If you have ever watched a movie where an actor portrayed the President of the United States, then you likely saw that actor flanked by men and women in dark suits wearing sunglasses and earpieces. This is Hollywood’s rendition of the Secret Service. While these suited bodyguards look impressive in movies, this does not show the full extent of what these professionals do. The Secret Service and its agents are vital to the integrity and security of our country. They perform two distinct roles: protecting the integrity of our currency and protecting the leaders that make our country so great. If you picture yourself in the role of a Secret Service agent, here is a closer look at what it entails, what you might do in that role, and what training you will need to complete.
What Is the Secret Service?
The Secret Service is a part of the Department of Homeland Security. This highly specialized law enforcement agency is charged with protecting political leaders and their families while also conducting criminal investigations. Secret Service agents are some of the best law enforcement professionals in the country due to the agency’s stringent hiring process.
What Does the Secret Service Do?
The Secret Service has two main jobs: to protect the country’s leaders and to investigate crimes against the U.S. financial system. This dual purpose helps keep our country and its leaders strong, while also protecting the financial integrity of the country.
Secret Service Jobs
The Secret Service has two main divisions: the investigative division and the uniformed division. The investigative division will investigate claims of fraud, counterfeiting, identity theft, and computer hacking. The uniformed division, also known as the protective division, actively protects political leaders and places of national interest. Most agents will start as investigative agents unless they get invited to serve in the protective service.
Within these two main headings, the Service has four specific job titles. These are:
- Special Agents: Special Agents provide both protective and investigative assignments to protect government officials or investigate financial crimes.
- Uniformed Division Officers: These professionals protect the venues and facilities that people under Secret Service protection will use.
- Technical Law Enforcement: These technical specialists support Special Agents and Uniformed Division Officers.
- Administrative, Professional, and Technical Experts: This final category of professional provides behind-the-scenes support for agents in the field.
With these four career paths, the Secret Service has a range of opportunities for people based on their varying abilities and skills. However, regardless of which of these areas you see yourself in, the first step is to get past the application requirements and testing process.
Secret Service Requirements
Working in the Secret Service is a highly demanding career choice. You need good inductive reasoning skills to be an investigator, and you also need to be in good physical shape.
The work of a Secret Service agent is not easy, but it is interesting. In order to do this job well, you must have several skills.
First, you must have good observation skills. Whether you are investigating or protecting, you will need to see beyond what is obvious.
Second, you must have strong investigative and research skills. Much of the work done by the Secret Service is investigative in nature, and you must know how to put your mind to work to research and find important information.
Communication skills are helpful. When you do detect a threat or find a problem during your investigation, you must be able to convey your findings to others.
Finally, the ability to make decisions quickly is another essential part of being a Secret Service agent. When a problem arises in the field, you may not have the luxury of time, so you need to be able to count on your decision-making abilities.
In the Secret Service, physical fitness is a must. Protection requires the ability to engage with criminals and take them down, if needed. To that end, a rigorous physical fitness test is part of the application process.
In addition to the educational requirements and examinations that will be discussed later, in order to become a Secret Service agent, applicants must:
- Have U.S. citizenship
- Be 21 to 37 years of age
- Have a current, valid driver’s license
- Be in good physical and mental health
- Meet the agency’s vision requirements
- Be able to pass a detailed background check and polygraph
How Much Do Secret Service Agents Make?
A Secret Service agent’s salary varies depending on their experience and the pay grade they are assigned after the initial hiring tests. The higher the pay grade, the higher the pay. In addition, the area where an agent is assigned to work will impact their salary.
How to Become a Secret Service Agent
According to the official hiring document of the United States Secret Service, there is a specific path to take to become a Secret Service agent. In general, you will want to get a college degree, apply for an open position, and complete all required training, but the process is not quite that straightforward. Here is a road map that will show you what it takes to become an agent. Keep in mind that an applicant can be removed from the program at any point of the hiring process if they do not meet expectations.
The hiring process for agents is quite intensive. Because these professionals keep the country safe, the Secret Service must know that they are dependable individuals. The first step is to fill out and submit an application. Once it is reviewed, the Service will do a background check. If the applicant passes, they will take the entrance exam and the Applicant Physical Abilities Test (APAT). These two tests ensure that the applicant has the mental and physical abilities to do this demanding job.
After passing these initial requirements, the applicant will then go for a security interview, eye exam, polygraph, drug test, and medical test. A deeper background check occurs, and clearance is either granted or denied. At this point, employees are ready to start their training.
Before starting a field office assignment, new agents go through seven months of training with the Secret Service. This includes training in the classroom as well as firearms instruction, fitness lessons, and simulations. Once complete, they can take a field office assignment, followed by a protective assignment, and, potentially, a higher office assignment.
While the Secret Service does not post specific education requirements, Indeed.com indicates most agents have at least a bachelor’s degree in some form of criminal justice, homeland security, or law enforcement program. Most job positions within the Secret Service require a minimum GPA of 3.0. Sometimes, the requirement for a degree is dropped if the applicant has on-the-job experience in law enforcement.
Because there is a rigorous entrance exam, college degrees can help get a foot in the door with the Secret Service. You will gain the skills you need to be a lifelong learner and researcher in a degree program, and those skills will translate well into your testing as you move forward with your application.
Start Your Emergency Management and Homeland Security Bachelor’s Today with Post University
If you are serious about pursuing a Secret Service job, then consider getting the Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management and Homeland Security. This degree will help you learn how to meet crises head-on. The program offers on campus options, as well as online courses that can meet the needs of busy adults.
To learn more about this degree program and how it could launch your Secret Service career, reach out to an admissions department team member at Post University.
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Please note jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions representative.