FBI Job and Career Information

Image shows four people in the following roles with corresponding labels: special agent, intelligence analyst, police and security, surveillance. Title reads: "FBI Job Opportunities"

Image by Brianna Gilmartin © The Balance 

Do you dream of becoming an FBI agent—or working in another capacity to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation protect the American people and enforce the law? For over 100 years, the FBI has safeguarded the country from terrorist attacks, protected individuals’ civil rights, and investigated white-collar and violent crime.

Career Opportunities With the FBI

The FBI currently employs over 35,000 people in a variety of jobs, including special agent, intelligence analyst, and various support roles. There are even specialized career paths in facilities and logistics, business and administration, arts and communication, and more.

If can meet a set of stringent requirements, including a background check, and you have a calling to help others, there may be a place for you at the Bureau.

What Do FBI Jobs Pay?

Before we get into individual occupations, however, a note about pay structure for FBI jobs. Most federal government jobs are organized by a system of pay grades known as General Schedule (GS) or Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) pay levels.

Typically, factors like education, experience, qualifications, and time on the job are factors in determining pay level. So, for example, new FBI special agents start at the GL-10 Special Base Rate for Law Enforcement Officers pay grade. They also receive locality pay, which varies according to cost of living in their area, and availability pay, which is 25% of their basic pay (base pay plus locality pay).

Given this formula, it’s no surprise that many highly paid employees at the FBI make more than six figures per year.

FBI Jobs in Operations and Intelligence

Operations and intelligence jobs are what most people think of when they think of jobs at the FBI. These are the roles on the front line of federal law enforcement, intelligence, and surveillance.

Special Agent: FBI special agents investigate organized crime, crime involving public corruption, financial crime, fraud against the government, bribery, civil rights violations, bank robbery, extortion, kidnapping, air piracy, terrorism, foreign counterintelligence, interstate criminal activity, fugitive and drug-trafficking matters, and other violations of federal law.

To become an FBI special agent, you must be a United States citizen in excellent physical condition, between the ages of 23 and 36, with a four-year college degree. Age waivers are available for preference-eligible veterans.

You must be available for assignment anywhere, at any time. It is also a general requirement that you have three years of professional work experience.

Salary: According to Glassdoor, the average annual pay for an FBI special agent is $138,000.

Intelligence Analyst: Intelligence analysts work closely with special agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation to analyze and mitigate threats domestically and internationally. They work to collect and assess intelligence to share with other divisions of the FBI and the government and military.

Salary: The average yearly salary for an intelligence analyst is $123,759, according to Indeed.

Foreign Language Careers: The FBI hires contract linguists, contract speaker proficiency testers, foreign language program managers, and technical staff. Candidates must pass a foreign language test battery that consists of listening, reading, and translating language texts. Linguists work on teams to defend the country against foreign counterintelligence, corruption, espionage, and cybercrime.

Salary: Most foreign language jobs at the FBI are contract roles. An FBI linguist typically $71,855 on average, according to ZipRecruiter.

Surveillance: The FBI Surveillance division collects and documents information gathered through physical and electronic surveillance of subjects, establishments, and targets for the purpose of supporting investigations. Working in surveillance requires strong analytical and observational ability, excellent written and communication skills, patience, and experience with photographic and monitoring equipment.

You must also be willing to work holidays, weekends, on extended projects, and be prepared for frequent travel and possible relocation at any time.

Salary: Per Comparably, the average annual salary for an FBI surveillance specialist is $102,119.

Forensic Accounting: FBI forensic accountants are responsible for acquiring, analyzing and reporting financial data to help link financial transactions and trails to criminal activity. They identify suspicious transactions and activities, and follow sources to identify breaches of national security.

Salary: The average annual salary for a forensic accountant is $77,900, according to Indeed.

FBI Jobs: Specialized Career Paths

The success of special agents and intelligence analysts depends on other FBI professionals in specialized career paths ranging from graphic designer to employee assistance counselor.

STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) professionals at the FBI work across a broad range of other specialties including electronic surveillance, encryption, biometrics, and cybersecurity to address investigative and intelligence issues important to national security.

Arts and Communications: Clear, concise, and precise communications are crucial to effective FBI operations. The arts and communications division utilizes audio and visual communication, graphics and physical design, and photography to remedy practical issues within and between operations.

Business Analysis and Administration: Business and administrative positions are the highest level of support staff crucial to maintaining efficiency and assisting in the implementation of strategies and policies to support FBI operations at all levels.

Facilities and Logistics: Facilities and logistics professionals support facilities management, acquisition, construction as well as offering logistical support through telecommunications, printing, graphics, media, and warehousing services.

Legal: FBI legal professionals advise employees in all divisions of the FBI on international and domestic legal and legislative issues. They provide advice and guidance on intelligence operations and investigations, as well as interpreting legal policies.

Medical and Counseling: The FBI hires medical and counseling professionals for many positions. Paramedic field work includes hazardous evidence collection, investigation of chemical incidents, and SWAT operations. Occupational health nurses keep FBI staff healthy and prepared for travel through fitness exams and adherence to medical mandates and guidelines.

Employee assistance counselors provide medical and occupational health support, as well as provide treatment for a variety of mental health issues, counseling, and development of treatment and action plans. They conduct training and workshops to educate staff and management and provide referral services for other specialists such as psychologists and social workers.

Police and Security: FBI security personnel establish and enforce procedures and provide training to the workforce in the many facilities that house the FBI. They participate in the defense and protection of the public against domestic and international threats. They provide security assessment and make recommendations based on their findings, and participate in inspections of secured areas.

How to Apply for Jobs With the FBI

There is a very thorough screening process for all FBI employees, given the sensitive information they may be exposed to. It is particularly stringent for FBI special agents. The process follows a prescribed sequence of screening mechanisms:

  • Candidates submit an online application that includes their resume which enables the FBI to determine basic eligibility.
  • Applicants who meet basic eligibility standards are administered a three-hour exam containing cognitive, behavioral, and logical reasoning tests.
  • Individuals who score high on the exam take part in a "meet and greet" resume review and job preview session.
  • An oral and written language test is administered to candidates claiming proficiency in a foreign language.
  • Candidates who make it through the preliminary screening will be evaluated for the next phase of testing. Those that are deemed competitive will take a writing exam, be interviewed by a panel of FBI staff, and complete a physical fitness test, polygraph test, and a security background investigation.
  • There may be additional specialized requirements, interviews and/or testing depending on what division and position you are applying to.
  • Candidates can browse openings, review position descriptions, and apply for jobs at FBI Jobs.

Article Sources

  1. FBI.gov. "A Brief History." Accessed May 21, 2020.

  2. FBI.gov. "How Many People Work for the FBI?" Accessed May 21, 2020.

  3. FBI.gov. "Career Paths." Accessed May 21, 2020.

  4. OPM.gov. "Salaries & Wages." Accessed May 21, 2020.

  5. FBI.gov. "Special Agent FAQs." Accessed May 21, 2020.

  6. FBI.gov. "Special Agents. Eligibility." Accessed May 21, 2020.

  7. Glassdoor. "Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)." Accessed May 21, 2020.

  8. Indeed. "Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Intelligence Analyst Yearly Salaries." Accessed May 21, 2020.

  9. ZipRecruiter. "FBI Linguist Salary." Accessed May 21, 2020.

  10. Comparably. "FBI Surveillance Specialist Salary." Accessed May 21, 2020.

  11. FBI.gov. "Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Forensic Accountant Yearly Salaries." Accessed May 21, 2020.

  12. FBI.gov. "Testing Overview." Accessed May 21, 2020.