Live Discussion - Becoming An Agent
The FBI held a Facebook Live Session highlighting the Bureau's Becoming an Agent series, FBI Academy experiences, and what New Agents might expect at Quantico.
Stephanie Shark: Hello and welcome everyone. Thanks for joining. I am Supervisory Special Agent Stephanie Shark with the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. We recently shared an exclusive story on FBI.gov, giving you an inside look at what it’s like to become a special agent with the FBI. We are going to share today a few clips with you from our story and talk more about what new agent trainees have to go through at the FBI Academy, and what it’s like during their first few weeks after graduation. We also have with us three special agents and leaders from the FBI’s Training Division, which oversees training of new agents and intelligence analysts at Quantico; as well as a Human Resources Division, who manages our recruiting efforts. All are here today to help us drive our discussion. As always, please feel free to ask any questions during our broadcast by typing them into the comments field, or by using #AskFBI to make sure that our panelists will answer them as we move along. So let’s get started with some quick introductions. I wanted to first welcome to our group Section Chief Joe Bonavolonta. Welcome.
Joe Bonavolonta: Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Stephanie: Will you please tell the audience a little bit about yourself?
Joe: Sure. So once again, my name is Joe Bonavolonta and I’m currently a Section Chief in the employee development and selection program here at Headquarters. I’ve been in the Bureau for roughly 21 years. The first few years I was a support employee with the Special Surveillance Group in New York. Then for the next, just about, 8 to 10 years I was an agent who investigated organized crime in the New York Field Office. Then I was promoted as a field supervisor to the Newark Division over the Economic Crimes Squad. Then from there, for about four years, I became an Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) over the counterintelligence and cyber programs in the Boston Field Office. Stephanie: So you spent a lot of time in the Northeast?
Joe: Yes. (I am) a Northeast guy.
Stephanie: Well I am glad you are with us here today.
Joe: Thank you.
Stephanie: Kellie. Unit Chief Kellie Holland, will you please introduce yourself and tell our audience a little bit about your background?
Kellie Holland: Sure. You already said my name is Kellie Holland. I’ve been with the Bureau for 15 years. I started my career in Cincinnati, where I worked on a Joint Terrorism Task Force. Then I transitioned up to Anchorage, Alaska. I worked up there for about six plus years. Then I moved down here and started my management career with the FBI. I am currently a Unit Chief of the Training Management Unit. So those of you out there that are interested in becoming a special agent, when you report to Quantico, you’ll come to my team.
Stephanie: Wonderful. Thank you. Finally, we have Supervisory Special Agent Gary Lorin. Welcome.
Gary Lorin: Welcome. Thank you. My name is Gary Lorin. I have 18 plus years in the FBI now. I spent my first 15 years up in the Portland Division in the Bend RA, which is a small office in central Oregon. I am now with the Tactical Training Unit. As Supervisory Special Agent there, I train the new agents on tactics when they come to the Academy.
Stephanie: Wonderful. We look forward to hearing more about all the tactical training…
Gary: Thank you.
Stephanie: Later in our program. So now that you have learned a little bit about our panel, and since we’re talking today about what it’s like to become a special agent and highlighting our real life series on FBI.gov, let’s now turn to a clip about the very first day new agents arrive at Quantico. If you’re interested in seeing more clips as we move along, please be sure to check out FBI.gov New Agent Series to see more.
Sunny: On the first day, I think, I assume like most folks who got here, everyone was really excited but also a fair bit nervous. I had a decent idea of what to expect but no idea who I was going to be training with or what the environment was really going to be like on a day-to- day basis.
Alex: I didn’t really know what to expect when I first showed up, I’ve never done anything like this. You’ve worked so hard and you’re finally here. It takes so long to get here and when you get here and honestly doesn’t feel quite real
Stephanie: So Kellie, when you did your introduction you said, “If we have a new agent and they come to Quantico, they’re likely going to interact with you.” Will you tell us a little bit about what new agents can expect for their first week arriving at Quantico?
