If you want to join the 35,000 Americans working for the prestigious Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), you have a grueling application process ahead of you. Although you can start your application online at your convenience, you will need a specially formatted federal resume and an open position that fits your skill set first. Submitting an online application is easy enough, but the rigorous interviewing, screening and background check process – one that can take months, if not years – can test your patience and dedication. Current students may be able to begin their involvement with the FBI early through an internship or the agency’s Collegiate Hiring program.

Write a Federal Resume

Did you know that resumes for careers with the federal government are expected to follow a specific format? Many applicants don’t, but submitting your resume in the wrong format could make the application process take longer or reduce your chances of being hired.

Although the resume objective statement has largely fallen out of favor in today’s job market, federal resumes should begin with a “summary statement.” This section should emphasize the most crucial skills and knowledge you would bring to the FBI, but it should be succinct, at no more than three to five sentences. What you include in your summary statement sets the tone for how FBI recruiters see your resume. Following your summary statement should be a list of your professional skills. Make sure you highlight the most in-demand skills, those related to technology and to knowledge of a foreign language. In listing your prior work experience, you should include all of the details about your relevant professional experiences as well as any internships or part-time work, even if the position has little to do with the FBI role you are seeking.

Next, you will need to include the details of your education. Generally, you need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to work for the FBI, although certain roles may require a graduate degree. You should next list any professional certifications or specific career achievements and any formal training job training you have received outside of your college degree. If you have community service experience, that should also be included on your federal resume. Finally, candidates with military experience should include all details of their service, down to their rank and salary, even if they are not claiming veterans’ preference.

Your federal resume should also include the details of the exact position and job posting for which you are applying. If you submit numerous resumes for federal positions, this means you must create a separate draft for each new application you submit.

The FBI Job Application Process

How do you go about finding an FBI job opening in the first place? In this respect, at least, searching for an FBI job is much like searching for a private-sector job. You start by registering for an account at the agency’s career website. Then you can browse open positions or search for an opportunity in your field. There are many types of FBI jobs, ranging from the often idealized Special Agent role to specialized careers in a variety of fields.

Once you find the job opportunity that interests you, it’s time to begin the application process. Like any online job application, you will be required to answer certain questions and attach certain documents. The application requirements are more extensive for some roles than for others. Applicants for Special Agent positions, for example, must complete a personal fitness test self-evaluation (Self-PFT), as well as Phase I testing, as part of their initial application.

Unfortunately, submitting an application is just the beginning of a lengthy process. It takes at least a year to complete the process of being hired as an FBI special agent, and even for roles where the demands are less intensive, getting your security clearance takes at least 6 months.

The FBI contacts qualified applicants via email. If the FBI contacts you, you should expect to engage in in-person interviews and submit further paperwork. Once the agency has made you a conditional offer of employment, you will begin the background check, itself a lengthy process that includes a polygraph test, drug screening, a thorough review of your criminal history and credit history and extensive interviews with the people you know personally and professionally.

If you pass the background check and your Official Physical Fitness Test, your next step is to travel to the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA, for a training course that takes around 20 weeks.  

Get Your Foot in the Door With a Student Program

how to apply for FBI

IMAGE SOURCE: “Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – Minneapolis Field Office” by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

The earlier you decide that you want to work for the FBI, the earlier you can start preparing. The national security organization offers programs for students at the graduate, undergraduate and even high school levels to get involved with the agency. High school juniors and seniors can join the FBI Teen Leadership Academy and start exploring future job opportunities.

However, since a college education is required, you still need to move forward with your education. As an undergraduate student, you can apply for the FBI’s Honors Internship Program, through which you would spend 10 weeks at FBI headquarters in Washington or at a Field Office gaining paid work experience alongside established FBI agents. Internships are open to students in many different academic disciplines, including business, science, information technology, journalism and visual arts. Graduate students can also apply for the internship program and may receive a higher pay rate if they meet certain conditions, such as full-time graduate enrollment.

Recent college graduates can apply for permanent full-time entry-level roles through the FBI’s Collegiate Hiring Program. You don’t need to have previously completed an FBI internship to qualify to apply for the Collegiate Hiring Program.

Additional Resources

What Is Involved in the Background Check to Join the FBI?

What Are the Positives and Negatives of Working for the FBI?

Will a Master’s Degree Make Me Look More Attractive to the FBI?