Thanks to the popularity of television crime dramas, most people equate the FBI with special agents who investigate crimes. However, the FBI offers a wide array of career opportunities in fields as diverse as laboratory science, information technology, linguistics, intelligence analysis and human resources. Prior work experience in related areas will make you more competitive than other candidates applying for FBI positions.
FBI special agents are, above all, investigators. They must acquire, organize and analyze enormous amounts of data. According to the FBI website, a career in accounting or finance may make you more competitive because you will know how to analyze bank transactions and accounting records to identify irregularities. Similarly, prior work in engineering can be beneficial because it gives you experience in analyzing and organizing large volumes of data. Since investigations lead to prosecution, experience in the field of law is especially helpful.
FBI intelligence analysts support investigations and help identify threats to public security by correlating information tidbits that might appear unrelated or coincidental to a casual observer. Analysts also work with their counterparts in local and international law enforcement, as well as the intelligence community, to share information and ideas regarding the activities of criminals and terrorists. A career in a research-related field, such as academia or a clinical environment, can help you be more competitive in this FBI career path.
Other Career Tracks
A career as a translator, interpreter or foreign language teacher will help you qualify for a position as an FBI linguist. Previous work in a computer-related field would make you more competitive for a position as an IT professional within the FBI. Clinical or laboratory work, such as medical research or experience in an industrial laboratory, can improve your chances of gaining a position in the FBI’s crime laboratory.
Standards, Testing and Disqualifiers
Due to the FBI’s law enforcement mission, job applicants must meet strict behavioral standards. For example, if you have been convicted of a felony or have defaulted on a federally-insured student loan, the FBI will not hire you. You also must meet certain standards regarding past drug use and must pass a urinalysis test for current drug usage. In addition, if you apply for the special agent career track, you must pass visual and hearing acuity tests as well as a very challenging physical fitness test.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation: Special Agents Frequently Asked Questions
- Federal Bureau of Investigation: Special Agent Physical Requirements
- Federal Bureau of Investigation: Employment Disqualifiers
- Federal Bureau of Investigation: Joining the FBI as a Member of Our Professional Staffg
- Federal Bureau of Investigation: Intelligence Analysts
- Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images