Kellie: Absolutely. First and foremost, they’re going to be uprooting themselves from wherever they are and their support systems and they’re going to be reporting to the Academy, as you saw in the video. There is just a myriad of emotions that they’re going to be going through. They’re going to be overwhelmed. They’re going to be meeting 50 new people in their class. They are going to be getting acclimated to their surroundings. They’re going to be excited. They’re going to be anxious; somewhat intimidated by their surroundings because again, it’s a lot thrown at them at one time. They’re going to be issued gear their first week. They’re going to meet their support staff and their team. From my unit, they’re going to help them navigate the 20 plus weeks of training. They’re going to take their first initial PFT (physical fitness test). So there’s a lot thrown at them that first week and my team is there to support them every step of the way.
Stephanie: Tell us a little bit about what their living conditions will be like.
Kellie: They will have a roommate. For most of us who have been on our own or we have families of our own, trying to again, acclimate to having a roommate… that’s a big adjustment. The other thing is, it’s going to be a lifestyle change for them because they are not going to have their phone with them 24/7. When they’re in their classrooms and during instruction they will not have access to their cell phones. So, unfortunately, that’s a huge adjustment for them and for their families during that 5-month separation.
Stephanie: So they will not be watching FBI Facebook Live events in the middle of their training? (Laughing)
Kellie: No; or tweeting what’s going on. No. They will not.
Stephanie: Do either of you gentlemen remember what it was like when you first showed up at the academy? What you felt and experienced?
Joe: I sure do. To echo the statements that were made earlier, it was a tremendous source of pride. I had been in the FBI for a little over four years before becoming an agent. So for me, there was definitely the familiarity with the agency already. But still making that jump over to be an agent, and at the time, the academy was 16 weeks as opposed to now, it is about 21 weeks. It was a tremendous honor and it was something I’ll never forget. It was a great challenge and I’ll never forget getting my credentials upon graduation.
Stephanie: We’ll talk a little bit more about that later. Anything else you’d like to add?
Gary: Yes. Similarly, I was a little bit more intimidated. I was a police officer in San Francisco when I got in. So I was kind of a big fish there, but I came back to Quantico and I was intimidated by the other 49 people in my class who had very impressive backgrounds. I quickly realized we were all in the same boat together and we really bonded and worked together for the next 16 weeks. A little exciting, though.
Stephanie: I just remember being extremely excited. Well hello if you are just joining us. I am Supervisory Special Agent Stephanie Shark and we are here today discussing an exclusive story on FBI.gov, which gives you an inside look into what it’s like to become a special agent for the FBI. Our panel today, we have three special agents and leaders from both Training Division and also from our Human Resources Division as well, who manage the recruiting efforts and also our training efforts. Please feel free to ask questions today during our broadcast by typing them into the comments field and by using #AskFBI. Don’t forget to tag a friend so that they can watch later. So now we’re going to talk about a second clip- the PFT, or as we describe it, the field fitness test.
Marc Savine: Agents have to establish that they have an acceptable level of physical fitness to perform the job task associated with the job of a special agent. We validate a test that's basic exercises that would establish a level of fitness, and that's sit-ups, push-ups, a sprint, and a mile-and-a-half run. In order to effect a lawful arrest you're going to need a level of fitness. And in order to avoid injury, to get through the Academy, you're going to have to maintain a level of fitness.
Stephanie: Gary, as one of the special agents who oversees the Tactical Training Unit, do you have any advice for new agents preparing for the Physical Fitness Test when they come into the FBI?
Gary: Yeah, thanks. You know, nothing suits up somebody better than if they are prepared for something. If they come in in good shape… If they’re ready to do their run, the sprint, the pushups, the sit-ups…which are the four events that we test. They have to do it the first week they’re here. So if they come in good shape, that kind of relieves some of that anxiety they bring in. So my advice is to just train. Train with somebody. Make sure you can do those events. It will help you going forward. Not just being able to run. If you can run a mile and half in the required time, that’s great. But remember, you have to do pushups, sit-ups and a sprint before you run that mile and half. So putting those things in order, as well, when you train is probably really beneficial.
