Today's FBI: Working for the FBI

As of May 31, 2008, the FBI had a total of 30,576 employees. That includes 12,705 special agents and 17,871 support professionals such as intelligence analysts, language scientists, information technology specialists, and other professionals. On that date, a total of 13,483 were women, 7,855 minorities, and 1,110 were persons with disabilities.

FBI jobs photo

Due to the FBI’s responsibilities in criminal law enforcement and in the Intelligence Community, all FBI employees must qualify for a top-secret security clearance before they can begin their service. This qualification includes an extensive background investigation. The FBI does not make a final decision to hire an individual until all the information gathered during the background investigation is assessed. Once hired, all FBI employees must maintain their eligibility for a top-secret security clearance, undergo a limited background check every five years, and submit to random drug tests throughout their careers.

What does the FBI look for during a background investigation?

Character: a person's general attitude, trustworthiness, reliability, and discretion

Associates: types of people, groups, and organizations the person has been associated with, focusing in particular on whether those associations are disreputable or known to be disloyal

Reputation: a person's general standing in the community

Loyalty: the person's attitude and allegiance to the United States

Ability: the person's capacity or competence to perform well in an occupation

Bias/Prejudice: an irrational attitude directed against any class of citizen or any religious, racial, gender, or ethnic group

Financial Responsibility: whether lifestyle or spending habits are consistent with the person's means

Alcohol Abuse: excessive use of alcohol that impacts on a person's behavior

Illegal Drug Use/Prescription Drug Abuse: any use of illegal drugs or abuse of prescription medication

Some positions within the FBI also require a medical examination, and some require employees to sign an agreement stating their willingness to be assigned anywhere in the world.

FBI Employee Statistics (as of 5/31/2008)

Special Agents

 

Number of Men

Percent of Total

Number of Women

Percent of Total

Total Group

Percent of Total

American Indian

42

0.3

10

0.1

52

0.4

Asian

423

3.3

95

0.7

518

4.1

Black

507

4.0

149

1.2

656

5.2

Hispanic

785

6.2

212

1.7

997

7.8

White

8491

66.8

1919

15.1

10410

81.9

Hawaiian/ Pacific
Islander

2

0

0

0

2

0

Two or More Races

3

0

1

0

4

0

Other

56

0.4

10

0.1

66

0.5

Total

10309

81.1

2396

18.9

12705

100

All Minorities

1818

14.3

477

3.8

2295

18.1

 

All Other Personnel

 

Number of Men

Percent of Total

Number of Women

Percent of Total

Total Group

Percent of Total

American Indian

42

0.2

57

0.3

99

0.6

Asian

313

1.8

362

2.0

675

3.8

Black

744

4.2

2799

15.7

3543

19.8

Hispanic

387

2.2

734

4.1

1121

6.3

White

5238

29.3

7073

39.6

12311

68.9

Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander

3

0

6

0

9

0.1

Two or More Races

2

0

4

0

6

0

Other

55

0.3

52

0.3

107

0.6

Total

6784

38

11087

62.0

17871

100

All Minorities

1546

8.7

4014

22.5

5560

31.1

Special Agents

Requirements

FBI special agents are specially trained personnel, chosen from an extensive pool of applicants because they possess specific areas of expertise. In 2007, 43,729 applicants applied to become agents and only a select few were chosen.

To be an FBI special agent, an individual must:

  • be a United States citizen
  • be at least 23 and not yet have reached his/her 37th birthday on appointment
  • have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited, four-year resident program at a college or university
  • pass a written examination
  • complete several in-person interviews; and
  • pass a comprehensive medical examination, including vision and hearing tests

Applicants with these qualifications will be chosen if they have specific experience or expertise needed by the FBI. The criteria changes over time according to the FBI’s current priorities. Traditionally, the FBI seeks applicants with backgrounds in law enforcement, law, or accounting. Today, the FBI also seeks expertise in intelligence, languages, computers, and the sciences. For information on what specific skills the FBI is looking for today, check: http://www.fbijobs.gov.

FBI jobs photo

Once they are selected and complete their background check, new agents are pre-designated into one of five career paths: Intelligence, Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, Cyber, or Criminal Investigations. These designations are based on each individual’s background, preferences, and the needs of the Bureau.

They will begin their career with an intensive, 20-week training program at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. This training program teaches new special agents the basic skills they will need to collect intelligence within our constitutional framework and to conduct effective investigations in all the FBI’s investigative programs.

Courses cover topics such as:

  • The intelligence cycle
  • Counterterrorism
  • Counterintelligence
  • Weapons of mass destruction
  • Cyber fraud and intrusions
  • Computer search and seizure
  • Ethics, with practical law enforcement applications
  • Human behavior
  • Communications and interviewing
  • Constitutional criminal procedure
  • Informant development
  • Physical fitness and defensive tactics
  • Evidence collection and handling
  • Firearms
  • Equal opportunity employment and cultural sensitivity
  • Practical problems

As part of their initial training at the FBI Academy, all new special agents must visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to see first-hand what can happen when law enforcement fails to protect individuals.

Agent Career Path

Upon completion of their training at Quantico, agents report to their first office. The FBI’s current staffing needs and investigative priorities determine to which office a new agent will be assigned.

