than 6,500 people, from administrative staff to officers in its uniformed division. Perhaps the most coveted role with the Secret Service, however, is that of a special agent.
Types Of Secret Service Jobs
As a Secret Service special agent, you may be assigned to a range of duties, including:
- Ensuring the safety of protectees such as the President, Vice President, and other US and foreign government officials.
- Planning and executing protective measures for buildings or events as a matter of national security.
- Investigating activity relating to financial crimes including counterfeiting, fraud, theft and cybercrime.
How To Get A Job In The Secret Service
To be eligible for a special agent role, you must be a US citizen and at least 21 years old at the time of application.
You must also hold a valid driver's license, pass hearing and visual tests, and be free of any visible body markings.
On meeting these requirements, you must then complete a comprehensive application process, including a challenging entrance exam and a range of online and in-person tests.
Secret Service Application Process Stages
The Secret Service looks to employ the most talented, committed and capable individuals, and as such runs a tough recruitment process.
To present yourself as a high calibre candidate, you'll need to fully prepare for each stage.
Having submitted your application online, your qualifications and resume will be assessed to ensure you meet the basic criteria.
A criminal background check will also be carried out at this stage.
SAEE Written Examination
The next stage is the Special Agent Entrance Exam (SAEE). This is a computer-based assessment split into five sections.
Each section is timed, and focuses on core skills deemed essential for a serving special agent. All questions are multiple-choice.
Section one is a verbal reasoning test that looks at your ability to interpret new information and draw logical conclusions.
You'll read through passages of text, each accompanied by a number of statements. Using the facts presented, you must decide if each statement is true or false, or if it's impossible to say either way based on the evidence.
There are 30 questions in section one, with a 40 minute time allowance.
Experience Inventory Part 1
In this section, you'll read through 64 statements that describe various situations. You must rank these depending on the frequency with which you have experienced each situation in the past.
Section two has a time limit of 20 minutes.
This is a form of error checking test. You'll be given memoranda and summary report documents containing mistakes that you'll need to identify.
Errors may relate to punctuation, grammar, syntax, language use or structure. You'll have 40 minutes to complete 25 questions.
Experience Inventory Part 2
Section four asks you to evaluate your character and behaviours from the perspective of past employers or tutors.
You'll be given a series of statements and must indicate the extent to which you think others would say each one applies to you. There are 96 questions and a 30 minute time frame for this section.
The final section of the SAEE looks at observational skills and memory recall. You'll be shown a photograph of a scene you'd likely see as a special agent, and will need to take from it as much detail as possible.
You'll then be asked a number of completely unrelated questions to distract your memory, before answering questions relating to details in the photograph. You will not be shown the image again.
This last section takes around 40 minutes.
Applicant Physical Abilities Test (APAT)
The APAT ensures you have the required level of fitness to perform the physical duties of a special agent.
It includes sit-ups, push ups, an agility run, and a 1.5 mile run.
Based on your success in prior stages, you'll then be invited to the first of several interviews. The primary focus of this initial interview is to assess the way you present yourself, so pay close attention to speech, behaviour and body language.
You can expect this interview to last for around one hour.
Special Agent Review (SAR) Panel
Here you'll face a panel of three, and will be asked a range of competency-based questions that look at how you've applied key strengths in the past, as well as questions that explore how you'd deal with a number of hypothetical scenarios.
You can prepare for this stage by taking plenty of practice situational judgement tests.
Conditional Job Offer
If you're seen as a strong candidate, you'll then receive a conditional offer of employment.
This will only become official once you've successfully passed the second phase of recruitment.
Suitability and Security Phase
To complete the application process, you'll need to pass a series of additional interviews, tests and checks, including:
- Security interview
- Eye examination
- Polygraph test
- Medical and drugs testing
You'll also be subject to a comprehensive background investigation. This involves credit and criminal record checks, employment history checks, referencing, and verification of qualifications.
The duration of a background investigation varies, but typically takes between six and nine months.
Tips To Get Hired
Understand Exactly What You're Applying For
Employment with the Secret Service is a major commitment, and not a decision to be taken lightly. You'll be put through your paces throughout the recruitment process, and will be expected to have carried out due diligence prior to application.
Make sure you have a thorough understanding of the organization's structure, purpose and mission, and can demonstrate allegiance to its core values of duty, loyalty, justice, honesty and courage.
Keep Your Application To Yourself
As its name suggests, maintaining confidentiality is a fundamental part of working for the Secret Service, and this extends to the status of your application.
Showing the level of integrity required as a serving special agent during the recruitment process goes a long way to proving your commitment to one of its core principles.
Prepare For The Entrance Exam
The SAEE may be unlike any form of assessment you've come across before. It is purposefully designed to test your skills under pressure, and uses a broad range of question types not commonly found in academic exams.
Given that you'll need to pass this test to move forward, preparation is critical - so take plenty of practice tests. In doing so, you'll familiarize yourself with complex questions like those in the verbal reasoning section, train your brain to think critically and stay alert, and identify any areas of weakness that need greater attention.
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]
Is The SAEE Exam Hard?
At over three hours long in total, the SAEE requires you to stay alert and focused for a long time. This, combined with time limits, exam pressure, and the broad range of question types, makes it a challenging assessment. That said, plenty of practice should ensure you're up to the task.
How Many Applicants Pass The Special Agent Entrance Exam?
The Secret Service does not make this information publicly available, nor does it provide details on what is considered a good score. All you can do is put in your best effort by being fully prepared.