Stephanie: I recall being pushed to the limit often, to where you think you can do 30 pushups and then having 10 removed because you don’t do it precisely.
Gary: Right. Protocol is a big deal. It is. So make sure you learn to do them proper. And then once you do, perfect those. Good point.
Stephanie: Joe, you work in our Human Resources Division. Can you tell the audience who want to become FBI agents what kind of background our Human Resources Division is looking for when looking for qualified candidates?
Joe: Sure. When you look at the FBI, primarily what makes this such a great organization is we have so many different programs that we work- from terrorism, to counterintelligence, to organized crime, to cyber- so, because of all the programs that we’re responsible for investigating, we really are looking for applicants that have a breadth of experience and diversity. As far as breadth of experience goes, we’re looking for candidates, especially nowadays, that really have a background in the STEM principles; which is really science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It’s not the sole foundation that we’re looking for, by any means. But really, when you look at advancing technology and how that really touches upon every type of investigating activity that we conduct, having that background is very important for somebody who is a perspective agent looking to come in. That having been said, throughout the course of my career, I can’t think of a unit or squad that I have been on or lead that hasn’t had a diverse group of agents- anywhere from school teachers, to scientists, to attorneys, to former military or law enforcement. And the other thing that we’re really looking for in a targeted fashion is diversity, as far as cultural diversity and racial diversity as well. That’s something in the last few years that the FBI has specifically added as a core principle of ours. We have several very proactive initiatives and targeted recruitment initiatives out in the field to really try to have the Bureau, as every year goes by, become more and more representative of society.
Stephanie: Why do you feel that’s important?
Joe: Well it’s very important because when you look at the main objective of our job, it’s really to interface with the public. One of the core principles of any program or investigation that we conduct is being out there in the public, knocking on doors, conducting interviews, working these types of cases. And if we’re doing that, we should be as representative of the people that we’re sworn to protect as possible.
Stephanie: Great. So for you out there who are looking to join the FBI… You don’t need to be a lawyer or an accountant to come in.
Joe: No. Many years ago that may have been the case but now… We are still looking for people with those skillsets, no doubt about it; but it’s definitely morphed and it’s become much more diverse in terms of the skills that we are looking for.
Stephanie: Okay. Well, I hear that we have a question from the audience. So, is it important… You noticed earlier that you have teachers and stuff like that. Is it best to be the best in your field? Can you talk a little bit about that in terms of the diversity?
Joe: Sure. So, no matter what area of expertise you’re in prior to becoming an agent, it’s very important to just go as far as you can go and be as proactive as you can be in your job. So if it is a school teacher, seek out leadership positions. Seek out technical training that can prepare you for becoming an agent. Or if you’re former military or law enforcement, you will have already had and experienced a lot of the core principles of what it is to be an agent. But it’s one of those things where you can always grow and build from a technical aspect or even a leadership aspect.
Stephanie: Now I know Gary is also a previous law enforcement officer. We have a question. Ray out in the audience is curious, “If you are law enforcement, is the FBI still a place for you in today’s FBI?”
Gary: Absolutely. We’re certainly encouraged, police officers, to come in. They bring more street-level knowledge of how to deal with people and how things happen on the street. It’s a fantastic background to come in the FBI with, for sure. You still need a degree of some sort, a college degree.
Stephanie: So what I’m hearing from you guys is it’s more important to be good at what you do prior to coming into the FBI; that you don’t have to focus on one specific major; but you need to think critically and relate well to people in order to represent the communities better.
Joe: That’s correct, and just have a passion for the job. It’s not just a career. It’s much more than that.
Stephanie: We will get into that a little bit later. Thank you for that summary. So let’s take a question from our Facebook audience. Samantha asks on Twitter, “Is there an age limit on recruits?” I know we talked a little bit about this prior to the session. Kellie, would you like to talk a little bit about that?
