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18 year old HS Senior seeking advice on FLE Career - Please help

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  • 18 year old HS Senior seeking advice on FLE Career - Please help

    I have always had much admiration and respect for law enforcement officers and what they do on a daily basis. Ever since I began high school, I have been committed to pursuing a law enforcement career and up until this day, I know that it is still what I want to do.

    Recently, I have been stressed out much more than I should be due to the transition to college. Although, I would be more than happy with any LE position, I would really enjoy working on the Federal level. I understand that most agencies such as the ATF, DEA, etc. look for Criminal Justice majors or any applicants with knowledge of the CJ system, but what about agencies in the FBI that want Special Agent applicants to specialize in a specific field? I don't want to set such narrow goals since I know every agency does good police work, but if I could be employed by any agency, I would undoubtedly want it to be by the FBI. The type crimes that they focus on among other things are what draw me to the agency compared to others.

    If down the road I ever wanted to apply for the FBI's Special Agent position qualifying for either the Law Enforcement (2 years investigative experience) or Intelligence (3 years work experience or study of International Relations) critical skills, what should I study in college that would make me most competitive? I have gotten accepted in John Jay College of CJ, which offers CJ programs, but no international relations (which I'd like to study the most).

    I was contemplating the military route, hoping to get an MOS in the intelligence field to gain experience. However, I've unfortunately lost both of my parents in the past couple of years. I was placed in foster care and they pay for two years worth of college, so at the moment I can't decide between the two options.

    I'm sure many people ask questions like this on the forum and it probably gets tiring answering the question over and over again, but I am a very ambitious person and I am serious about pursuing this. I have been staying in great shape, staying out of trouble, etc. I have even made connections with DEA Special Agents that I've escorted through my school on Career Day. Any advice would be well taken and greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    Stay out of trouble, keep your credit good, don't do drugs. Major in something besides
    Criminal justice(accounting,business, applied sciences, engineering). Get internships etc. Start creating your résumé, and job experience. All those agencies are extremely tough, even having great experience
    And degree it still honestly comes down to luck. Haven't been to military so I can't speak on it. Much success.

    Comment


    • #3
      Have a plan B, C, and D if things on federal side don't workout.
      John jay means NYC. Probably the best municipal department in the nation. Keep your options open.

      Comment


      • #4
        TMiller556,

        A question you may want to ask yourself is what you want to do BEFORE getting in Federal L.E. You're going to need prior, relevant experience that aligns with the agencies needs. Do you want go into policing? Military? Accounting? Law? Big Business? Whatever you do, make sure you are enjoying yourself and not doing it purely to get into Federal law enforcement. As Esco said, have plans B, C, D .....
        CJ major isn't bad. but it only trains you for law enforcement. You could always get a degree in Economics and minor in Spanish and still go into local police work and have a very unique background that most others won't have (just as an example).

        Good luck

        Comment


        • #5
          Thank you for the replies. I will be sure to always have a backup plan.

          Double123, that is the problem I'm having now. I've narrowed it down to either policing or military (intelligence), as none of the others really interest me. It's just that the two are two completely different career paths and they don't really intertwine. I would never study something I hate in hope of getting picked up by a federal agency. I would also like to learn a foreign language somewhere down the line, preferably Russian. I do understand that I can plan all I want and things may change, out of my control. Also, I will definitely keep on the look out for internships.

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          • #6
            I spoke to an ASAC who once told me that learning a foreign language is one of the best ways to enter the FBI.

            Comment


            • #7
              It's good that you're considering this career at such a young age because it will give you the time needed to build yourself up to be as competitive as possible. I will offer some broad stroke pieces of advice from my experiences in both local and federal law enforcement, as well as having spent some time in a legal career.

              1) Do good in school. It sounds cliche, but it's true, the better you do in school the more likely people will take you seriously as a competitive candidate in any career. Think about what you would enjoy for undergraduate studies and take that route. A criminal justice degree will not give you a leg up on anyone in the federal law enforcement community. However, an advanced degree in just about anything will. Not only does a graduate degree qualify you for a higher pay grade, but depending on what your degree is in, it gives you a qualified expertise in a subject that others can look to you for advice on. For example, if you earn a Juris Doctor, most large agencies have opportunities for Special Agent lawyers that can only be pursued by those with law degrees. For now, focus on keeping that GPA up.

