Secret Service agents play a crucial role in maintaining the safety and security of the country. These law enforcement professionals are primarily known for protecting the president of the United States and other prominent government officials.
However, this represents just one aspect of the role. Fraud protection, building security and information security all fall within the responsibilities of those who earn the Secret Service agent title. These duties all tie back to the agency’s primary mission: Keep the country running smoothly so that people can safely and comfortably go about their daily lives.
Because Secret Service agents are tasked with enormous responsibilities, the journey toward assuming the role is a rigorous one. An advanced education, along with the requisite training and experience, can prepare individuals to become a Secret Service agent.
History of the Secret Service
The Secret Service agency was established in 1865 as part of the U.S. Treasury Department. It was formed to thwart rampant counterfeiting activities that were contributing to the destabilization of the financial system.
After President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901, the agency also assumed the duty of protecting the president on a full-time basis. Over the years, this protection has expanded to include other high-profile figures, such as foreign dignitaries.
Today, the Secret Service is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It has transformed into a globally placed law enforcement agency consisting of roughly 7,000 employees. Wherever they are stationed, its agents strive to uphold the agency’s core values of duty, loyalty, honesty, justice and courage.
What Does a Secret Service Agent Do?
A Secret Service agent’s responsibilities depend on their assignment. They may be tasked with providing security for the president or other high-level government figures, such as foreign heads of state. They may tap into the agency’s Treasury Department roots and investigate matters of financial misappropriation, such as counterfeiting, fraud or identity theft.
Agents may also be charged with protecting buildings or planning and implementing security strategies for key national events, such as major political conventions or presidential inaugurations. They may get involved in thwarting digital crimes against national telecommunication or banking infrastructure. They may even work undercover.
The particular duties of a Secret Service agent depend on which of the two Secret Service divisions they work under. The uniformed division, also known as the protective division, provides services built around protection. The investigative division chiefly investigates fraudulent activities, such as identity theft and computer hacking.
The primary mission of both divisions is to prevent and mitigate criminal activity, making a career as a Secret Service agent one of the most vital federal law enforcement careers.
Secret Service Agent Salary
According to the federal government pay aggregator site FederalPay.org, the 2021 median annual salary for Secret Service agents was approximately $115,500. This figure consists of a base salary and bonus. The precise salary an individual receives can be based on several factors, such as years of experience and their specific function in the Secret Service.
How to Become a Secret Service Agent
Individuals researching how to become a Secret Service agent should know that it entails a number of specific steps and key requirements. Meeting these requirements is necessary to ensure that those who become Secret Service agents can effectively perform their duties, which is crucial because the stakes associated with the role are so high.
Step 1: Get an Education
While a degree is not necessarily required to apply for a Secret Service position, most agents hold at least a bachelor’s degree. This degree can be in law enforcement, homeland security, criminal justice or a similar field. Earning an advanced degree can enable individuals to deepen their skill set and knowledge of protection and modern threats to security and safety. A graduate degree can also provide candidates with a competitive advantage when they apply.
An agent’s education level can also influence salary. For example, agents at the GL-07 level (starting salary $49,500) need a bachelor’s degree and at least one year of graduate-level education, while a master’s or equivalent graduate degree can help agents qualify for the GL-09 level (starting salary $55,200).
Step 2: Apply for a Position and Meet Requirements
To qualify for a Secret Service agent role, candidates also need to meet certain key requirements, including:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Be between the ages of 21 and 37, although veterans can be as old as 40
- Have a current valid driver’s license
- Have either uncorrected vision of at least 20/100, or vision correctable to 20/20 in each eye
- Have no more than 25-decibel hearing loss in either ear
- Be in excellent physical condition and have excellent health
Potential Secret Service agents undergo a wide variety of tests and need to answer questions concerning their personal lives. They’ll also be submitted to medical examinations, drug tests and background checks. Prospective candidates need to pass an Applicant Physical Abilities test as well to confirm their physical aptitude.
Step 3: Complete the Required Training
When a person is hired as a Secret Service agent, their journey isn’t over. After being hired, they’re transported to a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, where they will complete the Criminal Investigator Training Program, a ten-week program that familiarizes individuals with established programs associated with the Secret Service agent role.
Finally, aspiring agents will have to complete the Special Agent Training Course, an 18-week course held at the agency’s training academy in the Washington, D.C., area. This program concentrates on the various procedures and policies associated with Secret Service protection and investigation.
Join an Elite Agency
Understanding what it takes to become a Secret Service agent means understanding the substantial responsibilities of the role. From safeguarding important public figures and events to ensuring the integrity of nationwide computer systems and economic infrastructure, the work of Secret Service agents is crucial to making sure the country functions properly.
Virginia Commonwealth University’s online Master of Arts in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness program can help equip you with the knowledge and skills to pursue a career as a Secret Service agent. The program is designed to help you develop a holistic understanding of potential threats to the country through exemplary class instruction and opportunities for hands-on experience.
Learn how we can help guide you toward a rewarding and important career.