A career with the FBI offers excitement and challenge, but will not be as glamorous as the movies and TV shows depict. The FBI offers two basic career paths: special agents and professional staff. With four divisions to choose from that include Counterintelligence, Counterterrorism, Cyber and Criminal, candidates have many job opportunities with the FBI. Professional staff typically work at one location, and special agents often go where needed. Although only special agent trainees undergo 21 weeks of training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, all candidates undergo and must pass a background investigation and a medical examination before being hired. Most positions with the FBI require a college degree.
Both special agents and professional staff work in the FBI's counterintelligence division. Intelligence analysts have three distinct career paths as tactical, collection and reporting and strategic analysts built upon the intelligence-gathering cycle. As a counterintelligence special agent, you might investigate criminal activity associated with the U.S. intelligence community, government agencies and contractors or be a part of an aggressive operation focused on foreign countries that represent the greatest threat to U.S. interests.
Detecting, Disrupting and Dismantling
Jobs in the Counterterrorism Division begin with detection of terrorist activity, disrupting it and end with dismantling terrorist sleeper cells in the United States. Employees in this division include counterterrorism professionals and special agents. Positions here call for computer and accounting forensics -- tracking and following the money -- and special agent investigations. Analysts in this division help detect terrorist activity by monitoring banking, telecommunications and Internet activity among suspected groups. Linguists translate foreign languages to help in the analyzation process.
Detangling the Web
The FBI has a special division that teams cyber special agents and information technology, computer science and software engineering professionals for Internet-related investigations and threats. The Cyber Division's purpose begins with protecting the infrastructure of the Internet in the United States and includes combating global Web-related threats, Internet criminal activity and collaborating with international law enforcement agencies. Sometimes the FBI hires ethical hackers, people with computer degrees and skill hacking into secure systems. These professionals help ferret out Internet weaknesses to protect against cyber attacks.
Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Watson
In the Criminal Division, people with college degrees in applied sciences, technology and engineering take on the supportive role typically played by Dr. Watson in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fiction series. For these jobs, the FBI looks for people with backgrounds in biology, forensics sciences, biometrics, cryptography, bombs and incendiary devices, computer science, mathematics, mechanical engineering and film, video and still photography. Special agents work undercover or in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies in criminal investigations. For example, the FBI often uses special agents to portray vulnerable children online to help capture pedophiles who use the Internet to find prey. Cyber Division Information technology professionals do the online investigative work upfront for the criminal sting operation.
Specific Job Titles
The degree you have, your personal experience and background all figure into the type of job you qualify for with the FBI. The FBI hires linguists, intelligence and forensic analysts, and law enforcement personnel for security at FBI locations. It also hires investigative specialists and people with military or special training for its hostage tactical force. For example, some professional staff positions include art historians, IT and computer specialists and certified public accountants. FBI staff includes lawyers, business administration professionals, biologists and scientists with varied backgrounds and education.