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July 6, 2021

An FBI Agent Talks About the Job

two federal bureau of investigation agents talking

In this Article

If you’ve ever wondered what training you’ll need for a career in the FBI, Loren C., a veteran special agent, will tell you about the ins and outs of the job.

Long hours are expected, and you may intentionally place yourself in harm’s way during arrest or search situations, but if you’re thinking of getting FBI agent training to work with the best of the best, this interview will tell you what the job really entails.

Read on to learn what you’ll need to join this internationally renowned crime-fighting team.

Did you always want to become an FBI agent?

Many Special Agents dream about entering the FBI from an early age. I didn’t think about getting into the FBI until I had been a municipal police officer. After nine years as a police officer, I found myself wondering what new challenges I could undertake and the FBI attracted my attention. I had worked with some local FBI agents and found them to be motivated, sharp, and very committed to their jobs.

What kind of training would you recommend?

I majored in Criminal Justice in college, and then became a police officer and went through the State Police Academy prior to entering the FBI. But the FBI hires so many people from different educational and professional backgrounds that there’s no “golden bullet” to get into the FBI. My recommendation has always been the same: Get an education in something that interests you and then work in a field that interests you. This will usually ensure that you have good experience to bring to the FBI, which we look for in candidates.

How does someone get a job at the FBI?

The process starts at the FBI website, where a person fills out a preliminary application. Once the application is reviewed, the applicant for a Special Agent position will be notified of the initial written test and required to fill out a more comprehensive application.

The top percentage of applicants passing the initial test are invited to undergo an oral interview and secondary written test, after which the top percentage of these folks may be offered further processing for a slot at the FBI Academy. This processing includes a polygraph, comprehensive medical exam, and a physical fitness assessment test.

How many applicants are hired?

The FBI normally hires between 500 and 750 Special Agents a year but we get around 10,000 applicants, so you can see that we can pick and choose from “the best of the best.” A person really needs to be at the top of their game when trying to become an FBI Special Agent, both personally and professionally.

However, I would never discourage anyone who wants to apply for a position from doing so—they just need to be aware that they put themselves in a much better position if they’ve gone the extra mile in their work, done additional job-related or extracurricular activities, and shown that they’re considered a successful, positive member of whatever work they’re doing prior to coming into the FBI.

What do you most enjoy about the job?

The fact that we work at such a high level of law enforcement, dealing with some of the most important, high risk/high gain issues around, from trying to identify, locate and neutralize terrorist activity, to dealing with major organized crime groups nationally and internationally, and being on the cutting edge of cybercrime prevention and investigation. As is often said in our organization when talking about our work: You couldn’t make this stuff up!

What is the most challenging part of being an FBI agent?

The job is often all challenges: from the micro (“How do I conduct this investigation in the most effective and legal manner?”) to the macro (“How do I leverage foreign cooperation for a case with foreign connections, along with ensuring that no U.S. treaties or regulations are violated?”).

The FBI expects much from its personnel, so many additional hours of work in oft-times less than spectacular conditions are par for the course. Following the tragedy on 9/11, many of our NY and DC Special Agents worked virtually around the clock for several months collecting evidence (including body parts) and conducting investigative follow-up. Add the plethora of legal, administrative, and logistical rules and regulations and you begin to see the situation.

Any other insights for students?

I’ve loved every second of my time in the FBI, but not for the action and excitement, which is often less than what you’d see as a uniformed police officer. It was more for the opportunity to work on such amazing cases and in some amazing parts of the world (Russia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, the UK, and Australia).

As I’ve noted before, these are often cases that no one in the world but the FBI works on, and as the primary investigator, it’s up to you to make it happen. The success or failure of a case depends largely on your knowledge, skills, and abilities. That’s a tall order, but one that calls to every criminal justice professional worth his or her salt.