Job Universe: U.S. Secret Service Agent

A career in law enforcement may take a toll on private lives.

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  • The job: U.S. Secret Service special agents and U.S. Secret Service uniformed officers protect the president, vice president, their immediate families, and other public officials. Secret Service special agents also investigate counterfeiting, forgery of government checks or bonds, and fraudulent use of credit cards.
  • Outlook: Job opportunities in most local police departments will be excellent for qualified individuals, while competition is expected for jobs in state and federal agencies. Average employment growth is expected.
  • Experience: Applicants with a bachelor's degree and several years of law enforcement or military experience, especially investigative experience, will have the best opportunities in federal agencies.
  • The not-so-good: A career in law enforcement may take a toll on private lives. The jobs of some federal agents, such as U.S. Secret Service and DEA special agents, require extensive travel, often on very short notice. Agents may relocate a number of times over the course of their careers.
  • Pay: Federal law provides special salary rates to federal employees who serve in law enforcement. Additionally, federal special agents and inspectors receive law enforcement availability pay (LEAP)—equal to 25 percent of the agent's grade and step—awarded because of the large amount of overtime that these agents are expected to work. For example, in 2007, FBI agents entered federal service as GS-10 employees on the pay scale at a base salary of $48,159, yet they earned about $60,199 a year with availability pay. They could advance to the GS-13 grade level in field nonsupervisory assignments at a base salary of $75,414, which was worth $94,268 with availability pay. FBI supervisory, management, and executive positions in grades GS-14 and GS-15 paid a base salary of about $89,115 and $104,826 a year, respectively, which amounted to $111,394 or $131,033 per year including availability pay. Salaries were slightly higher in selected areas where the prevailing local pay level was higher. Because federal agents may be eligible for a special law enforcement benefits package, applicants should ask their recruiter for more information.

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This information is from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.