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Whether you are seeking the excitement of solving high-profile crimes as a special agent or working behind the scenes as a member of the professional staff, a career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation is a fascinating way to earn a living. Although the job requirements vary for entry-level FBI positions, the career opportunities are vast once you get your foot in the door.
Regardless of the direction you decide to take, all FBI positions, including entry-level, require passing a background investigation. The investigation is considered extensive and includes a polygraph examination, drug testing, interviews with friends and co-workers, as well as credit and record checks. A written test is also required of applicants. If you fail to pass any of these application requirements, you will be disqualified from the process and considered ineligible for employment.
There are two primary career paths -- special agent and professional staff. The FBI does hire at all levels, from college to high school graduates. Agents must hold a college degree and meet specific age requirements. Professional staff applicants are required to have a high school diploma. All FBI employees, including entry-level staff, must be U.S. citizens. A current listing of available positions and job descriptions is posted on the federal website USAJOBS.gov.
To be a special agent in the FBI, you must hold a four-year college degree and be at least 23 years old, but younger than the age of 37 at the time of appointment. You must also be able to pass rigorous physical testing and have at least 20/20 vision. Additionally, before you can enter the field as an agent, you will need to complete and pass a 20-week training course at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA. Agents in training are paid at the rate of a GS-10, plus locality pay, which equates to $51,043 annually. Pay after the Academy depends upon the field of expertise, as FBI agents are stationed across the world. FBI agents never have typical days and their work environment is ever-changing.
Although most people think "men in black" when they hear FBI, there is much more to the agency than special agents. Professional staff work behind the scenes in various capacities, from linguists to computer analysts and human resource professionals. The major differences between the two career paths are the requirements. To be a professional staffer at the FBI, the minimum requirement is a high school diploma. The physical requirements of working as agent do not apply to professional staff, as the work environment will be more office than field-based. The pay range for staffers also varies depending on the area and division.
Shannon Jones is a news editor and writer based in Michigan. Her work has received several writing awards, including the Richard Lacourse Award for investigative journalism. Jones holds master's degrees in both administration and marketing.
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