Qualifications to Join the FBI

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Serving the United States since 1908, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its agents work to examine violations of Federal law and conduct sensitive national security investigations. Individuals are required to meet a variety of qualifications to become part of an agency whose primary goal is to protect and defend the United States against threats and uphold criminal laws.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is responsible for investigating violations of federal law by gathering evidence, conducting surveillance, coordinating with local law enforcement and accurately reporting information. Although these agents do not possess the power to detain, they do play a key role in building a case and compiling information, which often leads to an arrest.

General Requirements

The process of becoming an FBI Special Agent is one that requires a variety of different background checks and detailed information. The highly competitive and rigorous qualifications that applicants are required to meet ensure that only the most skilled candidates are selected to be part of the Bureau. Citizens between the ages of 23 and 37 are invited to apply, while there is some leeway for eligible veterans who exceed this age requirement. Other general requirements for applications include:

  • A Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
  • At least 3 years of professional work experience
  • The ability to qualify for one of five Special Agent Entry Programs

Special Agent Entry Programs

The FBI requires applicants to qualify for one of five programs that are broken down into the following categories:

  • Accounting: certified CPA’s or individuals with a 4-year Accounting degree accompanied by 3 years of professional work experience in the field
  • Computer Science/Information Technology: those with a computer or information technology related degree or select certifications and related experiences
  • Language: these applicants possess a bachelor’s degree and are proficient in languages that meet the needs of the FBI
  • Law: those who have completed a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited law school
  • Diversified: reserved for those with a bachelor’s degree in any discipline accompanied by three years of full-time work experience

The Bureau also offers a list of Critical Skills; candidates that possess these abilities are prioritized in the hiring process.

Standing Out From the Competition and Career Advancement

Advanced degrees can help FBI applicants stand out from the competition or aid in career advancement. A Master’s degree in Criminal Justice, with a Federal Law Enforcement track, provides advanced knowledge of criminal investigation and apprehension at the Federal level. These types of specialized courses develop essential cognitive skills and methodologies, including critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and legal procedures, in order to excel in a position such as an FBI agent.

Physical Qualifications

Physically, it is essential that Special Agents are able to meet the rigorous demands of the job. Having the physical abilities necessary to work in the field can result in better defense tactics and allow for agents to find greater success. A variety of physical assessments must be passed by applicants in order to be admitted into the FBI. The Physical Fitness Test (PFT) consists of four main challenges:

  • Timed evaluation of sit-ups for one minute
  • Timed 300-meter sprint
  • Untimed evaluation of maximum number of push-ups
  • Timed 1.5 mile run

Aside from the Physical Fitness Test, applicants are asked to meet vision and hearing requirements, as well as pass a medical review. The FBI thoroughly reviews a contender’s medical history to determine whether or not any conditions would hinder an individual’s ability to perform essential job duties.


With the variety of qualifications required to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation also comes a number of factors that would determine an applicant ineligible for consideration. The FBI takes a strong stance on the use of drugs and failure to pass an official drug test, or the admission to use of illegal drugs banned in the FBI Employment Drug policy, are grounds for disqualification to become a Special Agent or any member of the Bureau. Other factors including conviction of felony or default on a student loan administered by the United States government serve as indicators that an individual is unable to pursue a career with the Agency.

The FBI has a growing need for individuals who are well versed in the criminal justice field and can use that knowledge and experiences to protect and serve the country against threats. Those interested in pursuing a career with the FBI will find the resources available at Saint Joseph’s University with their Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice program to prepare and advance their criminal justice career.

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