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Become A Special Agent

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Working As A Special Agent

  • Getting Information
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Make Decisions

  • $77,210

    Average Salary

What Does A Special Agent Do

A Special Agent investigates crimes, such as kidnapping, money laundering, and terrorism. They collect and record physical information about arrested suspects, including fingerprints, height and weight measurements, and photographs.

How To Become A Special Agent

Education requirements range from a high school diploma to a college degree. Most police and detectives must graduate from their agency’s training academy before completing a period of on-the-job training. Candidates must be U.S. citizens, usually at least 21 years old, and able to meet rigorous physical and personal qualification standards. A felony conviction or drug use may disqualify a candidate.


Police and detective applicants must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent, although many federal agencies and some police departments require some college coursework or a college degree. Many community colleges, 4-year colleges, and universities offer programs in law enforcement and criminal justice, and agencies may offer financial assistance to officers who pursue these, or related, degrees. Knowledge of a foreign language is an asset in many federal agencies and geographical regions.

Fish and game wardens applying for federal jobs with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service typically need a college degree; and those applying to work for a state’s natural resources department often need a high school diploma or some college study in a related field, such as biology or natural resources management.

Federal agencies typically require a bachelor's degree. For example, FBI and DEA special agent applicants are often college graduates.

State and local agencies encourage applicants to continue their education after high school, by taking courses and training related to law enforcement. Many applicants for entry-level police jobs have taken some college classes, and a significant number are college graduates. Many community colleges, 4-year colleges, and universities offer programs in law enforcement and criminal justice. Many agencies offer financial assistance to officers who pursue these or related degrees.


Candidates for appointment usually attend a training academy before becoming an officer. Training includes classroom instruction in state and local laws and constitutional law, civil rights, and police ethics. Recruits also receive training and supervised experience in areas such as patrol, traffic control, firearm use, self-defense, first aid, and emergency response.

Federal law enforcement agents undergo extensive training, usually at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, or at a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Detectives normally begin their careers as police officers before being promoted to detective.

FBI special agent applicants typically must have at least 3 years of professional work experience in areas ranging from computer science to accounting.

Other Experience

Some police departments have cadet programs for people interested in a career in law enforcement who do not yet meet age requirements for becoming an officer. These cadets do clerical work and attend classes until they reach the minimum age requirement and can apply for a position with the regular force. Military or police experience may be considered beneficial for potential cadets.

Cadet candidates must be U.S. citizens, usually be at least 21 years old, have a driver’s license, and meet specific physical qualifications. Applicants may have to pass physical exams of vision, hearing, strength, and agility, as well as written exams. Previous work or military experience is often seen as a plus. Candidates typically go through a series of interviews and may be asked to take lie detector and drug tests. A felony conviction may disqualify a candidate.


Police officers usually become eligible for promotion after a probationary period. Promotions to corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, and captain usually are made according to a candidate's position on a promotion list, as determined by scores on a written examination and on-the-job performance. In large departments, promotion may enable an officer to become a detective or to specialize in one type of police work, such as working with juveniles.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Police, detectives, and fish and game wardens must be able to speak with people when gathering facts about a crime and to express details about a given incident in writing.

Empathy. Police officers need to understand the perspectives of a wide variety of people in their jurisdiction and have a willingness to help the public.

Good judgment. Police and detectives must be able to determine the best way to solve a wide array of problems quickly.

Leadership skills. Police officers must be comfortable with being a highly visible member of their community, as the public looks to them for assistance in emergency situations.

Perceptiveness. Officers, detectives, and fish and game wardens must be able to anticipate a person’s reactions and understand why people act a certain way.

Physical stamina. Officers and detectives must be in good physical shape, both to pass required tests for entry into the field, and to keep up with the daily rigors of the job.

Physical strength. Police officers must be strong enough to physically apprehend offenders.

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2,320 Special Agent jobs

Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Phoenix, AZ
Special Agent in Charge

$77,210 Estimated

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Washington, DC
Senior Special Agent

$77,210 Estimated

American Express
Phoenix, AZ
Senior Special Agent, Electronic Crimes

$77,210 Estimated

Union Pacific
Chicago, IL
Special Agent

$77,210 Estimated

Commonwealth of Va ABC Board
Staunton, VA
ABC Special Agent

$77,210 Estimated

Commonwealth of Va ABC Board
Charlottesville, VA
ABC Special Agent

$77,210 Estimated

Zel Technologies
Fort Meade, MD
CI Senior Instructor / Special Agent Trainer

$77,210 Estimated

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC)
Laurel, MD
Permit Agent

$37,190 Estimated

Pittsburgh, PA
Medicare Advantage Sales - Dual Eligible Special Needs

$55,730 Estimated

Philadelphia, PA
Medicare Advantage Sales ?? Dual Eligible Special Needs

$55,730 Estimated

WFF Facility Services
Saint Louis, MO
Special Services (Custodian)

$18,512 Estimated

Americantours International
Los Angeles, CA
Special Groups / MICE Sales

$55,730 Estimated

Saint Joseph, MO
Special Services

$33,280 Estimated

TUDI Mechanical Systems
Pittsburgh, PA
HVAC Special Project Sales

$55,730 Estimated

Lifepoint Hospitals
Las Cruces, NM
Echo / Vasc Sonographer - Special Services

$32,157 Estimated

G-Tech Services, Inc.
Auburn Hills, MI
Connected Services Vehicle Electronics ECU Special

$70,000 Estimated

Auburn Hills, MI
Connected Services Vehicle Electronics ECU Special

$70,000 Estimated

Rapid Global Business Solutions, Inc.
Auburn Hills, MI
610528 - Connected Services Vehicle Electronics ECU Special - PSP - DV482

$75,000 Estimated

Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Phoenix, AZ
Special Agent in Charge

$77,210 Estimated

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Washington, DC
Senior Special Agent

$77,210 Estimated

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Top Skills for A Special Agent


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Top Special Agent Skills

  1. Law Enforcement Agencies
  2. Fraud Investigations
  3. Military Personnel
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Conducted tactical, street survival training for local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies in North and South Carolina.
  • Protected and enhanced financial integrity of programs and operations; successfully conducted contract and grant fraud investigations involving millions of dollars.
  • Testified in judicial proceedings, conducted interviews and interrogations of numerous corporate, government, and military personnel.
  • Responded and processed crime scenes, conducted interrogations and searches, and collected and preserved physical evidence regarding U.S. Army personnel.
  • Initiated, planned, and conducted counterintelligence investigations on suspected espionage, foreign intelligence collection, and terrorism.

Top Special Agent Employers

What Kind Of Companies Hire a Special Agent

  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation
  2. United States Army
  3. Air Force Office of Special Investigations
  4. U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command
  5. United States Secret Service
  6. United States Air Force
  7. Naval Criminal Investigative Service
  8. Drug Enforcement Administration
  9. United States Postal Service
  10. Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (Abt)
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