How to Become an FBI Agent

FBI Agent Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $49,540
Avg. Pay / hour $23.82
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 5%

An FBI Agent is responsible for investigating crimes within the US such as murder, fraud, kidnapping, or armed robbery.

They are also active within counter-terrorism, detecting and eliminating threats both within and outside of the US.

Working as an FBI agent, you’ll be at the top of your law enforcement career, and these agents are the best in the business.

Keep in mind that you’ll be up for a lot of hard work on the road to becoming an FBI agent.

You won’t have any secrets from your employer, and need to be ready to put your professional life before your personal life.

To become an FBI agent, your success will weigh heavily on excellent problem solving skills and attention to detail.

You will need to be thorough, organized, and exact in your approach to work.

Communication skills are essential, both written and verbal.

You’ll also need good interpersonal skills, as you’ll spend much time talking with colleagues, as well as people from the community, and at times the media.

Education Requirements to Become an FBI Agent

To become an FBI agent, you’ll need to be between 23 and 37 years of age, and also be a US citizen.

The FBI makes new recruits pass a series of strenuous physical and mental tests before admission.

You must have a high level of fitness, near-perfect hearing and vision, and be of sound and stable personality.

As far as your academic qualifications go, to gain entry to the FBI you’ll need a bachelor’s degree.

Subjects in law enforcement, science, accounting, and forensics will be highly regarded.

There are colleges which offer specialized FBI programs.

After college, you can apply for employment with the FBI.

Be prepared for very detailed background checks and demanding interviews.

You’ll also need to pass the physical and psychological components of the testing.

If selected, you’ll undergo four months of vigorous training at Quantico, Virginia.

After this you’ll be given your first post as an FBI agent where you will need to complete a two year probationary period.

FBI Agent Job Description

There are many different roles that an FBI agent could find themselves undertaking.

Some agents work in research, spending most of their time behind a desk.

Others are almost always out on the field, talking with suspects and witnesses, and gathering evidence to solve crimes.

Here are some of the more typical duties of an FBI agent.

  • Investigating a crime scene
  • Collecting evidence
  • Interviewing suspects and witnesses
  • Working with local law enforcement
  • Communicating with the media
  • Preparing reports
  • Testifying in court

FBI Agent Salary and Career Path

Most FBI Agents will begin their career working in the FBIs head office in Washington.

They may be desk bound, or be working as an assistant to another agent.

They will investigate a wide range of cases and perform many duties.

After a few years of experience, you may be able to perform specialized duties.

This means that you will do a lot more field work, and work either with a partner or on your own.

There are FBI agents that specialize in linguistics, coding, hostage situations, and homeland security, just to name a few.

Your career path will be determined by your skill set and interests.

There are five formal career paths within the FBI:

  • Intelligence – Investigating threats to US security, assisting law enforcement agencies.
  • Counterintelligence – Preventing other nations penetrating US intelligence, preventing other nations gaining access to weapons of mass destruction.
  • Criminal – Investigating and detecting crime within the US.
  • Cyber – Investigating and detecting crime related to computers and networks
  • Counterterrorism – Detect and eliminate terrorist threats both within and outside of the US.

Entry into the FBI is competitive, and the turnover is very low, with very few people leaving.

Due to agents retiring, or the agency expanding, there are intakes for new agents.

Salary usually increases in increments which are scheduled.

Beginning agents are paid $42,000 a year, but with overtime earn close to $53,000 on average.

Agents who complete field assignments without supervision get paid around $63,000 a year, closer to $80,000 with overtime.

Agents within a supervisory position earn around $73,000.

If you’re interested in law enforcement and national security then you may want to become an FBI agent.

Entry is competitive, however those that make it stay with the agency for their careers.

Salary is good and employment very secure.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$82,060
New Hampshire$63,670
New Jersey$91,690
New Mexico$55,420
New York$80,590
North Carolina$51,860
North Dakota$64,470
Rhode Island$68,580
South Carolina$49,140
South Dakota$52,580
West Virginia$47,160
Puerto Rico$40,490

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $102,920.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $102,920
Washington - $92,390
New Jersey - $91,690
Alaska - $87,510
Illinois - $82,800
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers, OCC Code 33-3051, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an FBI agent?

Agents working for the Federal Bureau of Investigations enforce federal laws and help maintain security within the United States.

FBI agents investigate crimes such as murder, fraud, kidnapping, drug trafficking or armed robbery.

FBI agents need to be thorough, organized and must have excellent attention to detail and problem-solving skills.

Speaking a foreign language is another important skill.

In order to become an FBI agent, you must be a US citizen and must be over 23.

How much does an FBI agent make?

Salaries for FBI agents are based on a General Schedule PayScale.

First-year FBI agents start at a GS-10 level and move up the scale.

The base pay for a beginner is close to $46,000 per year.

With the added locality pay and availability pay, first-year FBI agents can earn somewhere between $64,000-$74,000 annually.

Experienced agents who move towards supervisory and management positions can earn up to $208,000 per year.

How much does it cost to become an FBI agent?

If you want to become an FBI agent you must be between 23 and 36 years of age.

FBI agents usually have a four-year college degree and at least three years of work experience in their field.

In order to qualify for a position as an FBI agent, you need a bachelor’s degree obtained from an institution that is accredited by government institutes.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations is seeking agents who have bachelor’s degrees in the following fields: science, finance, engineering, computer science, international studies, and military intelligence.

Getting your bachelor’s degree will cost, on average, around $36,000 per year.

Meeting the education and experience requirements is not enough; you have to also undergo written and oral examinations, pass a medical and physical exam and a psychological evaluation.

A rigorous background check is also performed on each candidate.

Those who are accepted by the agency have to complete training at the FBI academy in Quantico for 17 weeks.

What is the demand for FBI agents?

The FBI usually hires between 500-750 special agents per year.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for police officers and detectives is expected to grow by 5 percent in the next 10 years.

The job growth for FBI agents depends on a number of factors, including funding and the number of current agents that retire.

How long does it take to become an FBI agent?

Becoming an FBI agent is a highly competitive process that requires a mix of experience, education, and commitment.

How much time will take you before being accepted by the agency depends on the career path you are choosing and your field of expertise.

To become an FBI agent you need at least a four-year college degree in one of the following fields: natural sciences, finance, engineering, computer science, international studies or military intelligence.

At least three years of work experience in your field are also required.

If you also hold a master’s degree you can qualify for the position after only two years of experience.

Those who have a background in law enforcement can qualify for becoming FBI special agents after 7-10 years of experience.

You have to also pass written and oral examinations, a medical and physical exam and a psychological evaluation.

After a rigorous background check accepted candidates have to complete training at the FBI academy in Quantico for 17 weeks.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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