Working for the FBI: everything you need to know

Last updated: April 12, 2024
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Paul Baker
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Working for the FBI: everything you need to know
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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has over 37,000 employees. It's an organization that values diversity, inclusion, and equality.

A job at the FBI often becomes a long-term career. The FBI offers a range of departments looking for new team members, including business, creative, investigative, and STEM. You'll also find specialized careers, plus opportunities for students and interns.

If you want to work at this law enforcement agency, there's an extensive application process. To be successful, you'll need to be passionate about serving and protecting America while following the law.

You'll also need to pass a background check that looks at your criminal history record, driving record, and more.

How does it all work? Here's everything you need to know about the FBI background check process.

What is the FBI?

Chances are you've heard of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It's a US agency that investigates federal crimes.

The FBI is based in Washington, DC, but it has offices throughout the US and Puerto Rico. Some FBI agents also work in other countries, helping to combat international crime.

The agency has a long history of keeping Americans safe. It started in 1908 and was originally called the Bureau of Investigation (BOI). In 1935, the agency changed its name to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Some of the areas that the FBI is responsible for are cybercrime, money laundering, terrorism, organized crime, and human trafficking.

Not all crimes can be investigated by the FBI. There are set jurisdictions, and the agency has to report to the attorney general.

The FBI works closely with other law enforcement agencies, including local and state police departments. If you work for the FBI, you'll use the latest technology.

What types of jobs are available at the FBI?

The FBI is hiring in different areas both inside and outside the US. If you're interested in enforcing the law, opportunities are available to be a federal agent or FBI police officer.

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There are also other career options. Support workers are required in victim services, and if you have the right experience, you can apply for a social worker, psychologist, or victim support worker role.

There are jobs for language analysts, financial experts, and occupational health nurses.

Want to learn a skilled trade? The FBI has apprenticeships available for electricians and maintenance mechanics.

There are also programs for students to learn on the job and paid summer internships for eligible applicants.

FBI roles can be part-time or full-time. Some positions have irregular hours, including evening and weekend shifts. Depending on the job, domestic and international travel may be required.

If you work hard, there are opportunities for promotion.

What do you need to work at the FBI?

The minimum hiring requirements for the FBI vary between jobs. If you want to work as an FBI agent, you should be between 23 and 37 years old. However, there are exceptions for veterans.

You should be a US citizen and pass all checks for employment purposes, including a background check and drug test.

The FBI will also check that any loan or child support payments are up to date. Male applicants need to register with the US Selective Service.

You'll need to complete an application form, and this will be checked by a human resources specialist. If you're eligible, you'll be asked to attend an interview.

For some jobs, you'll also need to pass a series of assessments.

What is a background check?

A background check helps employers verify your identity. It is used to look at a range of areas, including your criminal record, credit history, driving history, education, and previous employment.

The background report shows employers that you've been honest in your application. It also flags any incidents in your past that may impact your performance. For example, someone with a history of DUIs and reckless driving wouldn't be a good fit for a position that involves driving.

Criminal background checks show both misdemeanors and felony convictions. This information is taken from local, state, and federal databases and can go back seven or more years.

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You'll need to give permission before the background check process can start. Background check requirements usually include your Social Security number, other forms of identification, your date of birth, and your address.

Background checks happen toward the end of the hiring process. You may even be given an offer of employment, pending the background check results.

Once the history check is complete, the hiring manager can make their final decision.

What does the FBI background check look for?

Most companies in the US conduct background checks on prospective employees. However, an FBI background check is more thorough than that of most other employers.

The federal agency does an FBI identity check. This verifies your information, such as your birth record, to make sure the agency is dealing with the right person. This personal check also looks at your education, qualifications, and work history.

The agency also does an extensive criminal background check. If you've ever been convicted of a felony, you won't be eligible for the job. Special agent candidates have even stricter conditions. Any domestic violence misdemeanors or other serious offenses will disqualify them from the application process.

Some roles require a polygraph test, interviews with former employers, or professional or personal references from colleagues or friends.

In addition to your arrest records, the FBI will look at your credit history. Credit card debt, unpaid loans, and bankruptcy will all show up on your record.

Does the FBI do a drug test?

In addition to the background and history check, the agency conducts a drug test. The FBI has zero tolerance for drug use, and illegal drugs and cannabis are banned in the workplace.

The drug test will flag any illicit drugs, alcohol, or marijuana usage.

Don't forget: any drug convictions will be on your background check. You'll miss out on the position if you've used cannabis one year prior or less. However, if you were under 18 at the time, you'll still be eligible to apply.

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If you've been caught using any other illegal drugs in the last 10 years, you'll be disqualified. A history of selling or manufacturing drugs will also result in a "no" from the FBI hiring team.

If you take any prescription drugs, you should discuss this with your doctor before applying, as there can be exceptions to this rule. For example, steroid use is banned at the FBI unless you have a prescription.

How long does the FBI background check take?

When you apply for a job at the FBI, it can take around a year from the time you submit your application to the date you get hired.

Criminal background checks can take a few months to complete. The current processing time is around six months, and this includes the polygraph test and interviews with people you know.

There can be delays in processing if your details are incorrect or your history is complicated. Something as simple as not signing the application form could also cause a significant delay.

You'll get a response letter once the background report is ready. Most people work or study while going through the FBI application process.

What do you do if there's a mistake in your background check?

FBI background checks are thorough, but if you think there's an error, you can contact customer service and ask them to take another look.

This will take additional time, so you should only use this service if you're sure there's a mistake.

If you get your background check response and it's the same, the results will stand.

Minor issues on your report won't always prevent you from getting a position. If you know you have something on your police record, you should get advice before applying.

Where to find an FBI job

Applying for a position at the FBI is time-consuming, so you should be committed before you start.

Visit the FBI careers page to view jobs and learn about the hiring process. The website also has information about eligibility and career pathways.

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Remember to read the job criteria carefully, as each position has different requirements.

Some roles can help you gain experience before you apply at the FBI. For instance, you can browse jobs for security officers, financial experts, social workers, police officers, or border protection agents.

The FBI background check process

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has a range of exciting career opportunities. If you work there, you’ll likely have a job for life, and many departments are currently hiring.

There are a few hiring requirements for getting accepted into the FBI, including age, experience, and US citizen status.

Plus, you'll need to pass a background check. At the end of the process, there'll be a comprehensive report that covers your criminal convictions, personal details, work history, credit history, and driving record. The FBI will also chat with people in your network, including coworkers, friends, and past employers.

Your background report could significantly impact the hiring decision.

The FBI is a drug-free work environment. You'll need to pass a drug test and have no illicit drugs or cannabis found in your system.

The background check process can take months.

Looking for a new job? Head over to our job board to see what's available in your area. You can find more articles and tips in our resource center.



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