How to Become a Secret Service Agent: Requirements & Training

If you like the idea of jogging beside an armored limousine wearing a suit, an earpiece and sunglasses, you may be interested in becoming a Secret Service agent. Read on to learn about the qualifications, training, duties and pay of these elite federal law enforcement officers. Schools offering Criminal Justice degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

The Secret Service was founded in 1865 to prevent the counterfeiting of U.S. currency, and today it serves as an elite protection unit for current and former U.S. presidents, vice presidents and their families, as well as foreign heads of state visiting the U.S. The chart below details the requirements, job duties and salary ranges for special agents of the Secret Service.

Educational Requirements Bachelor's degree from an institution with superior academic achievement, one full year of graduate school, or at least one year of specialized experience
Other Requirements Must be a U.S. citizen at least 21 years of age; possess a driver's license; meet vision requirement; pass written and physical tests and background check; registered for Selective Service; no visible physical markings such as tattoos
Job Duties Provide armed protection for top elected officials; perform advance work and threat assessment; investigate financial and computer-based crimes; safeguard critical national infrastructure, especially in banking, finance and computing
Job Growth (2016-2026) 7% (all police and detectives)*
Median Salary (2019) $76,687 to $99,691**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **U.S. Office of Personnel Management

Which Officials does the Secret Service Protect?

The Secret Service has a mandatory mission to protect the president and vice president of the United States. Temporary protectees include major presidential and vice-presidential candidates and foreign heads of state visiting the United States. These agents also provide security for the immediate families of the president and vice president, as well as former presidents, their spouses and children under 16. The Secret Service is also responsible for safeguarding national special security events. Other than the president and vice president, any individual eligible for Secret Service protection can decline its services.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Secret Service Agent?

Applicants must be U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old and younger than 37 at the time they receive a conditional offer of employment (or younger than 40 if they are veterans of the Armed Forces). They must qualify for at least the GL-07 level of law-enforcement employment, which requires a bachelor's degree from a college or university with superior academic achievement, or at least one year of graduate school, or at least three years of specialized law-enforcement experience. In addition, candidates must have uncorrected vision no worse than 20/100, correctable to 20/20, and must be in excellent physical condition. Applicants must pass written and physical tests and a background check that includes drug screening and polygraph exams. They must be registered for the draft if eligible, have a valid driver's license and cannot have visible tattoos or other body markings.

What Training Do Secret Service Agents Receive?

Uniformed Division officers and special agents train intensively at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. This is followed by several weeks of specialized training near Washington, D.C., in police procedures, firearms, criminal law, physical fitness and defense, investigative techniques and other specialized skills. Through their careers, Secret Service agents and officers receive ongoing training in firearms, emergency first aid and more, and sometimes they participate in emergency crisis simulations.

How Does the Secret Service Combat Financial Crimes?

In addition to their role in protecting top officials, Secret Service agents investigate and deter financial, banking and computer-based crimes. These may include cyber-attacks on the nation's financial and telecommunications infrastructure, currency counterfeiting, credit-card fraud and other high-tech threats to the security of U.S. citizens.

What Are the Pay and Benefits?

Most special agents are at the government's GS-13 pay grade, which varies depending on experience and location. In 2019, the pay range was between $76,687 and $99,691, according to U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Benefits may include Law Enforcement Availability Pay that can increase base pay by 25%; low-cost health benefits and life insurance; and generous annual leave, sick leave and retirement benefits.

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