The FBI Career Guide: Inside Information on Getting Chosen for and Succeeding in One of the Toughest, Most Prestigious Jobs in the World

The FBI Career Guide: Inside Information on Getting Chosen for and Succeeding in One of the Toughest, Most Prestigious Jobs in the World

by Joseph W. Koletar

In the three years following the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation hired 2,200 new Special Agents.


But that was out of more than 150,000 applicants, and

See more details below


In the three years following the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation hired 2,200 new Special Agents.


But that was out of more than 150,000 applicants, and you can be sure the successful candidates had not only relevant backgrounds, but also determination and a genuine desire to embark on one of the most coveted, rewarding, and challenging careers in the world.


The FBI Career Guide spells out exactly what the Bureau is looking for in Special Agent candidates, and how to maximize your chances of being selected from the huge applicant pool.


Joe Koletar, whose own blue-ribbon career at the Bureau is second to none, shows how to get the job—and how to thrive once you’ve got it. His inside look at the real FBI reveals:

·         Smart educational and career decisions to improve your odds of being hired

·         How to meet and network with current FBI agents

·         What Special Agents do, day-to-day, in different roles and environments

·         How undercover investigations, SWAT team operations, and specialty assignments work

·         What agents earn, and what benefits they receive

·         The prospects for advancement, and some typical (and not so typical) career paths

·         How the job may affect your personal and family life

·         And much more


The FBI Career Guide also reveals the common mistakes applicants make, and shows how to avoid them. And it gives you detailed information on excelling in the Agent Training Program.


Finally, the book offers profiles of real agents who have gone on to successful post-FBI careers, and will help you lay the groundwork for a rewarding life after the Bureau. Above all, The FBI Career Guide will help you find out if you’ve got what it takes to succeed—and if you do, how to show it.


Joseph W. Koletar’s stellar FBI career spanned four decades, culminating in his role as Section Chief in the Criminal Investigative Division, where he was in charge of the Witness Protection Program, Criminal Undercover Operations, Aviation and Surveillance Operations, and the Strategic Intelligence Operations Center. Mr. Koletar lives in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

Read More

Product Details

Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
17 Years

Read an Excerpt

The FBI Career Guide

By Joseph W. Koletar


Copyright © 2006 Joseph W. Koletar
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8144-7317-2

Chapter One

What's It Like?

Believe it or not, FBI agents are office workers-at least some of the time. When an agent is assigned to a field office, he or she is also assigned to a squad within that office. This raises an important distinction. The decision of which office an agent is assigned is made by FBI Headquarters; there is no input from the field offices. But once an agent is assigned to an office, the decision as to which squad the agent is assigned is made by the Special Agent in Charge (SAC), with no input from FBI Headquarters. Thus, the new agent coming out of Quantico has two important future events of great personal interest: which office he or she is going to and what squad he or she will be on. This chapter attempts to give you a picture of what being on a field office squad in the FBI will be like.

The Field Office and Squad Assignment

The decision as to which squad an agent is assigned may be based on resource needs, changing priorities of a particular office, or the skill set the individual agent brings to the job. Assuming the agent is not a new arrival from New Agents Training, the squad supervisor normally checks something known as "the book." This is a procedure as old as the FBI itself and really does not involve a book but rather a telephone.The squad supervisor places a call to his or her counterpart for the squad on which the agent served previously. The purpose of the call is to check on the agent's reputation, work habits, skills, strengths, and weaknesses. Depending on the results of that call, the supervisor decides what work the arriving agent will be assigned, the degree of supervision he or she will require, and other administrative issues.

In the case of new agents coming out of Quantico, much the same process is followed but the contact is with an instructor, counselor, or the supervisory special agent in the New Agents Training Unit. Again, questions are asked as to the agent's work ethic, written and oral communications skills, attention to detail, success in practical problems, and the like.

Some large offices have a policy that a newly arrived agent, especially one coming out of training school, is first assigned to the applicant squad for 6 to 12 months. Applicant squads conduct pre-employment and periodic update investigations of persons applying for FBI jobs or candidates for high positions in the federal government. This is done for several reasons. First, it gives the agent time to hone the necessary investigative skills, get his or her feet wet, learn the office routine, and become acquainted with the field office territory. Second, as investigations go, applicant cases are not demanding, so it is a good place for rookies to start. Third, this is a way of spreading the pain, as applicant work is not highly prized by most street agents. New agents are considered, as noted, to be in a probationary agent program for the first 24 months of their time in the Bureau. Failure to perform adequately during this period may be the basis for dismissal, although that is fairly rare. It is more common for the probationary period to be extended, if necessary. Usually, after a period on an applicant squad, an agent is allowed to rotate off to an investigative squad within the office.