Kellie: Sure. The age limit is 37. So what we encourage you to do if you’re interested in a special agent position with the FBI, that you start that process by reaching out to your applicant coordinator, going online, doing your research. By the age 35, understand there are waivers out there specifically for the military. To back up what Joe said, we’re looking for people who have the requisite experience. But understand that age requirement is specific to special agents. There’s over 400 different job series within the FBI. So even if you don’t want to become a special agent or you have aged out, there’s other job series out there that may be of interest to you.
Stephanie: What is the average age? Does anybody know the average age of an FBI recruit?
Kellie: Yeah, in the graduating classes it’s 31.
Stephanie: Okay. So it’s not straight out of college?
Stephanie: Joe, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Joe: Sure. I think the reason why you see that trend is, this obviously can be a complex job at times and we have a tremendous responsibility. That’s why we’re looking for people that not only have that academic expertise but also that continuous work and life experience. The reason why you see that average age of an agent recruit hovering around the early 30’s is because we’re looking for people that have been in that professional workforce for a while and bring in that breadth of experience that really can show maturity because, especially when you’re assigned as an agent to a field office and you’re working very complex investigations, you need to have that sense of maturity. When you’re out there on the street conducting operations, in essence, arresting people; preparing for trial; it’s one of the things where people need to be able to count on you. You just need to have that operational of maturity and that common sense to do the job.
Stephanie: Great. Well let’s talk about our basic field training course. We’re going to go to clip to start it out.
Kellie: The Basic Field Training Course—the BFTC—is a monumental shift in how we used to do our traditional training, which is we had separate training courses for each of the intelligence analysts and the new agent trainees, or NATs. And we have found that in order for us to be more successful in identifying and minimizing the threats, we needed to have a combined team.
Stephanie: So Kellie, we obviously saw you in that clip. We’re glad you joined us here today. Can you tell us a little bit about why integration is so important now in the basic training course?
Kellie: Absolutely. The intelligence analysts and the agents used to train separately. What that did…. How that translated to the field was that we were not working as closely together as we could be and as we should be. So we transitioned the training to where it’s now integrated because we want that to be mirrored in the field office. What that means and how that’s translated is… So, I might be the case agent on a case, but in a lot of ways, I consider an analyst as a co-case agent. They’re going to help me sometimes go out and do interviews with me. Whereas before, that was unheard of. We didn’t do that. It’s important now to have those subject matter experts with us when we need them. It’s more of a team effort and that has increased the effectiveness of the FBI.
Stephanie: It sounds very collaborative. That’s wonderful. For those of you just joining us, I’m Supervisory Special Agent Stephanie Shark. We are here today discussing an exclusive story on FBI.gov that gives you an inside look at what it’s like to become a special agent. Our panel today, we have three special agents and FBI leadership who are here from both the FBI’s Training Division, which oversees the training of new agents and intelligence analysts at Quantico; and also our Human Resources Division, who manages our recruiting efforts. Feel free to ask questions during our broadcast by typing them into the comments field or by using #AskFBI. Don’t forget to tag a friend so they can watch the videos later.
Stephanie: Now we’re going to go to our fourth clip, which talks about law enforcement and operational skills. In order to prepare for the field, new agents must receive the necessary law enforcement training and operational skills to safely work cases and carry out investigations. From learning about everything from defensive tactics, firearms, to tactical driving, trainees take part in realistic exercises during their time at the FBI Academy. Now let’s take a look.
M.A. Myers: Our tactical instructors here look to develop scenarios based off of real cases. So a scenario over in Hogan’s Alley, which is where our tactical training is conducted, is going to closely mirror what our instructors have seen during their experiences. Stephanie: Reviewing that clip brings back so many fond memories of time at Hogan’s Alley. Gary, I believe this is where your training and your team comes into play. Can you tell us a little bit about all the operational and tactical training that goes on at Quantico?
