The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is a law enforcement and domestic intelligence agency whose main objective is to combat terrorism, foreign intelligence attacks, high-tech crimes, corruption, and other major threats to national security.
The FBI's budget for the fiscal year of 2020 was $9.5 billion.
Mission and Values
The FBI's core mission is "to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States." That includes protecting civil rights, stopping criminal organizations and enterprises, and combating major white-collar and violent crimes.
The FBI's core values are:
- Rigorous obedience to the Constitution of the United States
- Respect for the dignity of all those it protects
- Uncompromising personal integrity and institutional integrity
- Accountability by accepting responsibility and consequences for its actions and decisions
- Leadership, both personal and professional
The FBI's motto is "Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity."
The FBI is headquartered in Washington, D.C. It also has 56 field offices, or divisions, in larger cities around the country and about 380 resident agencies in smaller cities and towns. The FBI also has offices in U.S. embassies or consulates around the globe, including 63 offices known as legats (short for legal attache) and more than two dozen smaller offices.
There are many career paths available to those wanting to work in the FBI. Those wanting to work in operations and intelligence can pursue the path of a special agent, intelligence analyst, forensic accountant, surveillance specialist, or foreign language expert. Or, you could join a team in one of these specialized areas: STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math); arts and communication; business and administration; facilities and logistics; legal; medical and counseling; and police and security.
The FBI employs about 35,000 people across a wide variety of fields.
Because of the nature of the work, FBI has strict eligibility requirements for all job candidates. There are a number of reasons why you might be automatically disqualified. They include:
- Not being a U.S. citizen
- Being convicted of a felony
- Defaulting on a student loan insured by the government
- Failing a drug test
- Not registering with the Selective Service System (males only)
- Not paying court-ordered child support
- Not filing income taxes
Even after candidates receive a job offer, they can still be disqualified. The offer is conditional on passing an FBI background investigation and security clearance.
Candidates must also uphold the FBI's drug policy, which immediately disqualifies them for misusing illegal drugs at the time of the application process. In addition, candidates are only considered for a job if they have not used illegal drugs within 10 years of applying (3 years for marijuana). They also must have never sold, distributed, manufactured, or transported illegal drugs.
Those wanting to be Special Agents must meet more stringent requirements, must be between 23 and 36 years old, and also pass tests, including a physical fitness test.
Applying for a Job
If you meet all of the FBI's eligibility requirements, you can search the FBI's database of current job postings and apply online. You can even receive notification of vacancies that match your interests and geographic preferences.
Given the FBI’s unique security requirements and the length of the background investigation process, it is best to apply several months or more before you plan to begin employment with the FBI. However, the application process for Special Agent positions is more complicated, and it can often take a year or more to complete.
Compensation and Benefits
Most white-collar personnel with the FBI are paid according to the U.S. Government’s General Schedule (GS). The GS scale consists of 15 job grades (with 15 being the highest), and each grade has 10 steps (with 10 being the highest).
FBI blue-collar personnel who are paid by the hour—including trade, craft, and laboring employees—are paid according to the U.S. Government’s Federal Wage System (FWS), a uniform pay-setting system.
Full-time FBI employees receive excellent benefits, including health insurance, life insurance, retirement, time off, and more. Special Agents also have access to additional life insurance programs that pay their beneficiaries if they're killed in the line of duty.