Regardless of what squad new agents are assigned to, they will be under the tutelage of a field training agent for the first 12 to 20 months. This reflects the fact that all new agents are considered to have probationary status for the first 24 months of their careers. Those with qualifying prior military service may have probationary status for only 12 months. The field training agent is a more senior agent who acts as both mentor and evaluator of the new arrivals. The supervisory special agent of the squad is also responsible for completing a Probationary Agent Log. This is a checklist of items that the new agents are expected to be exposed to during their probationary periods. For agents assigned to highly specialized squads, the log may be customized so items correspond with the specific line of work. Generally, these items on the log include the normal aspects of a street agent's daily routine, such as making an arrest, appearing in court, writing certain types of communications or reports, or performing complaint duty. Complaint duty is as old as the FBI itself and is the source of many wild and funny stories.

Generally in most FBI field offices, an incoming call or unannounced visitor is directed to the "complaint agent." This is a temporary assignment that is rotated around the office and involves dealing with the public on anything that may be on people's minds. Generally, agents are assigned to complaint duty for a week at a time, after which they return to their squads. Complaint duty can be boring, a nuisance, wildly amusing, or the source of an incredibly important new case. World-class espionage cases, such as the John Walker spy family matter, started with a complaint agent's taking a phone call. Police killings and bank robberies have been solved from information received by complaint agents. On the other hand, practically any FBI agent can recount numbers of "death ray beamed at me by the CIA," "black helicopters following me," or "giant conspiracy to take over the world" stories from some slightly-off-center citizens.


Upon arrival in the new office, the agent is welcomed by the Special Agent in Charge, given a tour of the facility, and offered housing assistance. Once assigned to the squad, the agent may also be assigned a Bureau vehicle, informally known throughout the FBI as a Bucar (pronounced BEW-car). The vehicle is for official business only, although current FBI policy allows agents to use the automobiles to commute to and from their residences, with the caveat that they use the most direct route. The long and the short of this policy is that the vehicles are not to be used for personal business nor are unapproved passengers to be transported in them. A bucar cannot be operated if the driver has had any alcohol. Violations of these regulations can result in swift and harsh punishment, but the availability of a bucar is widely seen as a significant job perk by agents. Gasoline and repairs are paid for by the Bureau, too.

There is a practical aspect to this arrangement. Always using the same vehicle allows agents to carry job-related materials in them, be they photos of suspects or SWAT equipment. Having the vehicle at their homes also means the agents can respond more quickly in the event of an emergency or travel directly from home to a work assignment. Bureau vehicles are normally equipped with an electronic siren, secure radio, and emergency lights. Some vehicles utilized by SWAT or surveillance team members may also have special security devices and storage units for sensitive equipment or shoulder weapons, such as shotguns, rifles, or submachine guns. In offices where it is not possible to assign each agent a vehicle, it is common for two or more agents to share a vehicle, especially if they live in the same general area.

Working Hours and Salary

Agents' work hours are theoretically from 8:15 in the morning until 5:00 at night, but these hours do not include the availability pay hours (discussed in Chapter 2), which average slightly fewer than two hours a day. FBI work is driven substantially by the demands of caseloads and office specials, so in reality most agents wind up working about 10 hours or more a day, on average. This amount of time can vary widely, of course, as some days may be 81/2 hours and others 14 hours. The FBI makes reasonable attempts to accommodate the family lives and obligations of its agents, but when there is a conflict, the needs of the FBI always come first. Spousal and family support is essential for anyone in the Special Agent position, for there will inevitably be conflicts between the needs of the Bureau and the needs of family. For example, occasionally there is the need to work nights, weekends, or holidays.

Occasionally, an agent will be required to work shifts-normally to participate in a prolonged surveillance or to help monitor a Title III or court-authorized wiretap. Such assignments typically last from a few weeks to a few months. It is rare for an agent to be assigned to permanent shift work, absent the agent's requesting such an assignment.

Lest one gain the impression that the FBI is an uncaring institution by asking for all this work time, understand that it is not. Families are routinely involved in office social functions, and many offices have special days for agents' kids. The field office is also a source of support during many difficult personal situations; there are countless stories of officemates dipping into their own pockets to help a fellow agent when he or she is faced with family medical emergencies, house fires, and the like. Agents also become friends and often socialize together, as do their families.

The squad to which an agent is assigned will normally have 10 to 15 members with varying degrees of experience. All are "street" agents, meaning they are investigators holding General Service (GS) ratings of 10 to 13. The squad supervisor is a GS-14. The more senior squad members transmit much useful information and learning and will greatly assist newcomers in acclimating. This help could involve providing data on pending cases, input on the tendencies of local federal prosecutors, names of useful informants and their areas of knowledge, insights into relationships with local law-enforcement agencies, the criminal history of the area, and the personality and preferences of the Special Agent in Charge. Items of a more personal nature include information on neighborhoods and schools, good lunch places, fitness clubs, after-hours hangouts, and more. Agents assigned to counterterrorism squads, task forces, or intelligence squads get much the same treatment, but their contacts are with federal, state, and local intelligence groups and agencies. Absent having a prickly personality, the newcomer will quickly be assimilated into the squad and absorb its unique culture within the field office.

