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Is it a bad idea to begin an 1811 career in your mid-thirties?

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  • Is it a bad idea to begin an 1811 career in your mid-thirties?

    I am looking at the prospect of beginning an 1811 career in my mid-thirties. Although it's something I've always wanted to do, I'm beginning to question the wisdom of it. It seems like a poor decision for someone to leave a good job in their mid-thirties to work as an 1811 when you will be forced to retire two decades later. That doesn't give one a lot of time to build up rank/seniority before forced retirement, which could cause the 1811 retiree to end up back on the job hunt for a third career in their late fifties in an effort to make ends meet. It seems like it may be a smarter to move in terms of finances and overall stability to just stay put by this age. Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?

  • #2
    You'd have to supply more details about your current work, salary, 401(k)/retirement, and post-career options.

    The general answer is: it depends on the above factors.

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    • #3
      Good point. I'm about to graduate law school and work as an attorney for a major company in a fairly low cost of living area making around 130k a year with a good retirement program. I could easily work here, or in a similar position, until well into my sixties and beyond. So I guess what I'm really wanting to know is - would it be a bad move for me to give up this job in my mid-thirties for an 1811 spot, which would mean an initial pay cut and likely moving to a more expensive area, and then be out of work two decades later?

      I would think most people who are in contention for an 1811 spot would be similarly successful, especially those who are in their thirties, so that's why I thought this question might be generally applicable to a lot of people on this forum. But, by all means, please feel free to share your thoughts on my specific situation.

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      • #4
        You'd be surprised what you can in a 20 year career. If you're willing to move a few times you'll potentially be SAC/ASAC level sooner than you think.

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        • #5
          I guess you have to ask yourself how you want to spend the next 30 years of your life. Sounds like you'll make a bunch more money with the law firm, which is great, assuming you love the work and don't anticipate burning out.

          An 1811 gig, pays pretty well at the GS13 level (over $100k and at $150k once you hit step 10) and depending on the agency the work life balance can be amazing (OIG, USPIS), or difficult (think USSS).

          either way you will be able to live a very comoftorable life from a financial perspective. Now that I am ten years in to my job (I'm 31), I'm looking forward to an 1811 gig. Retiring when I'm 51 sounds amazing. And besides it's not like you'll be worthless when you do get forced out. Will you be able to make a six figure income in the private sector upon retirement from an 1811? Maybe not, but you'll have roughly $45k/yr in guaranteed pension income coming in for the rest of your life, which limits the income you would need in a new career.

          Id stop thinking about the money in this situation and simply consider which job you'll be excited about doing 5, 10, and 15 years from now. I'm inclined to think you probably imagine an 1811 position would be more fulfilling, hence why you're considering it even with the law job lined up. You only get one chance at this thing called life, don't squander it. Oh, and who know if an 1811 position will even present itself to you, so take the sure thing now and you can make a more informed decision if/when the 1811 final offer comes.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Jwebb514 View Post
            I am looking at the prospect of beginning an 1811 career in my mid-thirties. Although it's something I've always wanted to do, I'm beginning to question the wisdom of it. It seems like a poor decision for someone to leave a good job in their mid-thirties to work as an 1811 when you will be forced to retire two decades later. That doesn't give one a lot of time to build up rank/seniority before forced retirement, which could cause the 1811 retiree to end up back on the job hunt for a third career in their late fifties in an effort to make ends meet. It seems like it may be a smarter to move in terms of finances and overall stability to just stay put by this age. Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?
            As an 1811 in 20yrs you will be set financially. As mentioned above, you will have a solid guaranteed retirement and should have several hundred thousand dollars in your federal 401k (TSP) by that point to put you on easy street. The biggest benefit you will get...fantastic health insurance for the rest of your life. Once you become eligible for Medicare, that combined with your federal health insurance will leave you owing no health care bills, which protects your nest egg. You will be able to retire in your mid-50s, no later than 57yo, and then do whatever the heck you want.

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            • #7
              Lots of folks start a federal law enforcement career in their thirties, particularly if they were occupied beforehand in other occupations and pursuits such as military service, state or local law enforcement positions, or even law school.

              You can move almost to the top of the ladder within 20 years, providing you work hard, network, are well respected, and are willing to relocate a few times. The very top of the ladder will generally be an outsider, a political appointee, so if your goal is to be a senior member of the Senior Executive Service, building political connections is the more common path. But if you are wondering whether or not you can make GS-15 in twenty, the answer is absolutely yes. The lower echelons of the SES are reachable within 20, but those positions are few and far between.

              I entered federal service at 33 and was a GS-14 well within 10 years. I could have been a 15 at mid career, but chose to "homestead" and didn't pursue advancement, despite encouragement from above.

              With a law degree and experience, you might start out as a 7 or 9, moving on to 11, then 12, each year non-competitively. Depending on agency, GS-13 might be the journeyman grade.

              So, you could work as a Fed for twenty (in a near-guaranteed lifetime job), then after you retire in your fifties practice law again (while collecting your federal retirement). I have two friends, former 1811s, doing exactly that right now. One got his law degree, practiced for a while, then joined the FBI, and late into his career stopped chasing bank robbers and terrorists and joined the legal counsel side of the house. The other got his law degree over a period of years while serving as an agent and only went into private practice after he retired.

              If your main concern is about compensation, you will have to do the math. A law position may certainly be more lucrative.



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              • #8
                Regarding the money, I will echo what's already been said. You'll definitely make more money and probably have a more comfortable life as a lawyer. But 1811s make decent money and have a great retirement. If your desire is to be rich and live the high life... well an 1811 career will not get you that.

                But here's the thing, I bet for the most part those of us on here trying to get 1811 jobs aren't necessarily in it for the money. It's because we want to serve our country in a way. We want a job that is more fulfilling that working for XYZ Corp as a desk jockey. We want to help and protect the people we love and the communities we live in. It's the feeling of going to bed at night knowing what we're doing is making a positive impact in the world. That's why we are willing to leave our fancy jobs. A lot of 1811s leave the professional realm and the big paychecks that come with it because of those reasons. Maybe I have these illusions of grandeur about what it's like to be federal law enforcement, but after working in the corporate world for the past six years I can unequivocally say I will gladly take a pay cut to be a part of something bigger than myself.

                I guess you need to ask yourself what is really motivating you to pursue a career in federal law enforcement. If it's money, you should probably stay a lawyer

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Jwebb514 View Post
                  I am looking at the prospect of beginning an 1811 career in my mid-thirties. Although it's something I've always wanted to do, I'm beginning to question the wisdom of it. It seems like a poor decision for someone to leave a good job in their mid-thirties to work as an 1811 when you will be forced to retire two decades later. That doesn't give one a lot of time to build up rank/seniority before forced retirement, which could cause the 1811 retiree to end up back on the job hunt for a third career in their late fifties in an effort to make ends meet. It seems like it may be a smarter to move in terms of finances and overall stability to just stay put by this age. Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?
                  After a 15 year career working shift work, I made the switch to an 1811 gig and haven't looked back. Lord willing, I'll get a pension from the first gig at 55, then pack it all in right before I turn 57 and get a second pension from the G.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Jwebb514 View Post
                    I am looking at the prospect of beginning an 1811 career in my mid-thirties. Although it's something I've always wanted to do, I'm beginning to question the wisdom of it. It seems like a poor decision for someone to leave a good job in their mid-thirties to work as an 1811 when you will be forced to retire two decades later. That doesn't give one a lot of time to build up rank/seniority before forced retirement, which could cause the 1811 retiree to end up back on the job hunt for a third career in their late fifties in an effort to make ends meet. It seems like it may be a smarter to move in terms of finances and overall stability to just stay put by this age. Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?
                    One thing that hasn't been mentioned is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. If you work anywhere in government and stay up on your student loan payments (if you have them) for 10yrs, the govt will forgive the rest.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      As far as the building of seniority/rank, I've seen numerous 1811s move into management within 5 to 6 years of hire, and even know of one very ambitious ladder climber who did it in three years. Now, whether or not it was merited and a smart move for the organization is a whole 'nother discussion but my point is this: upward mobility is always there for those who are so inclined.

