BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Kathleen Garver decided to become an FBI special agent to make a difference in people’s lives.
After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Garver served in the Army.
Later, she got married, started a family and became a stay-at-home mom.
But the decision to join the FBI wasn’t until after she worked in the private sector as a pharmaceutical sales representative.
“You do have to have a sense of commitment and drive, especially once you get down to the [FBI] academy, and you’re away from your family and your friends,” said Garver, who works out of the Buffalo FBI office.
Garver is precisely what the nation’s top law enforcement agency is looking for in a job candidate.
“We’re also looking for somebody with good critical thinking skills,” said Darin Schultz, a Buffalo FBI recruiter and special agent. “Somebody who’s a good communicator. Somebody who’s in good physical condition, and somebody who’s willing to work in a team environment.”
He believes there are successful career people who are looking for change and a different type of satisfaction.
“They enjoy what they’re doing, but there’s just something missing,” Schultz explained. “I think the FBI provides that satisfaction.”
The FBI is actively recruiting for hundreds of positions in the organization.
According to Schultz, there are 760 special agent jobs available and 240 intelligence analyst positions to be filled during the current fiscal year, which began October 1.
“We’re looking for folks from all different diversified backgrounds to come work for us,” he added.
There’s an increasing need for backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and math.
Grant Mark has spent about 19 years in the FBI.
These days he leads his own squad as a supervisory special agent in the Buffalo office.
Mark, a graduate of the University at Buffalo, served as a logistics officer in the Marine Corps, and later worked in production management for a private sector chemical company.
He says making the move to the FBI was all about “service to my country.”
“I served as a Marine Corps officer and I wanted to keep serving in a civilian capacity,” he said. “The FBI was a perfect fit.”
Anyone thinking of a career in the FBI should know upfront that the standards are quite high.
Applicants need a bachelor’s degree or higher, plus two to three years of real work experience.
They need to be in top physical condition and be able to pass thorough background and reference checks.
According to FBIJOBS.gov, “All applicants must be eligible to hold an FBI Top Secret security clearance in order to become a Special Agent. This investigation reviews an applicant’s actions, relationships, and experiences over the last 10 years.”
Additionally, the background investigation includes a medical examination, drug testing, and a polygraph test.
“We’re not looking for perfect individuals. We’re just looking for somebody that tells the truth,” said Schultz, who’s spent over 20 years with the FBI.
The hiring process can take anywhere from one year to 18 months.
All new hires are required to spend 21 weeks at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
Kathleen Garver recalled how she toughed it out.
“Physically, it’s very important to be focused, and to know that this is what you want to do in the end to get through those weeks of training,” she said. “That can sometimes be grueling and stressful, and for a reason.”
The starting pay ranges between $60,000 and $64,000 a year, and increases to a $100,000, depending on location, after five years of service.
Special agents like Eric Marburger will tell you that the desire to join the FBI is not entirely about money.
“I want to have a goal. I want to have a mission,” said Marburger, who flew Army helicopters before joining the bureau.
Marburger has about 19 years on the job, and says he has “loved every minute of it.”
The other factor that applicants need to consider is the use of deadly force.
Whether you’re an accountant, lawyer or engineer, special agents are required to carry a weapon, and use it when necessary.
Darin Schultz says he always has that talk with applicants.
“I never want them to leave a career, come to us, and then never had that conversation,” he said. “We talk about deadly force and what to expect.”
The mission of the FBI has evolved over the years.
Once known for its relentless pursuit of notorious bank robbers, Tommy guns have now been replaced with computer keyboards as agents take the fight to criminals lurking in cyberspace.
“Technology has changed us as a society,” Schultz said. “The organization has to change with technology and that changes our hiring.”
Anyone interested in applying or finding out more about FBI career opportunities can visit the agency’s website at FBIJOBS.gov.