Reports and Other Agent Communications

The FBI is a thing of rules and regulations, and these apply to how it communicates and manages cases. An agent carrying a caseload has periodic file reviews with the squad supervisor, during which the supervisor reviews the progress made on each case and offers suggestions for ways to advance it. The supervisor also approves or signs out all communications on the case. These may be periodic reports on case activity made to FBI Headquarters or requests to other field offices for assistance. There are various types and forms of communication in the FBI, and each has its own requirements and format. Learning these will take a new agent a year or so, under the watchful tutelage of the supervisor and field training agent.

Performance Reviews and Transfers

Each agent in the field is given an annual performance review, based on workload and performance in other matters. These reviews are taken quite seriously and can affect promotions, salary increases, and other matters. An agent who is unhappy with a performance review does have an avenue of appeal, but documentation of the basis of the displeasure is required. Agents who are veterans have an additional level of appeal to a government-wide entity, the Merit Systems Protection Board.

After several years' service on one squad and completing the probationary agent program, an agent may request a transfer to another squad in the office, usually for a change of pace or to have the opportunity to learn new skill sets. Within reason, these transfers are normally accommodated. Some agents request a transfer to a resident agency (RA)-a suboffice-either for the chance to work a broader range of cases or to be closer to their residence. These transfers usually go to more senior agents, as RA assignments are often highly prized within most field offices.

Sick Leave and Vacations

Special Agents are, by law, granted 13 sick days a year-enough to cover most illnesses and operations. These days are cumulative, so each year's unused balance rolls forward. Thus, after five or ten years without serious health issues, an agent could be off work for a matter of months and still be drawing full pay. In severe cases, the agent may qualify for a disability retirement from the FBI.

Agents also take vacations, like everyone else. During their first three years of service, agents receive 13 days' vacation time a year. Up to 15 years' service, they receive just under four weeks a year, and after 15 years' service, just over five weeks. Unused vacation time, not to exceed one year's entitlement, can be carried forward from year to year. At the time of retirement or separation from the Bureau, unused vacation days will be paid out to the agent as salary.

The Physical Setting

There is no set design for FBI offices. Many buildings are new, but some are quite old. Generally, each agent has a desk or cubicle, and squad supervisors have private offices. Squads are grouped together in areas informally referred to as "bull pens." The Special Agent in Charge and Assistant Special Agent in Charge have much larger offices, with doors, sofas, and overstuffed chairs. Support personnel are interspersed in the squad areas. These support personnel may include file clerks, word processing personnel, computer technicians, financial analysts, or translators. Increasingly in the FBI, because of the terrorism threat, there also are a significant number of intelligence analysts. There will be a gun vault for the storage of ammunition and shoulder weapons, and also an evidence vault for the maintenance of items of physical evidence. Files are in abundance, as are computers, phones, secure file cabinets, and fax machines. Squads working national security matters and terrorism also have encrypted telephones that permit secure transmission of sensitive information. Identification cards are worn at all times, and holstered firearms and dangling handcuffs are a common sight.

FBI agents in field office assignments normally wear business attire, but they can revert to casual clothes depending on their assignments. For male agents, weapons are worn in hip holsters, riding slightly above the belt and slightly behind the right or left hip bone. Shoulder holsters are frowned upon in the FBI, for safety reasons. Female agents can also wear hip holsters under a suit jacket or sweater, or they can utilize holsters cleverly built into purses or fanny packs. Some agents who have permission to carry a smaller frame weapon of their own choosing use ankle holsters. However, the reality of the situation is that jackets almost always win out, since the weapon is not the only item of equipment many agents carry. If they are on a squad that routinely makes a lot of arrests, such as a bank robbery, fugitive, street gang, or surveillance squad, most agents also carry one or more magazines of ammunition, handcuffs, and perhaps pepper spray or an extendable baton.

Working with Other Agencies

The ability of an agent to relate well to personnel in other agencies is probably a key indicator of his or her ultimate success as a Special Agent. Relationships with state and local law enforcement were, years ago, not one of the FBI's strengths. In many cities, there was a perception that the "locals" were second cousins to the FBI and could often not be trusted with sensitive information. In some isolated instances that may have been true, but all too often the Bureau had a generally condescending attitude toward those in other agencies.

Times have changed. Beginning in the 1970s, the Bureau began to actively court other agencies, as it realized that cooperation was preferable to competition. It was also at this time that the first informal task forces began to appear, in at least some FBI field offices. This shift in attitude, coupled with vastly improved training and selection standards in many law-enforcement agencies, helped level the playing field significantly. Improved cooperation followed shortly thereafter. Today, agents who cannot or will not get along with their state and local counterparts have a tough time succeeding in their work, as much valuable intelligence, criminal and otherwise, is lost.


Excerpted from The FBI Career Guide by Joseph W. Koletar Copyright © 2006 by Joseph W. Koletar. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >