The FBI and CIA have a long history of investigating and uncovering complex criminal activities in the United States and around the world. But getting into either of these organizations isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. Since these agencies have strict hiring practices, it takes a special skill set, education, character, and a lot of luck to secure an entry-level position.
The best way to start your journey with the FBI and the CIA is to determine your qualifications. People who want to apply to the FBI should possess a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Applicants must have specialized skills in investigative work and law enforcement or hold a degree in linguistics, or in fields such as finance, law or computer science.
In addition to strong academic credentials, applicants must also have a clean criminal record and pass a thorough background check that investigates their past employment, education and financial history. Any record of a felony conviction or dishonesty will result in disqualification.
Successful applicants must be U.S. citizens. The FBI and CIA require that an applicant be between the ages of 23 and 37 when they wish to apply. There are some exceptions, such as prior law enforcement, military or intelligence experience, but these exceptions are few and far between.
Those looking to apply to the CIA must either be a citizen of the United States or a resident alien with appropriate immigration documentation. Applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree in either a hard science, technology, engineering, math or foreign language. They must also possess at least two to five years of experience in a technical field or foreign language.
The CIA also requires a poly-graph test and an extensive background investigation. All applicants must be able to pass a drug test, and foreign language fluency is a plus.
The best way to boost your chances of acceptance into the FBI or the CIA is to complete relevant internship programs during college. Whenever possible, try to gain experience in either law enforcement or intelligence.
Network with individuals within the agency and take any of their available exams. Exams such as the Special Agent Exam, the Criminal Investigator Exam, or the Language Aptitude Battery are tools which are specifically used to assess applicants’ capabilities.
Before applying, it’s important to research what kind of job you’re interested in and the materials you need to put together to form a strong application package. Reaching out to former analysts and current staff members is a great way to get an insider view on both the open jobs and the hiring process.
Take the time to familiarize yourself with the applicable congressional acts, agency directives, and memorandums of understanding that encapsulate the Bureau’s mission. Research all about the organizational culture and mission for the FBI and the CIA to gain insight into how the agency operates.
It’s also beneficial to review published literature about the FBI and the CIA, such as books, articles and website resources. This allows you to stay aware of any changes or updates in the agencies, such as hiring rules, promotion policies and eligibility requirements.
Most applicants don’t make it past the initial screening process because they fail to address the qualifications and requirements that the FBI and CIA ask. So, it’s essential to prove your mastery of the job’s skills and technical requirements.
You may also have a better chance of getting accepted if you are referred by someone who is already working with either the FBI or the CIA. It details if you went to a school the agencies specifically seek out or if you know or worked with someone from one of the agencies.
The interview portion of the selection process is the most important. Applicants should be confident and professional in both their attitude and their approach. During the interview, you will be asked questions concerning your academic qualifications, job history, overall motivation and goals, and an explanation of your willingness to relocate, if necessary. Describe clearly your skills and ability to contribute to the Bureau or the Agency.
Prepare in advance for your interview by rehearsing answers out loud to potential questions, reading up on the history of the agency and its agents and preparing your resume and portfolio. You should also familiarize yourself with the Bureau’s and the Agency’s “core values.”
Knowing the specific qualifications of the FBI and the CIA can help potential applicants get clearer on where to focus their energies for the best results. With the right education, experience, attitude, and resilience, you should be able to get into the FBI and CIA.
The FBI requires its agents to complete a fitness test which involves the following: a 20-meter shuttle, sit-ups, push-ups and a 300-meter sprint. The fitness test will measure both cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength and endurance depending on the type of agents that are being selected.
The CIA also has a physical ability test that its agents must complete. This includes a one-mile run, as well as other physical activities. The CIA also requires a polygraph exam, in addition to the physical testing.
Preparing for this physical test can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not used to physical exercise. Taking part in some type of physical activity prior to applying is essential. If possible, get in shape before you apply and make sure you follow any diet plan you are given.
Getting into the FBI and the CIA is no easy feat. It requires having the perfect mix of education, experience, and drive. Although it’s an arduous process, with proper preparation and dedication you can increase your chances of success.
Still, keep in mind that a career in the FBI or CIA requires a high level of commitment and resources. You should be aware of all the risks associated with such a career, including the physical and psychological demands of the job.