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07-08-2012, 00:59 #1Cadet
- Join Date
- Jul 2012
Career Path Advice
I'm a longtime lurker and first time poster. I'm about to be a senior in college and quickly coming to a crossroads as to which path I should take to join the FBI as an SA. Currently, I'm set to graduate with a BA in Psychology, two minors, a semester of study abroad, and a 3.7 GPA. My work experience: I've had two internships, one at a court house and one at another federal law enforcement agency, both have been for a summer only. Aside from that, I've worked three consecutive summers at the same retail store. I also am a volunteer research assistant at a psychology lab at my university. Essentially, it's come down to two paths for me.
The first is that I try to join as support personnel, like as a staff operations specialist or intel analyst. I've read conflicting things about whether this could actually serve as a stepping stone to SA or that that logic might have been a thing of the past. I'm assuming my goal here would be to join as support, work for two years in the position, and then apply under the "Law Enforcement or Other Investigative Experience" entry program. Also, if anyone has any experience in this or other support positions, I would love to hear about that.
The second is that I go to law school and then apply under the "Law" entry program. I'm kind of confused as to whether a law degree circumvents the two/three years work experience requirement or if I still need to do that after school? It's not that I would be going to law school solely for the "Law" entry requirement - it's something that I've seriously considered as a career path in its entirety. I would just rather be involved in federal law enforcement. Additionally, a law degree would give me something to use if for some reason the LE career didn't pan out.
Essentially, I'm concerned that the three years spent at law school would be taking three years (or two) away that I could have spent getting experience with a support personnel position, and that I would have to wait for who knows how long until I'm able to take a shot at an SA slot. While not an SA, at least I would enjoy the support personnel position and have that until I had a chance at SA. However, I don't want to be "stuck" in a support position and be unable to transfer to SA - if I'm going to be "stuck" waiting for an SA position, at least I'd have a law degree going the other route. I do find law very interesting, but know that I would much, much rather be employed in a federal law enforcement capacity than as an attorney in the long run. So while I would be going to law school because I enjoy it, it would mostly be as a way to get into the FBI.
Sorry for the rambling, but do you guys think that one of these paths makes me more competitive than the other? I know it might be a crystal-ball type question, but I'm just trying to get as much advice as possible. What would one of you do?
Thanks for the help, it's really appreciated!
07-08-2012, 09:51 #2Rookie
- Join Date
- Jan 2004
The first piece of advice...you are way too focused. You need to broaden your avenues a little.
First of all...landing any Fed LEO/support position (no less, the FBI) right out of college is extremely difficult...so the sooner you accept that, the better you will be to accept the frustration that comes with seeking an SA (with any outfit) position. Next...if you are serious about Fed LE, then forget about concentrating on the FBI. I am not saying give up on the goal, I am saying you should be scouring USAjobs, and applying to every 1811/1810/1801 position out there...shotgun approach. If you land one, jump on it...it gets the federal clock ticking, and gets you some experience needed for future efforts. The big hurdle for you to cross should be to land any 1811 position. If you are lucky enough to get an 1811, then you will garner the investigative experience you will need to make yourself competitive. It will also open your eyes to the fact that there are a whole bunch of SA positions with lots of different alphabet agencies out there...and they all pay the same, and have the same benefits. From this position, you can keep hammering at the FBI applicant process until you get it, or tire of the process. Bottom line...you are still an 1811. You may even like the job, and forget about about trying to jump on that FBI train. Believe it or not...not everyone wants to be an FBI agent...ICE, DEA, ATF, USSS, OIG's or MCIO's (OSI/NCIS/CID) careers are just as satisfying, and may be more user friendly to your personal situation (moving/travel/casework...).
If you wish to limit yourself to the two avenues (support position or law school), I would opine the law school degree might be the more advantageous path...but you would need one of two FBI posters to chime in on that one. But, again...landing that support position is not a sure thing, so maybe a moot point.
If I were to really want to make myself competitive for the FBI process through additional schooling, I would get a Master's in Middle Eastern culture, and learn an Arabic dialect. If the FBI doesn't scarf you up, some other outfit will.
Another excellent way to lay the groundwork for FBI SA...go military. Get into an Intel field...get some priceless experience...maybe get your school loans paid off. This also starts the federal clock ticking. College degree and 4-6 years leadership experience in the military tends to make for a serious candidate.
Just my two cents. Good luck.
07-08-2012, 11:53 #3Sergeant
- Join Date
- Nov 2010
Wow. Standard advice - which applies here - is to prepare to do something that supports your interest in Fed LE but ALSO is something you would want to use in a non LE position. There are a myriad of things that can get in the way of getting the job you want: injury, you meet the love of your life and that person can't relocate for some reason, failed polygraphs, hiring freezes, just to name a few. Be prepared to do something else that you'd want to use for a career while working towards your goal. Also, be prepared to use it in the LE world. If you turn yourself into Mr. Cyber in order to get the job, odds are that you will be Special Agent Cyber when you get hired.
As I understand it, the work requirement is 3 years post undergrad or 2 years post-grad school, which includes law school. I have not been in the Bureau all that long, but I'm not aware of any law-background agent who came straight from law school. The purpose of this requirement is to be sure you can perform in a real live job. School, no matter how challenging, is not a real live job. Internships are not real jobs. Work where you can advance or not, be evaluated against peers, and succeed or fail is the professional work experience they want to see. Show that when tested in the real world you exceeded expectations. You just can't do that in school.
Don't be in a giant hurry. The average age of a New Agent Trainee is about 30 years old. That means that typically they have 7+ years of professional work experience when they were hired, and 5+ when they applied. I don't care how great you are in school, you just can't expect to compete with that unless you get out there and work.
