FBI Agents


Education and Training Requirements

High School

A high school diploma, or its equivalent, is required. The FBI does not recommend specific courses for high school students. Rather, the bureau encourages students to do the best work they can. Since FBI agents perform a variety of work, numerous academic disciplines are needed. 

Postsecondary Training

All special agent candidates must hold a four-year degree from a college or university that is accredited by one of the regional or national institutional associations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

The FBI is looking for candidates with a wide variety of backgrounds, not just law enforcement or military experience. According to its Web site, 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. Study a field you enjoy and, after that, obtain experiences that will demonstrate your ability to master the special agent core competencies, specifically: collaboration, communication, flexibility/adaptablity, initiative, interpersonal ability, leadership, organizing/planning, and problem solving/judgment. 

All candidates must complete a rigorous application process. For those who successfully complete the written tests and interview, the FBI conducts a thorough background investigation that includes credit and criminal record checks; interviews with associates; contact with personal and business references; interviews with past employers and neighbors; and verification of educational achievements. Drug testing and a physical examination are required. A polygraph examination is also required. The completed background investigation is then considered when the final hiring decision is made.

New hires train for 21 weeks at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Agent trainees study academic and investigative subjects, and trainees also focus on physical fitness, defensive tactics, and firearms training. Emphasis is placed on developing investigative techniques, as well as skills in interviewing, interrogation, and gathering intelligence information. Agent trainees are tested on their defensive tactics, firearms and weapon handling, physical fitness, and arrest techniques. They must also pass academic exams and obey certain rules and regulations during the training. If the trainees pass the tests at the academy and receive their credentials, they become special agents and are assigned to serve a two-year probationary period at an FBI field office.

During the first months of employment, the novice agent is guided by a veteran special agent who will help show how the lessons learned at the academy can be applied on the job. Assignments are determined by the individual's special skills and the current needs of the FBI. As a part of their duties, special agents may be required to relocate during their careers.

Other Education or Training

The education and training of FBI agents continue throughout their career. FBI agents are always expected to learn new techniques and better methods in criminal investigation, either through experience on the job, advanced study courses, in-service training, or special conferences. Many of these opportunities are provided by the FBI. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There is no certification or licensing available for FBI agents.

Other Requirements

To qualify for training as an FBI agent, candidates must be U.S. citizens between the ages of 23 and 36. They must possess a valid driver's license, be available for assignment anywhere in the areas of the bureau's jurisdiction, which includes Puerto Rico, and be in excellent physical condition. Their vision must not be worse than 20/20 uncorrected and correctable to 20/20 in one eye and no worse than 20/40 in the other eye. Applicants must also pass a color-vision test and hearing test. Applicants may not have physical disabilities that would interfere with the performance of their duties, including use of firearms and defensive tactics and taking part in raids. All applicants must be able to withstand rigorous physical strain and exertion.

Applicants must also be able to obtain a Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

A bachelor’s degree, plus at least two years of full-time, professional work experience (or one year if one has earned an advanced degree), are required to become an FBI agent.

FBI agents assume grave responsibilities as a normal part of their jobs. Their reputation, integrity, and character must be above reproach, and they must be dependable and courageous. Agents must be able to accept continual challenges in their jobs, realizing that no two days of work assignments may be exactly alike. FBI agents need to be stable and personally secure and able to work daily with challenge, change, and danger. For most agents, the FBI is a lifelong career.

The FBI requires special agents to have the following core competencies: collaboration, communication, flexibility/adaptablity, initiative, interpersonal ability, leadership, organizing/planning, and problem solving/judgment.