              2) Stay out of trouble, both with the law as well as in your social community. Simple run-ins with the law can and will disqualify you from federal employment. I have conducted many background investigations in which a really good candidate was disqualified for simple things. That being said, many "simple things" are also overlooked. Just avoid this debacle by keeping your nose clean. Also remember that if you want to be a Special Agent, you will be subject to a very scrutinizing background investigation. Very good investigators will work tirelessly to unearth anything you have done wrong. They will talk to your previous employers, as well as your friends and neighbors. Be the guy who everyone says good things about.

              3) Only join the military if that is truly what you want to do. It is not a requirement for being a Special Agent, although the current hiring climate may be telling you something else. Remember that the federal hiring process ebbs and flows in this area of hiring, and this issues has been discussed (both civilly and uncivilly) ad nauseam on this website. If you decide to serve your Nation through military service, choose an MOS that suits you well and that you think you will enjoy.

              4) If you choose to serve your Nation through local or state law enforcement service, choose an agency that will expose you to as much as this field has to offer. The experiences I had as a street cop were some of the best times I have ever had on the job, and the "sixth sense" that is learned and honed through local law enforcement can not be learned anywhere else - especially as a Special Agent with the federal government. Quite simply, the job of a federal investigator is not as proactively embedded in the community as a uniformed police officer. The hiring panels that I have sat on tend to look very favorably on applicants with policing experience, and you will gain invaluable knowledge that others in your future office will benefit from on a day to day basis. This is a wonderful way to serve your Nation while bettering yourself as a professional and member of society.

              5) At your young age, there are vast opportunities in most communities for you to start getting involved in local law enforcement already. Depending on where you are, many municipal agencies will hire someone at 18 years for administrative support positions, such as Explorers, Cadets, Community Service Officers, Auxiliary Officers, and a plethora of other positions that you could add to the list. Furthermore, many colleges offer opportunities to join the college's police department or security services. These are all great ways for you to get a foot in the door at a young age, learn a lot as you develop professionally, and arguably most importantly to start making contacts with the right people in the law enforcement community. Who knows... this could certainly lead to an easy way into a cop job once you're ready. The importance of internships is tremendous, and you may be able to obtain an internship with a government agency in your area. Do the research and take whatever you can get.

              6) Foreign languages are great. They often set you apart from other applicants, particularly if you have one of those obscure languages that an agency expresses an organizational need for. You may also take a test if prove your proficiency with said language, in which you may qualify for a financial stipend. This is very difficult to do, and believe it or not, I know a native born Spanish speaker who did not get the stipend because he didn't speak the language "properly enough," go figure...

              7) Stay in shape; physically, mentally, and economically. Part of your background investigation will be a review of your credit to prove you are financially responsible. College is expensive and often requires school loans - never be delinquent on your payments! Stay in good physical shape. You don't have to be Hercules to get hired, and you definitely don't need to be Hercules to do the day to day job of a Special Agent. Nonetheless, know that you are joining a career field that demands the self respect of its members, whether by policy or by pride. Furthermore, your psychological health is a requirement for Top Secret and other security clearances. If you have issues, seek professional assistance to solve them. If you don't have issues, remember to stop and take time to smell the roses every once in a while. This will help keep you sane in a field that deals with quite a bit of insanity!

              Good luck in your process. I hope my take on things helps you in the long run.

              Comment


              • #8
                Where did you get your information that the feds look for CJ majors?

                Comment


                • #9
                  just joe,

                  I personally know several people who have gone on to become Federal / State Special Agents with CJ degrees. Granted, most of them had [or were working] on a Masters. The Master's were in CJ/Public Administration

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                  • #10
                    Major in something that you can fall-back on, like accounting or engineering, or get into a university's business school. These are difficult majors, but highly desirable to FLE agencies. You have to set yourself apart in this brutal job market, especially if you aren't going to join the military.

                    From freshman year onward, take a foreign language. Do not believe teachers who say you're basically fluent after your second year--this is a gross overstatement and will cause you to miss out on language bonus points. You need to take 3-4 years of one language, plus in-country experience if you can. Remember, a key component of why FLE agencies want FL speakers is not only because they can speak the language, but also because they have experience dealing with people from different cultures. Don't switch between languages--if you start with Spanish, stay with Spanish. Don't switch to Portuguese a year later because you like it better; you'll confuse yourself and end up speaking both languages poorly.