I don't think that working in a support position would allow you to apply under the "law enforcement" or "investigative experience" category. An Intel Analyst could certainly apply under Intel, but I suspect that the rest of the positions would just be "Diversified," which is the toughest category under which you can apply. These positions aren't "stepping stones" to being an agent, but there are plenty of folks who use them that way. I work with a couple of agents who came up that way, and know of one support employee who is applying to be an SA now. The main advantage is that you would have an inside look at the job to help you decide if that's really the life you want. I work with another support employee who joined with that in mind who now says "when I saw how much you guys work, it made me change my mind."
Finally, don't limit yourself to the FBI. I'm in the FBI and I and glad for it, but I work with great agents from all kinds of agencies. We don't have a monopoly on good people or good work.
07-08-2012, 12:58 #4Officer
- Join Date
- Feb 2012
- Making the case you said couldn't be made
I will reply only to reiterate what others have said. I appreciate your dedication to your goal because I was once that person. At 17 I thought I wanted to be a federal agent, carried that goal through undergrad, and here I am. However, there were two other careers and a lot of hard miles in between. You are right to have a goal in mind, and it sounds like you're well along the path to reaching it. That said, I recognize how fortunate I am to have been able to thread the needle and come out where I am. There are hundreds of life variables that could have derailed me, and certainly could derail you. Some of those you can control, and some you cannot. Accordingly, pick something you want to do just in case it doesn't work out. Don't go to law school solely as a mechanism to get hired by FBI if you don't actually want to practice law or actually work as a lawyer.
I know we are talking about FBI here, but here's some perspective: ATF posted an announcement a few months ago to which 17,000 people applied. We are actually hiring 24 of those people. FBI will always be hiring more than some of us with smaller agencies, but their pool of applicants is likely proportionally larger. The point is this: there were no doubt highly qualified applicants who will not make the cut for one reason or another. Despite their goal of becoming 1811's, they still have to do what pays the bills. As such, I'd make damn sure I could at least generally tolerate whatever that might be. The average age of my ATF SABT class was right about 32. Everyone of us had done something prior to getting hired by ATF, and the vast majority of us had done it for a while.
Lastly, as others have said, FBI is not the only place to be an 1811. Despite our relentless inter-agent trash talk, I know some great FBI agents who love their agency. I also know some FBI agents who hate it and think the organization is hopelessly broken. That is true for agents of all agencies, ATF included. Each agency has a pretty specific focus these days, and it may be that the FBI's focus is not necessarily in-line with your personality or what you would be happiest doing. When I was at your life place, I thought for sure FBI was what I wanted to do. My first 1811 job was with an agency I had never heard of until about a year before I applied. Turned out to be a pretty good organization with an awesome mission and even better people. It also gave me the opportunity to realize that the FBI and I would not be a good fit, and to decide which agencies would indeed fit my personality and produce the type of investigations I wanted to work. The FBI is a great place to land (although I'd never admit this to an FBI agent's face ) but I wouldn't have it be my sole focus.
07-09-2012, 19:05 #5
You really shouldn't go to law school unless you intend on being a lawyer. What happens if you don't become an agent for some reason? Then you're stuck with a law degree, law school debt and a career you don't want. Don't go there just to try to get into the Bureau.
You also shouldn't go into the military unless you really want to be there. Remember, you sign up, you're going to the Middle East at some point. So unless you're ok with that, I'd skip this option.
With that said, the FBI is generally a second career for most people. They like to hire people who are well rounded with lots of experience in all areas. To give you a few examples, I have a friend at QT now who had an English degree and worked in publishing for six years. I also worked a white collar case with a bunch of guys who were all CPAs and had been accountants at some point. We have a guy in my squad now who was an officer in the military.
Getting in as a support person is definitely a good way to go with your experience levels. You're already an FBI employee then, you know their systems and there are countless internal opportunities.
Gaining some experience in other areas is also a good choice such as Learning a critical language.
You should review their critical skills listings off their careers page. That will help guide you.Book 'em Dan-o.
07-09-2012, 19:47 #6Officer
- Join Date
- Feb 2012
- Making the case you said couldn't be made
Joining the military isn't a decision to be taken lightly. Nothing here indicates you were doing that, more just a point to be made for everyone out there trying to find a way in.
07-10-2012, 00:09 #7Cadet
- Join Date
- May 2011
- The "Right" Coast
1. Ditto what everybody else posted plus this: Recent stories reflect that your generation appears to be "over educating" themselves out of entry level jobs. It seems natural to want to stay in school and keep adding degrees since the job market isn't the best. But in reality, it seems like a lot of twenty somethings with graduate degrees end up with the same entry level jobs they would have had without the MA or MS behind their name. But now they've got graduate school debt to deal with too.
2. Why not local/state LE first? Why does every college kid at recruiting events tell me they're only interested in federal LE? It's all police work. And despite what you see on television, most LE work gets done by local/state LEO's. I was local and then state before I became an 1811. Some of the most talented investigators I've ever met and worked with were local guys. One of the best interviewers I've ever seen is a road patrol deputy sheriff. Why don't you go to the police academy and work at a PD or SO for a few years? Work the road, hone your interviewing skills, your instincts, everything that makes you capable of surviving and getting the job done. If you want to be a law enforcement officer, apply to be a law enforcement officer.
Bottom line, there's lots of jobs that help build your resume for an 1811 position. THOSE jobs can take a few years to get as well. Strive to get one of them and you'll be on a solid path.
military (especially MP and Intel)
insurance fraud investigations
accounting and finance positions
anti-money laundering representatives at banks
forensic interviewer at child advocacy centers
IT Technicians/ programmers/ other computer ninjas
attorney... it's kinda over-rated. There aren't as many 1811's with JD's as you might think.
customs broker/ import specialist
... just to throw some ideas out there...