English, education and even biology majors are encouraged to apply to be an FBI special agent as the agency looks for applicants with diverse backgrounds.
Life experience is a key component that FBI officials look from when hiring special agents, FBI El Paso Special Agent Martha Terrazas said.
“A big misconception is that you need a criminal justice degree and that is not so,” Terrazas said. “You don’t have to have a criminal justice degree. Science technology, engineering, mathematics, accounting, education (degrees are accepted by the agency). The FBI hires a lot of teachers. I was an assistant principal. I have an education background. I have a master’s in public school administration.”
She added, “We have (agents with) degrees in law, in biology. We have engineering degrees. We have a variety. It is a big misconception that you need a criminal justice degree. … We want to focus on life experiences.”
Interested applicants can apply at FBIjobs.gov. New special agents earn about $70,000 a year.
Special agent applicants must be U.S. citizens between the ages of 23 and 36 with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and two years of professional work experience, Terrazas said.
Applicants also must pass an intensive criminal background check and a physical fitness test.
The physical fitness test consists of the maximum number of continuous situps an applicant can do in one minute, a 300-meter sprint, then the maximum number of continuous pushups an applicant can do in one minute, and at the end of the test a 1.5-mile run, officials said.
The applicant cannot rest more than five minutes between each part of the test.
The FBI created a phone application to help interested applicants train for the test. FBI officials stressed the app tracks your fitness progress, but does not track the user or any of their information.
Women and minorities are key groups the FBI recruits to help diversify the agency and accurately represent the community, Terrazas said.
“We’re always recruiting for females,” Terrazas said. “I always say, ‘Come join us, come help us.’ We need female representation. We need all diverse representation within the FBI because what our ultimate goal and what we want to do is we want our FBI to be representative of the community that we serve. So we need that diversity and inclusion. There’s a place for everybody here in the FBI.”
El Pasoans hired by the FBI might not be immediately placed in the FBI El Paso field office once they pass the agency’s academy.
Placement is based off on locations where special agents are needed most, Terrazas said. Applicants rank their preferred locations and could get placed at one of their top choices if there is an opening for a special agent.
When Terrazas graduated from the FBI academy, she wanted to stay in or near El Paso. She placed El Paso and surrounding offices as her highest preferred locations.
She was placed in the San Antonio field office and within four years was able to transfer to El Paso.
“I wanted to come back to Texas,” Terrazas said. “So, I started (the preferred list) with all our field offices in Texas. And then I went Arizona, and then I went to Albuquerque because I wanted to stay in the Southwest. The FBI will do everything they can to get us close to home, but it’s not a guarantee.”
She added: “My first field office was San Antonio and San Antonio was probably like number five or six on my list of the 56 FBI field offices. … So, I got to stay in Texas, but I wanted to come back to El Paso. I was able to come back to El Paso in four years. It’s not that difficult to move around within the FBI.
The FBI also is hiring support staff. The positions include operation support, technicians, staff, operation specialists, intelligence analysts, administrative specialists, electronic technicians, IT specialists, computer scientists, paralegal specialists and linguists, Terrazas said.
Support staff must pass an intensive criminal background check. However, unlike special agent positions, there is no age limit and applicants do not need to pass a physical fitness test.
College students also are being sought by the FBI as part of its 10-week Honor Internship Program.
The program is open to college students in all degree fields. The students get real job experience, with the opportunity to work directly with special agents.
Applications for the Honor Internship Program open in August and stay up for about a month. Students can apply at FBIjobs.gov/students.