Gary: Sure. We are the Tactical Training Unit and yeah, you saw good pictures of all the events that the students go through. It brings back memories, absolutely. Our office is right there. So this is the fun part, right? The Academy is 20 weeks, 21 weeks… something like that. We don’t even see the new agents until 8 or 9 weeks in. They get all sorts of legal training, interviewing, interrogation, defensive tactics, firearms… all of that. They bring it over to our unit and we actually put them into realistic scenarios. We try and teach them to be safe with weapons really- how to clear houses, how to serve search warrants and arrest warrants, how to maneuver around people and vehicles with guns. That is what our main goal is. We need to get all of the new agents trained, if you will, so they can go assimilate with our 14,000 special agents and 30,000 employees out there. So everybody’s kind of on the same page once they leave the Academy.
Stephanie: So tell us a little bit about some of the areas that you have observed are the most challenging for some of the new agent trainees when it comes to tactics.
Gary: We put them through a bunch of scenarios. The more realistic, the more challenging. I would think the most challenging for them, and you guys correct me if you think it was different, is when we put them in pairs. We put them in situations that usually start off pretty innocuous, and then we make something happen while they’re maybe doing an interview or something and see how they react. It’s a quick judgment that we’re looking for from them. We try and give them the skills to handle that and the ideas of different ways to handle different situations. I think you see the most anxiety, the most stress, on those days when we’re putting them in those situations.
Stephanie: When you say “make something happen”, I know you don’t want to give away the secrets, but gives us an example of something that would happen in the middle to surprise an agent doing a random interview.
Gary: That’s a good question. So in Hogan’s Alley, we have a bank. It is probably the most robbed bank in America. (laughing) We have them sitting in there talking to the manager about something that happened or a fraud case or something. And while they are in there, the bank gets robbed. They have lots of different things that they can do. We put them in this situation. They’re kind of at a disadvantage, and something goes on and we see how they react. There’s just a myriad of ways they can react and we see what they do.
Stephanie: That sounds like a lot of fun, not only for them but also for the instructors observing.
Gary: It absolutely is.
Stephanie: Now Joe, this tied back to a little bit of what you were saying about who we recruit and the importance of coming from a variety of fields and making decisions. How do you feel that the tactics and the thinking ties into who we’re looking for?
Joe: Well once again, we are looking for people that bring in that breadth of experience. Mostly, the word I keep coming back to is maturity. That’s the key. We spend so much time out on the streets and depending on what program or violation you’re working, in many different environments, we can find ourselves in very formal, professional environments. We could also find ourselves in some very dangerous and fluid environments. That’s when we just need to make sure that people have that inherent maturity and common sense to be able to quickly analyze a situation and act accordingly. They are not just representing themselves out there during an operation, they’re there helping to protect their colleagues, other innocent bystanders, and the public in general, and also the FBI as a whole. They’re representing the FBI while we’re out there as well. Stephanie: So using the word maturity, what advice would you give to potential applicants to demonstrate their maturity when considering applying for the job as a special agent? Joe: Well, I think first, starting at a younger age, I would just really caution anybody who thinks they may have the propensity to work for the FBI, to really be very careful and diligent on social media and to be careful who they’re hanging out with and what choices they make. That starts early. It’s all about choices and maturity, even at an early age. If you don’t make the right choices or if you’re doing something on social media that can really turn negative, that won’t bode well as they get older, a little bit more mature and they progress through the application process. Once they get into the work environment, then it should really just be all about trying to be proactive and to try to seek out leadership opportunities, other educational, technical opportunities to help prepare themselves for being in those types of situations.
Stephanie: So I remember going through the Academy in the background and somebody in my class was shocked to find out that the FBI asked them why they purchased something specific online six months ago. Does anybody else have any other interesting stories about their backgrounds and what you were questioned on that you had no expectation?