                      You say you are about to graduate from law school and have a cush attorney gig waiting for you at a big company. Hey man, that life works great for many people: Monday through Friday, 9-5, tassel loafers and cuff links, fat annual bonuses and corporate golf events, and you'll will probably never step foot in a courtroom. I have several friends living that dream. I couldn't do it for a day.

                      Monetary compensation shouldn't be the deciding factor on this, mainly because it will more than meet your basic needs. Your choice should solely come down to what your gut sense is saying. Either you want to be an 1811, or you don't.

                      1811 ranks have many law school grads, btw. I would estimate about a third passed the bar and two-thirds did not, or never took it.


                      What a long strange trip its been.

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                      • #12
                        I struggled with exactly the same and made the decision a few years ago to drop out of the 1811 processes I was in. Ultimately it was the combination of moving to an undesirable location and its related impacts on my wife and family as well as the cap on earning potential relative to my private sector job that made it seem like not the right choice for me. And you're talking about someone who's whole life was angled toward becoming a federal agent.

                        But here I am, still creeping through these boards looking for announcements....debating whether I made the wrong choice. I still don't know the answer....

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Maybe there is no wrong choice. Maybe all this stuff is like a big pinball machine, where balls randomly careen this way and that way, trap doors open and close, and some players hit the big jackpot while other players go tilt.

                          That probably sounds like a load of Zen bs, but there's truth to it too. Not everything in life works out perfectly. There are 1811s who hate their job, the location they got stuck in, and are counting down the minutes until they can walk, wishing they would've gone to med school. Then there are people who spend their lives regretting not following the 1811 dream and wondering what might have been. In the end, it comes down to making the best choices at the time based not just on circumstances but also instinct, and recognizing that chance, luck and timing play huge roles in how everything ultimately works out.
                          What a long strange trip its been.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by emaichbe03 View Post
                            I struggled with exactly the same and made the decision a few years ago to drop out of the 1811 processes I was in. Ultimately it was the combination of moving to an undesirable location and its related impacts on my wife and family as well as the cap on earning potential relative to my private sector job that made it seem like not the right choice for me. And you're talking about someone who's whole life was angled toward becoming a federal agent.

                            But here I am, still creeping through these boards looking for announcements....debating whether I made the wrong choice. I still don't know the answer....
                            Damn. Sorry to hear that. You never wanna say could've, should've, would've. I hope get another chance.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Esco View Post

                              Damn. Sorry to hear that. You never wanna say could've, should've, would've. I hope get another chance.
                              Eh nothing to apologize for as it was my choice completely.

                              I think Ratatatatatatatat is correct - there is no right or wrong choice. You do the best based on information you have at the time and your gut. Luck and timing plays a tremendous amount into it all. Take me for instance - I applied during the debt ceiling crisis, sequester, no budgets passing. That slowed everything down - so much so I was in the DEA process over 4 years before being offered a class and then bam sequester hits. All this lag gives you time for your life to develop and become different. I was single when I applied, but married, in a new state, with a new house by the time I was initially offered the class.

                              I apply even a year earlier and I could be with the DEA now.

                              My suggestion would be to just apply, get your name in the hat/hopper. That's the hardest part. No choices need to be made until you get that call for an academy. And trust me, a tremendous amount of life will occur in the intervening time period.

                              Although those background checks do throw a kink in your current employment.......

                              Hey boss - I'm trying to get a new job - will you give a good word to my background investigator - oh and please don't fire me.

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