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How to Get a Good Start on Becoming an FBI Agent

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To many considering a law enforcement career, a position as an FBI special agent is the job of all jobs. Foreign intelligence, espionage, anti-terrorism, cyber crime -- these and more fall under the purview of the FBI. Unfortunately, because so many dream of joining the FBI, the competition is fierce and the standards high -- physically, academically and ethically. The more time you give yourself to become the ideal candidate, the better your chances of achieving your dream.

Complete the Minimum Requirements

To become an FBI agent, you must be at least 23 years old. The cutoff age is 36. Veterans may be able to get a special waiver of the cutoff age. The FBI wants agents with college degrees and three years of professional work experience. Don’t bother applying if you aren’t ready to be assigned anywhere in the world.

Become Good at Learning

The ability to learn will enhance your efforts during the 20-week, 850-hour training that prospective agents undergo at the FBI Academy. Knowing how to absorb information may prevent you from washing out of a program that includes behavioral science, forensic science, law, counterterrorism, ethics and investigative techniques. Graduation requires at least an 85 percent grade in several examinations, including three legal disciplines.

Acquire Special Knowledge

Agents must qualify for the FBI under one of five Special Agent entry programs: accounting, computer science/information technology, language, law or diversified experience. Once qualified, the FBI’s need for certain critical skills at certain times prioritizes candidate applications, so the more skills you possess, the better your chances. Reading, writing and speaking various languages, including Spanish, Hebrew, Japanese, Chinese and Arabic; computer certifications; being a CPA; possessing a law degree -- such backgrounds qualify you for the entry programs and may also fulfill one of the FBI’s needed critical skills.

Get in Good Shape

The FBI requires physical fitness. Besides passing a standardized physical fitness exam, the FBI tests prospective agents on situps, pushups, sprinting and a 1.5-mile run. The first exam happens in Week One at the academy. Not only will you need to be in tip-top shape, you’ll need the special coordination required to use firearms with expertise. Agents must shoot proficiently with a pistol, carbine and shotgun. At the academy, trainees will be tested in all three weapons and need an 80 percent minimum score to pass.

Keep Your Nose Clean

Among the FBI’s core values are uncompromising personal integrity and accountability. Live a clean life and have a spotless record. The FBI won’t take felons, and you’ll need to pass a drug test and polygraph. As far as drugs go, you can never have dealt them, you can’t have used marijuana in the past three years, nor any other illegal drug in the past decade. Abusing prescription drugs is also a deal breaker. Be prepared for an extensive background and credit check. Defaulting on a student loan instantly disqualifies you.


Sophie Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of both print and film media. A freelancer for more than 20 years, Johnson has had the opportunity to cover topics ranging from construction to music to celebrity interviews.

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