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Criminal Justice Careers: A Secret Service Special Agent

Posted by Saint Leo University Online on Feb 6, 2019 11:38:34 AM

A U.S. Secret Service special agentAt any given time, 3,200 Americans are working as special agents, according to the United States Secret Service. This is in addition to the 1,300 Uniformed Division officers and 2,000-plus other personnel (which includes professional and administrative staff) who are currently employed by this leg of the federal government.

If you’ve ever considered working in this particular role yourself, that’s fantastic because our nation is always in need of people who are willing and able to serve our country in one of the highest roles possible.

But this also requires knowing a little bit about what this specific job entails, which starts with understanding what a Secret Service special agent actually does.

Duties and Responsibilities

The Secret Service has two basic responsibilities. The one most people think of when they envision a Secret Service special agent is protection. Put another way, when working as an agent, one of your main priorities is typically protecting top world leaders via both time-tested and newer, more innovative protective strategies.

These leaders include the current president and vice president (and their families), former presidents and their spouses (and their children if they are under the age of 16), presidential and vice presidential candidates, and visiting foreign dignitaries. This protection may occur at their places of residence or stay, during travel, or at national events where large crowds are expected to form.

The second responsibility of Secret Service agents is that of investigation. Sometimes this may include taking a closer look at threats made against our nation’s leaders or visiting leaders. Other times, it requires digging further into crimes that are financial in nature, such as those involving the illegal use of credit cards or investigating computer-based crimes, such as threats against national telecommunication systems, identity fraud, and crimes against banks.

When acting in either of these capacities—protection or investigation—Secret Service special agents are responsible for carrying firearms, executing search or arrest warrants, and making arrests without warrants in certain circumstances.

The Secret Service Special Agent Lifestyle

If you like to travel and prefer a job that can take you to new and different places, you’d likely enjoy the Secret Service special agent lifestyle as it’s not uncommon for agents to be assigned to a number of different duty stations over the course of their careers, some of which may be on foreign soil.

With this in mind, the first six to eight years are generally spent in a field office, with the following three to five years placed on a protective assignment. After this, you may either be asked to go back to the field or you could be requested to work in a training office, headquarters, or other Washington, D.C. location.

Potential Earnings

How much can you expect to earn when working as a Secret Service special agent? According to Glassdoor, the average annual pay is $129,000 per year. Indeed puts it slightly higher at $132,223 per year, a rate that this site indicates is 91 percent above the national average.

A Secret Service special agent also enjoys a number of federal employee benefits, some of which include:

  • Low-cost life insurance
  • Low-cost health insurance plans for you and your family
  • 13 to 26 leave days per year
  • 13 days of sick leave per year (which accumulates if not used)
  • Paid holidays
  • Federal retirement benefits

Qualifications and Requirements

In order to apply, you must meet minimum requirements. For instance, if you want to work as a Secret Service special agent, you cannot have any markings on visible areas of your body. This includes tattoos, body art, or other markings on areas such as your head, face, neck, or below your wrist on your hands.

You must also be a U.S. Citizen, be at least 21 years of age (but under the age of 37 if you are a civilian or 40 if you are a military veteran), and have a valid driver’s license. There are also certain requirements regarding vision, physical health, and other abilities that might be necessary to perform certain functions of this role.

Prospective agents have to qualify for Top Secret clearance as well. As a result, in addition to being investigated in-depth, you’ll also be subjected to drug screenings, medical exams, and polygraphs before the Secret Service will certify you as fit for this particular job role. This process usually takes six to nine months to complete.

Special Agent Training

If hired as a Secret Service special agent, you must first complete a 10-week course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia after which you’re sent to a 17-week Special Agent Training in the Washington, D.C. area.

However, your training doesn’t stop there as agents are trained in advanced methods and modalities throughout their entire careers. These trainings include those related to firearm use, emergency medical response, and more.

Ready to Get Started?

Are you ready to work as a Secret Service special agent? If so, getting your bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice can help you begin to achieve that goal.

Saint Leo offers a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice that gives you the foundational knowledge and skills necessary to become a top-notch Special Agent. You can even choose to specialize in either criminalistics or homeland security with this program, enabling you to choose the path of most interest to you.

Additionally, the U.S. Secret Service has a Student Volunteer Service Program that enables you to get a first-hand look at what it’s like to work in this field. To qualify, you must be currently enrolled in school, have a 2.5 or higher cumulative grade point average (GPA), and be able to volunteer at least 12 hours per week for an entire semester.

What do you say? Are you ready to protect and serve our nation? If so, becoming a Secret Service special agent could be a rewarding and lucrative career option for you. While there are several unique requirements to qualifying for this type of position, the overall enjoyment and benefits truly outweigh any challenges involved in getting through the interview process. 

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