How To Become A Secret Service Agent

Could you take a bullet for the President of the United States? The most important person in the world maintains a 24-hour security service of some of the most elite guards known to man, the Secret Service.

While their primary role involves protecting the President from physical harm, the Secret Service also acts as a policing force for US currency, tracking down counterfeiters and cases of financial fraud. The process of becoming an agent requires serious physical and mental discipline but has great rewards as well.

Starting Out
High School or GED

Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

The only requirements laid out of by the Secret Service for prospective agents is that they must be an American citizen between the ages of 21 and 37, must have graduated from college or had experience as a law enforcement official, and must be in good shape and able to pass a physical as well as no background of criminal activity.

Since so many people apply to become an agent, however, each part of these requirements must be taken quite seriously. Anyone with a criminal record will automatically be disqualified; anyone who has not taken advanced classes in criminology or had experience in a legal setting will be hard-pressed to get in. The good physical shape means more than not being a couch potato: an agent must have eyesight at least as good as 20/60, or eyesight that can be corrected to 20/20. Since Secret Service agents act as the president’s driver, furthermore, all applicants must have a valid driver’s license.


The Secret Service has its own application forms available on their government website. If an applicant is selected, they will go on to take a Treasury Enforcement Agent exam in order to determine their cognitive faculties and decision-making skills. Any applicant needs to understand how the Treasury department circulates currency and maintains security on existing dollars and cents. Additional examinations will test an applicant’s knowledge of dangerous situations and how to handle classified information.

During the examination, the Secret Service will conduct an extremely thorough background check: the nature of service to the president requires that they talk with family members, former employers, colleagues, and even old teachers. All this background works to ensure that you could be trusted with classified information.

Pay And Benefits

A Secret Service agent earns either a GL-7 pay grade or a GL-9 pay grade, meaning that they will earn between $47,000 and $53,000 per year for their service to the President. The qualification for a GL-7 pay grade is a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA, while a GL-9 pay grade requires a master’s degree or a year of criminal investigation work at a prior pay level.

In addition to pay, Secret Service agents earn a bonus opportunity of up to 25% of their annual salary, a low-cost policy for life insurance, membership in federal health benefits, two to four weeks of vacation time per year, paid holidays, two weeks of sick leave, and retirement credit benefits. Those who can speak a foreign language may also earn a signing bonus of 25% of their salary.

Stiff Competition

Each year, thousands of applicants make their case for one of only a few jobs available in the Secret Service. Anyone interested in going down this career track will have to start at an early age, in college or even sooner, in order to stand out amongst the pile of applications. An education in criminology with an active experience with a law enforcement agency will help any student get to the top of the list, but is still no guarantee of employment.

Overall, however, becoming a Secret Service Agent is a tremendous, respectable career, filled with excitement and honor.  While competition is significant for these careers, the proper education, skills and focus may help you achieve your goal.

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