How to Become an Undercover Agent
Undercover Agent Careers & Degrees

Undercover Agents are professionals who use an alternate identity in order to provide detective work for a special assignment.

Undercover Agents may work for a local or state agency, the FBI, the CIA, the DEA or another federal government providing support to a special assignment.

Many of these individuals work under pressure and unsafe conditions when working on an assignment which can attract many individuals who work well under this environment.

Individuals who want to become an Undercover Agent will need a combination of skills, job experience and education in order to enter this field.

Some skills that can help individuals succeed in this profession include: inquisitiveness to help individuals ask the right questions, persistence to help individuals continue their work as some assignments can last years and communication skills.

Education Requirements to Become an Undercover Agent

Individuals who want to become an Undercover Agent will need a minimum of a high school degree and some experience.

Individuals are encouraged to complete a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in order to have better job prospects.

Individuals must also have experience in the detective field and a license in order to perform detective work.

Individuals pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree are encouraged to focus on a criminal justice or police science program.

Undercover Agents focusing on computer forensics are required to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in computer science or criminal justice in order to work in this specialty.

Individuals can complete a computer forensics certificate or program.

Some postsecondary schools also offer this program at the bachelor’s or master’s level.

Individuals who want to become an Undercover Agent are encouraged to gain experience in the field at the entry level to help them enter this field.

These individuals can complete police academy to enter the field as a police officer and work at a law enforcement agency.

Individuals specializing in computer forensics may also gain on the job experience by working at a law enforcement agency.

A license is also required in order to become an Undercover Agent.

Licensure requirements vary by state.

Individuals are encouraged to contact their state for specific requirements to gain a license.

Undercover Agent Job Description

Undercover Agents use a false and made up identity to gather information in relation to a crime.

These individuals are typically in demand when an agency does not have information or evidence to press charges against an individual.

Undercover Agents use their made up identity to focus on a group or an individual who is directly linked to a crime.

They will use a variety of techniques in order to become close to a target to gather a variety of information and evidence that will be used to prosecute an individual.

Undercover Agent Salary and Career Path

Exact salary information doesn’t exist for Undercover Agents.

These professionals work for several different law enforcement agencies including local police departments, the DEA, the FBI or other state government agencies.

Salary and pay will depend on several factors including the agency an individual works for, the geographical location they are employed and the risk involved in the undercover job they have been assigned.

In 2012, the median salary for all police and investigators was approximately $56,980 per year.

The median salary for detective and criminal investigators, the profession Undercover Agents fall under, was approximately $74,300 per year.

Figures for the job outlook for this profession are not available.

However, the job outlook for police and detectives is expected to grow at a slower than average rate when compared to other professions.

The projected job growth for police and detectives is expected to grow by 5 percent through the year 2022.

Local and state governments have strict budget to adhere to limiting some of the growth.

Individuals with advanced degrees, several years of experience and knowledge of two or more languages will have the best job prospects for this profession.

A career as an Undercover Agent can be a rewarding one that has a big impact in gathering evidence for big crimes.

Because of its nature, a career as an Undercover Agent may also be dangerous and is not for the faint of heart.

This career can be a perfect fit for individuals who are risk takers and are persistent when solving crimes.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$86,030
$44K
$58K
$86K
$107K
$139K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$65,830
Alaska$113,420
Arizona$83,650
Arkansas$62,210
California$107,760
Colorado$90,680
Connecticut$91,430
Delaware$92,790
Florida$76,220
Georgia$67,820
Hawaii$109,320
Idaho$74,680
Illinois$86,910
Indiana$69,960
Iowa$73,120
Kansas$63,980
Kentucky$76,650
Louisiana$64,100
Maine$73,040
Maryland$102,170
Massachusetts$102,350
Michigan$88,580
Minnesota$80,560
Mississippi$65,330
Missouri$73,480
Montana$81,220
Nebraska$74,730
Nevada$87,010
New Hampshire$80,340
New Jersey$103,460
New Mexico$77,170
New York$92,600
North Carolina$61,880
North Dakota$78,920
Ohio$77,770
Oklahoma$65,930
Oregon$94,590
Pennsylvania$87,460
Rhode Island$87,100
South Carolina$59,410
South Dakota$71,580
Tennessee$71,090
Texas$79,490
Utah$82,930
Vermont$84,700
Virginia$98,960
Washington$97,770
West Virginia$89,690
Wisconsin$80,410
Wyoming$81,890
Puerto Rico$70,430

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $113,420.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Alaska - $113,420
Hawaii - $109,320
California - $107,760
New Jersey - $103,460
Massachusetts - $102,350
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Detectives and Criminal Investigators, OCC Code 33-3021, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is an Undercover Agent?

An Undercover Agent is a detective who infiltrates a criminal organization in order to investigate the operations and gather evidence necessary to charge and prosecute the suspects.

Undercover Agents work for police departments or detective agencies.

In order to become an Undercover Agent, you need a high school diploma and preferably a degree in criminal justice, law enforcement, sociology or another related area.

You may also need up to five years of experience as a police officer.

Undercover Agents need strong communication and multitasking skills.

Physical strength is another requirement, as the job can be demanding and dangerous.

QuestionHow much does an Undercover Agent make?

Detective and criminal investigators earn, on average, over $70,000 per year.

Because of the dangers involved in their work, undercover cops are often paid more than other police officers.

However, as with almost any job, the salary varies depending on the region.

Salaries for undercover agents in Atlanta, Georgia averaged at $67,000 per year in 2012, while undercover cops working in California earned close to $110,000.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become an Undercover Agent?

The educational costs vary depending on the institution and the degree you are pursuing.

Tuition for an associate degree in criminal justice is, on average, around $21,000 per year.

The associate degree programs are typically completed in two years.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can cost you between $11,000-$32,000 per year.

In order to make sure that you receive the best education possible, you have to choose a school that is accredited and licensed by government institutions.

QuestionWhat is the demand for Undercover Agents?

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

The number of job opportunities for detectives and criminal investigators depends on the level of government spending.

This is why the demand for employment for Undercover Agents can vary year from year, depending on location.

Having a bachelor’s degree and law enforcement or military experience can give you a great advantage over the other candidates.

Speaking more than one language is another important asset that can help you become an Undercover Agent.

QuestionHow long does it take to become an Undercover Agent?

Police officers need at least a high school diploma but are sometimes required to have a college degree in criminal justice, law enforcement, sociology, or a related field.

An associate degree in law enforcement or criminal justice can typically be obtained in two years.

Bachelor’s degree programs normally last for three to four years.

After finishing college education, you have to complete police academy training for another 5-6 months, depending on the program.

You may also need up to five years of experience as a law enforcement officer before being ready to become an Undercover Agent.

Eligibility is usually determined through tests and work history.

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