June 30, 2016, by David McCauley – Many people with a military background make the decision to continue their service to our nation by pursuing a career in the US Federal Government. Few government agencies command as much respect as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, better known as the FBI. The FBI is a prestigious organization and natural pivot point for ending military careers – particularly for those with interests in criminal justice and law enforcement.
The path to become a special agent of the FBI is challenging and requires significant preparation. Much like what military recruits experience during training, prospective agents are tested and weeded out. Before that can happen, you must qualify.
Military service is viewed favorably by the FBI, but isn’t enough to grant eligibility. It is mandatory for all applicants to possess a four-year degree in addition to three years minimum full-time work experience. Meeting residency requirements, holding a valid driver’s license, and the having ability to be worldwide assignable are also necessary. The age limit stands at 37 years old, though waivers are possible for preference-eligible applicants.
Assuming an applicant meets all of the preliminary criteria (including health and fitness screenings), the applicant can pass through for further testing. The process is highly competitive. In 2014, over 20,000 applicants competed for only 700 Special Agent vacant positions.
The educational background and experiences applicants draw upon will directly determine their career path within the FBI. As with most challenging careers, forethought is key. Interested parties should focus on educational courses and paths that align with their aptitudes and professional goals within the Bureau.
Applicants come from a broad variety of backgrounds and specialties. In many ways this mirrors the diversity of expertise that the US armed forces are known for. According to the FBI’s Special Agent FAQs, “the FBI seeks Special Agents with degrees/expertise in physical sciences, computer science, engineering, architecture, law, accounting, and other disciplines that require logical analysis and critical thinking. We are also actively seeking Special Agents who are fluent in critical foreign languages, as well as those with experience in intelligence and counterterrorism work.”
While the FBI does not recommend any specific degrees, it is best to focus on areas of education that will further the eight core competencies of Special Agents:
- Oral Communication
- Initiative and Motivation
- Adaptability and Flexibility
- Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing
- Interpersonal Skills
- Evaluating Information and Making Decisions
Coursework relating to crime analysis, criminal behavior, and criminal profiling are all worthwhile. Each provides insight that lends well to most roles in the FBI given the law enforcement nature of the organization. Military service is an excellent place to develop these competencies and related skills. Leadership, communication, and motivation are all tantamount to a long and successful military career. The same traits and skills service members acquire will prepare them for the rigors of Special Agent training and the career ahead. Many veterans have made the successful transition to the FBI. With a solid career plan and plenty of preparation, continued service can be a rewarding career path and opportunity.
About the Author: D.M. McCauley is a former U.S. Navy sailor who worked in Intel. After the service he has dedicated his time to writing and traveling with his significant other.
* Photo Courtesy of Portland State University”