Gary: Yeah. As Joe was saying, the background gets pretty in depth. This is sort of a funny story, but the last speeding tickets and things like that from years and years ago. Getting into the Bureau years ago, they asked me about a ticket I got while I was in college. Evidently, you can’t ride on the handlebars of a bike in California. I didn’t know. I got a ticket for that and really dismissed it, forgot all about it until I was getting in and they asked me about it. I couldn’t remember really anything about it. Yeah, they dig pretty deep and they’ll find something on you if you make a bad decision as a kid. (laughing)
Stephanie: Well now that we know you can’t ride on the handlebars of your bike in California, let’s take a few more questions from our audience. Jay on Facebook asks, “At what point during the Academy or before the Academy are recruits assigned and informed of their duty posts?” Kellie?
Kellie: That’s right up my alley. So, on week one they will fill out, we call it their “wish list”. So they will rank out the 56 field offices. In week four, they will get their assignments. I have to say, Joe’s team over at HRD does a phenomenal job of trying to match up where a new agent wants to go and where there is openings and availabilities for them to go. So right now we are around the 5 to 6, which means of the 56 that they are ranking, the majority of the trainees are getting their 5th or 6th choice. So 1 is the one you want to go to and 56, you don’t want to go there.
Joe: Which is definitely not the way that it used to be when many of us went through the Academy. It’s a much more analytical exercise now to balance between the two.
Stephanie: I have heard about people back in the day getting their 50-something choice.
Kellie: Absolutely. Stephanie: But, needs of the Bureau, right? So we talked a little bit about mobility. Joe, can you talk about that a little bit? Do we have to move at some point in the FBI?
Joe: Sure. When it comes to mobility, anybody who moves into an agent or an intelligence analyst position, does have to sign a mobility agreement. What that means is, if there is a specific need of the Bureau for you to have to go to a certain location, you are, in essence, agreeing to go. I will caveat that with the fact that, once an individual makes it to their first office right outside of the Academy, if they choose to do so, they can absolutely generally stay in that office as opposed to other people who want to undertake other experiences and maybe travel overseas or go to some other offices and experience other parts of the country…
Stephanie: Like Alaska.
Joe: Like Alaska. You can do that, but there is nothing that says once you make it to your first office that you have to move to another office. I know that’s a concern of some people. Once again, it just all comes down to what certain people’s goals and objectives are during the course of their career in terms of how often they move or if not at all. Stephanie: And there’s plenty of opportunities if you like new adventures in the FBI.
Kellie: Oh, absolutely.
Stephanie: One more question before we watch our final clip. Joaquin asked, “Does the FBI accept people with tattoos?” I know coming from a law enforcement background, you’ve probably seen the evolution of this a little bit. Do you have any experience with the FBI…?
Gary: It has evolved. Yeah. Absolutely. Students come in now with all sorts of tattoos. I think you have to be able to cover them up for certain things, but we see them all the time. It’s ok now.
Kellie: Yeah, they are allowed. Now I would suggest that if you’re looking to get a tattoo, be very judicious in where you place it, just because the image of the Academy in the FBI is extremely important. So just be judicious in your placement of your tattoo.
Stephanie: Okay. So we have talked a little bit about what it takes to get into the FBI, your first few days, some of the training and the field and the operation. I believe what we have left to talk about is graduation. The graduation ceremony at the FBI Academy marks the culmination of 20 weeks of hard work and sacrifice when new agent trainees become special agents of the FBI. We’re now going to go to a video.
Alex, New Agent Trainee: Getting my creds was really emotional. Just the fact that, like, this actually really happening. This is…all this hard work I put in is…you’re standing in line, you’re waiting to go up there, and you…it kind of starts to set in, like, “I’m going to become a special agent.
Josh, New Agent Trainee: It was a flurry of emotion all at once. It was a rush and it was also really gratifying after what we’d been through to be able to walk the stage, so.
Stephanie: All of us here today have our own graduation moments and things that were really special to us, but Kellie, you are on the front lines of watching new agent trainees actually get those credentials. Can you tell us about what you observe?
