Becoming an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation requires you to meet a variety of qualifications. You must be between the ages of 23 and 37, pass a medical exam, have at least a bachelor's degree and hold either U.S. or Northern Mariana Islands citizenship. You will need a valid driver's license and be available to take a duty post anywhere the FBI sends you. You will also need at least three years of relevant experience. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management issues annual pay schedules for FBI agents, including starting salaries.
About the OPM Pay Schedule
All federal jobs receive a pay grade, based on the duties, qualifications and requirements of the job. For federal law-enforcement officers, the pay grades run from 1 to 15. Within each pay grade are 10 steps that employees can progress through, earning higher salaries without having to earn a promotion in grade. After the OPM determines the base salary for each grade and step, it increases the salaries by a fixed percentage to adjust pay to more accurately reflect wages and expenses in different locations. FBI field agents start at grade 10, and field agents may receive promotions to grade 13. FBI agents with supervisory duties can become grade 14 or 15 employees.
Starting Salary for FBI Agents During Training
All FBI agents start at step 1, pay grade 10. Base pay for this level was $47,297 annually in 2013. New agents must spend the first 20 weeks at the FBI academy, located in Quantico, Virginia. This area falls in the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore-Northern Virginia district for locality pay. After adding this adjustment, new agents earned the equivalent of $58,752 annually during their time at the academy.
Starting Salary at First Duty Location
Once FBI agents complete training, they receive their first duty assignment. Their salaries depend on the location of their assignment. Salaries could be less or more than they earned while in training. In 2013, agents assigned to the greater San Francisco district would earn $63,922 per year, while those assigned to Richmond, Virginia, would earn $55,087. An agent in Phoenix earned $55,224, but an agent in Alaska earned $58,975. For locations that were not specifically named, grade 10, step 1, pay was $53,994 annually in 2013.
Availability or Overtime Pay
All FBI agents are required to work 50-hour weeks, and they receive availability pay as compensation. Availability pay can be as much as 25 percent of the agent's annual salary. Locality pay is included in the calculation for availability pay. Therefore, an agent in San Francisco earned $15,980.50 in availability pay for a total of $79,902.50, as of 2013. In non-specified locations, availability pay was $13,498.50, bringing the total annual earnings to $67,492.50.
New FBI agents might qualify for a one-time relocation bonus. If your first duty station is in a location that has a high cost-of-living, such as San Francisco, New York City or Boston, you could be eligible for up to $22,000 in relocation bonuses, as of 2013. To qualify, your home at the time you begin your training must be in an area with lower costs than your new duty station.