Most special agents will spend the early part of their careers in a small or medium-sized field office before transferring to large offices. There they will spend three years rotating through a variety of assignments. Although special agents are expected to develop specialized expertise in their designated career path, it is also important for them to develop a common baseline-knowledge of multiple programs.

At the end of the third year, they will receive additional career path-specific training and on-the-job experiences. The goal is to ensure a more structured progression from broad-based field experience to specialized skills in handling complex investigative, intelligence, and national security responsibilities.

During their careers, special agents are required to relocate to other offices in order to meet the FBI’s needs.

Agents may apply for a management position after three years of investigative experience. Upon selection for a management position, agents receive additional training to develop their management skills. Developmental plans incorporate both required and elective developmental opportunities at each stage of an agent's career.

Agents may also choose to obtain special certification as a Special Agent Bomb Technician, a Technically Trained Agent, or a member of the elite Hostage Rescue Team.

Federal law requires that special agents retire by age 57. In rare circumstances, the FBI Director may grant one-year extensions, up to age 60, for a particular special agent.

Intelligence Analysts

FBI jobs photo

Intelligence analysts at FBI Headquarters and in all 56 field offices play a critical role. They help identify the most critical threats and vulnerabilities in each city and region, enabling managers to move resources to where they will do the most good. Analysts help each office prioritize competing demands for intelligence collection. They work within investigative squads to guide collection strategies and provide subject matter expertise. They analyze data and look for patterns. They produce and disseminate intelligence reports for use by other FBI divisions, state and local law enforcement, other Intelligence Community agencies, and policymakers at the highest levels of government.

Approximately 30 percent of intelligence analysts hired by the FBI join the Bureau mid-career and bring a range of experience from other agencies. The other 70 percent are hired at the entry level and grow and develop their career within the Bureau.

Like special agents, the FBI’s intelligence analysts must agree to be assigned anywhere in the world. They begin their FBI career with an 11-week training program at the FBI Academy.

Following this training, analysts will spend two years at FBI Headquarters, or the New York, Los Angeles, or Washington Field Office. During this time they will rotate through a range of work roles and will spend six months on a temporary assignment to another office.

Linguists

FBI language specialists play a vital role in the translation, transcription, reporting, and analysis of recordings or documents. They participate in witness and source interviews, and many also serve as experts on particular countries or cultures. They are both intelligence collectors and analysts and work in every program area: terrorism, foreign counterintelligence, organized crime, air piracy, interstate criminal activity, public corruption, financial crime, bribery, civil rights violations, kidnapping, and drug trafficking.

Other Career Opportunities

FBI jobs photo

The FBI’s highly professional workforce includes personnel from a wide range of disciplines. Some FBI positions require only that an applicant be 16 years old and possess a high school diploma or GED; many others require college degrees or even advanced degrees and specific work experience. All FBI employees must complete the same application and go through the same background investigation process as special agents, but are not generally required to pass a written entrance exam or have a medical examination. There is no mandatory retirement age for most positions.

The FBI offers some unique career opportunities, including:

  • The FBI Laboratory is staffed by experienced scientists and engineers from all applied science disciplines and supported by field office evidence technicians and photographers.
  • FBI Headquarters divisions and field offices rely on the expertise of legal advisors, electronics technicians, surveillance experts, writers, and accountants to complete investigative tasks.
  • Computer specialists, policy and management analysts, and other subject-matter experts handle the technical, administrative, and program-oversight responsibilities critical to FBI operations.
  • Surveillance experts
  • Firearms experts
  • Fingerprint examiners
  • The FBI Security Division is staffed by experienced security specialists and technical experts from all security disciplines, including personnel, physical, information, training, as well as information assurance and information systems security.
  • The FBI has its own specially trained police force.
  • The FBI also has a staff of well-qualified clerical workers and experienced craft, trade, and maintenance personnel.

For more information on FBI employment, including a list of current vacancies and employment applications, go to http://www.fbijobs.gov.

FBI National Training Plan

FBI professionals are actively encouraged, and in many cases required, to pursue career enhancing training opportunities. Learning is viewed as a lifelong process. Training courses are constantly updated and created to respond to investigative and intelligence demands. Currently, the National Training Plan incorporates counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and cyber investigation matters into basic investigative courses so special agents and others are better able to recognize and address these intertwined threats. For example, training in financial crimes shows agents how certain acts should be closely reviewed for possible money laundering activities by terrorist groups.

FBI support personnel also enjoy a variety of training opportunities throughout their careers, including classroom training, distance learning via satellite, and courses offered through “Virtual Academy” on the FBI’s intranet.

Joint Duty Requirements

As a result of a directive published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in 2006, FBI special agents, intelligence analysts, and other professional staff are encouraged to participate in permanent appointments or temporary details for joint duty positions across the U.S. Intelligence Community. The purpose of this effort is to encourage cooperation and provide valuable intelligence experience. It is now a requirement and a condition of promotion to certain positions within the Intelligence Community.

The FBI currently has personnel working with other Intelligence Community partners at many locations including the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the National Counter-Proliferation Center (NCPC), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and others. In addition, the FBI has personnel from other intelligence agencies working within its divisions.

Fact & Figures home