                    When selecting a language, keep in mind how common it is, how likely it will remain a critical needs language, and if you'll be able to study it in the region where it is spoken. Chinese and Arabic are solid choices for critical needs languages. They have a lower fluency threshold requirement, too, so while you'd need a 3+/5 for Dutch, you may only need a 1+/5 or a 2/5 for Chinese or Arabic. You'll also have an easier time finding a Chinese or Arabic tutor in Anytown, USA, than you would finding an Uyghur tutor. Try to supplement your language study with summer programs in the country(ies) where the language is spoken, and if that doesn't work, find an intensive, immersion program in the States (like Middlebury). It's expensive, but worth it. You also want to be working with a tutor weekly if you can afford it. Apply for State's Critical Language Scholarship for a chance to study in-country for free. FLE agencies love to see CLS and Foreign Language and Area Scholarships on resumes. For junior/senior year, there's also the Boren grant, which would pay for you to study abroad for a full academic year in a country where your language is spoken.

                    Volunteer in your community. Get a little brother, join Habit for Humanity, or work at a domestic violence shelter. Volunteer weekly, but do it consistently with the same organization for at least a year or two. The more committed volunteer work you do, the better.

                    Do something to get public speaking skills. Join student government, participate in drama clubs, whatever--it doesn't matter, just get experience speaking in public to groups of people. You wouldn't believe how important this will be later.

                    Pick your friends wisely. Keep in mind that the friends you make freshman year will likely have to vouch for your security clearance one day, so stay away from people engaging in illegal behavior.

                    And above all, as others have said, keep your GPA up. Make yourself known (positively) to your professors. Again, they will be references for you down the road, so leave a positive impression.

                    Criminal Justice might get your foot in the door, but if you were an engineering major who double-minored in Arabic and accounting, and volunteered weekly with a homeless shelter? Recruiters'll be beating down your door.

                    It sounds like a challenge, but it can be done. Especially if you cut back on your partying. And seriously, don't get busted for a minor-in-possession, and don't do drugs. Not even once.

                    Best of luck!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Double123 View Post
                      just joe,

                      I personally know several people who have gone on to become Federal / State Special Agents with CJ degrees. Granted, most of them had [or were working] on a Masters. The Master's were in CJ/Public Administration

                      I'm not saying it's not possible; I am questioning that it is a degree that they "look for."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Join the military after college. Serve four years, then start applying.

                        In the mean time, get a degree in business.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The FBI and a handful of other federal agencies need computer specialists right now (Network security, ethical hackers, computer and digital forensic guys, etc). As I was told by my application coordinator for the FBI ("get these certifications").

                          Digital is the future, especially for the FBI. If you can't handle computer related stuff, perhaps try your luck at learning an enemy language and gain some experience via the Army as an human intelligence collector (full time or reserve while you attend college). Plan around a 2 year hiring process and most importantly keep pushing.

                          If I could do it all over again I would have joined the Army as a human intelligence collector (4 years), worked on a computer degree online or part-time while serving (on the governments dime), and collected as many certifications as possible and possibly learn an enemy language. After I got out of the army I would have used the GI bill to pay for the rest of college while I applied for federal gigs.
                          Last edited by semper03; 04-28-2013, 06:06 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I will be the dissenting voice in guiding you to join the military unless your intent is to join for the sole purpose of serving. DO NOT join the military for potential peripheral benefits such as college or veterans preference down the road. Join to serve.

                            Too often folks join the armed forces because they either have limited opportunities at home or because they want benefits now or in the future; these are the wrong reasons to enlist. Serving is a privilege and one that will tax you. Unless you enter into this very serious commitment with service alone on your mind you may experience what others who join with an eye on what may come of service one they leave it; a difficult time because your heart isn’t into it.

                            Does service provide benefits? Sure it does and in the current market for federal law enforcement the absence of veterans preference likely means getting passed over for those who do, but this alone should not be the impetus for signing on.

                            Otherwise you have received some very sage advice from previous posters. Take some time to re-read it.
                            Originally posted by SSD
                            It has long been the tradition on this forum and as well as professionally not to second guess or Monday morning QB the officer's who were actually on-scene and had to make the decision. That being said, I don't think that your discussion will go very far on this board.
                            Originally posted by Iowa #1603
                            And now you are arguing about not arguing..................

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              All of the above advice is excellent, I will just say this:

                              Be sure that FLE is what you really want to do. Unlearn most of what you have seen on TV and in movies.

                              Seriously research what statutory powers each agency has and decide if that type of investigation is appealing to you. Also, research the types of units your local PD has to offer and see if that sounds like a good fit.

                              I only say these things because most people (myself included) have an unrealistic view of what it means to be Fed. -vs- Local.

                              Comment

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