Kellie: Sure. What you saw in the video there was they are just getting their credentials for the first time. They are realizing, “Oh my gosh. I have been working all my life for this goal and this dream, and I finally have it in my hands- my badge and my credentials.” It’s a proud moment. It’s a proud moment for the student. It’s a proud moment for the families because of all of the sacrifices. You know, the students come here to the Academy and they have training and it’s rigorous and it’s stressful, but the families are the ones sacrificing at home, keeping the home front going and moving, and kids in school and all of that. So it’s a sacrifice all the way around. So to see them realize this dream and be a part of that is an amazing moment for the staff and for the instructors as well, knowing that we are part of making the new generation of FBI agents who are going to go forth and protect the American people and uphold the Constitution.
Gary: It’s sort of like the “Changing of the Guards” a little bit, right?
Gary: We give them the knowledge that we have and hope they go out and do it. Just to add onto that, the families, it is a big sacrifice and they’re not done. They now, often times, have to move thousands of miles to a new city. They may or may not know somebody there. That’s where they are going to be for as long as they want. They can either stay there for years or raise their hand and make a move at some point. It’s a big day.
Stephanie: Joe, we eluded to a little bit earlier in today’s program about your graduation experience and why was that moment special for you?
Joe: It was special because it really personified the fact that the FBI really is a family and those who get into this organization realize that quickly. For me, my father was a FBI special agent for just about 24 years. Something that the Bureau does, and I think they do very well, is they offer graduates the opportunity, if they choose to do so, to have a close relative who may have been an FBI employee to help present their credentials to them at graduation. So I had the pleasure of having my father, along with the FBI Director at that time, present me with my credentials. That was something that was very special for the family and it just shows more and more how much the FBI isn’t just a career. It really is a family.
Stephanie: Kellie, you eluded to something earlier about a lifestyle.
Kellie: Absolutely. When you join the FBI, it is a lifestyle in the sense that you have to change the way you interact in public situations, what you post on your Facebook, what you tweet… because that’s out there and it’s just not representative of you anymore. When you speak, you speak with… you’re representing the FBI. So that comes… With great power, if you will, comes great responsibility. And they’re out there doing good for a living. Again, that has great responsibility attached to that.
Stephanie: So we’re here looking for the “Change of the Guards”, as you said earlier. We want to know what is in your minds and what we can do to help you consider a job with the FBI. So let’s take a few final questions from our Facebook audience. Mandy asks, “Can someone apply right out of college for the FBI?”
Joe: Sure. There’s different facets to that. For the special agent process, we require a college degree, but also a minimum of three years of continuous work experience before being able to apply to the FBI. There are caveats to that. If you obtain an advanced degree, you can lower the number of continuous work experience years from three down to two. There are other types of jobs you can have where you may not even need that. But just to keep it basic for these purposes, not for the special agent position right out of college, but one thing that we haven’t mentioned as much in today’s setting is, there’s many different positions within the FBI. It’s not just the special agent position. We have the intelligence analyst position, which is an extremely important position; and numerous other, what we call, professional support staff positions, which are jobs within the Bureau that are non-agent jobs. They are really, in my opinion, especially having been in the Human Resources Division for the last year now, are really at the core of the FBI. They help facilitate almost everything in terms of what we do. That really gives people who are coming right out of college that opportunity through things like the Honors Internship Program, our Collegiate Hire Program. All things that you can easily research and access off of our website, which are tremendous opportunities for people to get into the Bureau and work their way through.
Stephanie: Great, Joe. Thank you. Crystal asks, “Are agents in training able to see their families during their time at Quantico?” You talked, Kellie, about the sacrifice and being disconnected electronically. What about family engagement?
Kellie: Absolutely. When you first report to the Academy, we have you in-house for the first couple weekends. After that, as long as you keep your studies up and your grades where they need to be, you’re performing where you need to be, you can visit your family. There are some that go home every weekend to visit their family and they’re performing just the way we need them to be and they’re team members.
