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A Former FBI Agent Spills On Everything The Agency Is Looking For When It Hires Special Agents

by Angela Andaloro

If you’re addicted to any of the many procedurals TV has to offer, you may have dreamed of a career in law enforcement.

From Criminal Minds to FBI: Most Wanted, being a member of the bureau looks like a high-adrenaline job that values intelligent, hardworking people. But away from the TV cameras and in the grit of real-life experiences, what does it take to be an FBI agent?

David Shapiro is a former FBI agent who now teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. His advice for anyone interested in a career with the FBI? Stay out of trouble. “There are automatic disqualifiers, like certain kinds of drug use and certain crimes,” he explained.

“The quickest way to become an FBI agent is to have a specialty, an expertise, a skill they need post-haste,” he explained. While having a qualifier like a little-known language on your résumé is one way to get in quickly, it’s by no means the only way.

David also advises against rushing into a career at the FBI. “The best strategy is to develop your own life, your own brand, your own experience, your own niche, then apply after that,” David explains. “The FBI prefers to have people, especially in the special agent role, in their second career. They’re more mature and they’ll stay there for the 20 years, and that’s important.”

A strong educational background is also helpful. “If you study something well and study it deeply, you also learn other skills. Research, writing, communication, and those skills are important as an FBI agent.”

He also says that sociability and the ability to interact well is also crucial. Aside from that, physical standards, firearm tests, and more can be expected.

David also points out that special agents aren’t the only FBI employees. There are a number of fields, from computer science to photography, that can get you in the door at the FBI.

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