How to Join the FBI

I wish I was making this up — the FBI’s website makes the following claim: “When you join the FBI, you join the FBI family.” Though this organization has a hard exterior, reinforced by movies and television, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (like many other government organizations in recent years) has become soft and mushy. Take a look at the minimum requirements for becoming a Special Agent — want to know how to join the FBI? Follow these extensive (but not exactly strenuous) basic requirements —

1. Be a US citizen or a citizen of the Northern Mariana Islands.

That’s right, the FBI allows citizens of the Northern Mariana Islands to become agents. These islands are any of a number of little dots of land east of the Philippines, such as Guam. These islands are a commonwealth of the United States and can serve at the pleasure of the President just as well as citizens of the upper 50 states.

2. Be available for assignment anywhere in the FBI’s geographic jurisdiction.

This pretty much means everywhere. From the hottest deserts of Africa to the icy plains of Northern Europe, FBI Special Agents must be prepared to go all over the planet for their paycheck, and be willing to relocate themselves and their family for periods of several years

3. Be 23 years of age or older but not yet 37 at the time of your hire. Also, Special Agent candidates must commit to serving the FBI as a Special Agent for three years.

This is where the requirements start to get sticky and maybe a little weird. Why “not yet 37”? Thanks to the extensive length of time it takes to test for the FBI, process your application, and fill out paperwork, you should really not apply if you’re over 36 years old. Testing and preparation for the FBI can take 6 months or even more. Another special rule that the FBI crams in under your age requirements — Special Agents have to have a valid driver’s license.

4. Be deemed physically fit by the FBI’s Chief Medical Officer.

This means passing a test as outlined by the CMO — so what does “physically fit” mean? You have to be able to shoot firearms with some precision, participate in FBI raids, show knowledge of defensive tactics.

How to Join the FBIThat’s it. Four simple requirements for how to join the FBI, which along with a notoriously tough interview process. But wait, there’s one more thing that can keep you from joining the FBI.

If you meet the above four qualifications you must also “qualify” for the FBI under at least one of four entrance programs: Law, Accounting, Language, and something scary called Diversified.

Law — To qualify under the Law Program, you should have a J.D. degree from an accredited resident law school as determined by the College Board.

Accounting — To qualify to be a Special Agent under the Accounting Program, an Agent must earn a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in accounting or something in the line of accounting, and be “academically eligible” to take the CPA test. Candidates who have not passed the CPA test will have to take the (some say harder) FBI accounting test.

Language — Want to join the FBI with a concentration in Languages? Earn a bachelor’s degree in any discipline plus fluent skill in a language that the FBI deems important. This means Arabic, Mandarin, Farsi, or a handful of other languages depending on the international situation. Candidates under the Language department have to pass a stringent foreign language test.

Diversified — To be an Agent under the Diversified Program, you can earn a bachelor’s degree in any discipline (honestly, even Technical Theatre or Art) along with a minimum of three years of full-time work experience. You can also qualify as Diversified if you earn any postgraduate degree with just two years of full-time work experience. Got a Master’s in Creative Writing and a job delivering pizzas for the past three or four years? Congrats, you can be an FBI Special Agent.

FBI’s National Academy

The FBI National Academy at Quantico, Virginia is a higher level educational course for both American and international law enforcement hopefuls. Students at the Academy try to earn their strips and become FBI agents by learning about law enforcement and other FBI imperative skills.

The state mission of the Academy at Quantico is “to support, promote, and enhance the personal and professional development of law enforcement leaders by preparing them for complex, dynamic, and contemporary challenges through innovative techniques, facilitating excellence in education and research, and forging partnerships throughout the world.” Though the FBI is only open to Americans and citizens of Guam, foreign leaders often take part in training at Quantico.

Like any private academy, you can only go to Quantico if you’re invited there. How does it work? Someone has to nominate you, then your app is reviewed by a school board.

Study topics at the Academy are made up of 10 classroom-hour weeks, four times a year. That’s forty hours of school total. The class are generally around 250 officers large, and they take a fairly diverse program of undergraduate or even graduate level college courses at the Quantico, Virginia campus. Your classes will be in the following areas: law, forensic science, terrorism, communication, leadership, and plenty of courses in health and fitness. FBI National Academy Officers take part in various leadership training courses or other specialized courses as they advance. The point of the National Academy is to teach people how to join the FBI and allow students to work together to share their experience. That “family” the FBI talks about on their website? It begins with Quantico.

Upon graduating the National Academy, each officer is granted the chance to join the FBI National Academy Associates, which is sort of like being a Special Agent only not as focused. The FBI NAA is made up of some 16,000 FBI-trained law enforcement and anti-terrorism trainees whose focus is to hone their skills and hope to one day become a Special Agent.

Planning on joining the FBI? Match your educational career and further studies to what the FBI wants. The above qualifications and steps for how to join the FBI are just the minimums, and factors like individual abilities and experience play a role in the FBI’s ultimate decision on whether to hire you as a Special Agent or not.

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