Stephanie: Can kids FaceTime at night with their parents? I mean, are they completely disconnected throughout the Academy or only while in school?
Kellie: No. So, I’m glad you’ve asked that question because it also ties back to teamwork too. So remind me if I don’t bring it up- teamwork.
Kellie: They are just during the classroom time. They are not allowed to have their phones with them in the classrooms. They have to be held in the locker rooms… or the lockers, excuse me. What we see is the students typically, on break, will run down to a floor where they can have their phones and are texting in between or making phone calls. That kind of stuff. There is downtime. It’s just, that’s a huge change because we’re used to being on our… I’m guilty of it too… on our phones all the time. To have that disconnect, that’s a difficult transition for the trainees.
Stephanie: And as it relates to teamwork?
Kellie: Teamwork. So, a big thing that we want them to know when they come to Quantico is that the FBI is not only a lifestyle, but we are a family. I just mentioned it a couple times. It ties back to what Gary was saying, that you’re going to come in. You’re going to have strengths and weaknesses. We all do. You’re all going to feel intimidated and overwhelmed, but you’re not going to have any successes in the Bureau if you don’t learn to work as a team. That’s the environment that we put them in because we want to evaluate them and see how they not only work as an individual, but as a team as well. They’re going to have a new FBI family and a new support system to help them navigate their training. They will work as a team to be successful.
Stephanie: So in the effort to become an FBI special agent, once you actually get into the Academy, our last question, Sheena asks, “Can you fail out of the Academy? And if so, does anybody have an example of how that happens?”
Kellie: That falls squarely on me. Yes, you can. You can fail out of the Academy and you can fail out two ways. Let me say, that’s probably the hardest part of our job is dismissing a student, and not because we’re dismissing them. We are also taking their dreams away from them. That’s really hard. As a mom, that’s a very difficult moment. Academically, we can have those that are not performing where they should be, either on the law enforcement skill side of the house and in the academic environment. But then we can have some that, to Joe’s point, that are emotionally immature that are showing poor judgments. We call that suitable. Are you suitable to do the job? Can you go into public and can we trust you to make the right decision at the right time for the right reason under stress when there’s a bunch of people watching? So if you struggle in a training environment, they’re going to struggle with good decision making when you go out in the field.
Stephanie: Just for reality-based and perspective, is it a high percentage of people that fail?
Kellie: No, it is not a high percentage. But we have anywhere from four to six that will be dismissed from each of the BFTC sessions. That’s 200 people. (38:00) So that’s a pretty good success rate for the FBI.
Gary: Four to six out of 200. Yeah. We pick good candidates. They are good people who come in. We do test them. I know we do it over at our unit. We are putting them in some judgment situations that can be difficult and we like to see how they react. Very rarely does anybody not meet the standards.
Stephanie: I know we’re wrapping up here, but does anybody know, when somebody finally makes it to be an agent, what the percentage is of applicants? Because I remember when I came through the Academy they were like, “It’s one percent of all applicants make it through.” Off the top of your head?
Gary: Joe, do you know?
Kellie: I though there were 30,000 that applied last year, and of the 30,000 we graduated around 800.
Joe: Right. And I know our goals for 2018 would be to hire roughly 700 agents; roughly about 150 intelligence analysts; and maybe 900 or so professional support staff employees.
Stephanie: And it’s fair to say that we’re looking for a very diverse group of people from all background and experiences?
Joe: Yes. That would be correct.
Stephanie: Well that is all the time we have for our Facebook live broadcast. Big thanks to Kellie Holland, Joe Bonavolonta, and Gary Loren for joining us today. And thank you all for those of us who joined us on Facebook. If you want to see more clips or read more about what it takes to become a special agent, visit the link at the end of the broadcast. Don’t forget to tag a friend who may have missed our broadcast today. If you have any questions about becoming a special agent or the process, please visit FBIjobs.gov. We are looking for fantastic applicants and we hope one of them is you!
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