The United States Secret Service, which has served the nation for more than 140 years, is one of the oldest and most versatile federal law enforcement agencies. Through its investigative missions, the United States Secret Service has protected the integrity of the country’s financial systems, while its protective mission has safeguarded our American leaders and other key individuals.
From the investigation of financial institution fraud and computer crimes to telecommunications fraud and identity theft, the Secret Service remains one of the premier federal agencies of the U.S. federal government.
Its protective mission has also expanded over time, now encompassing the safety and security of the President and Vice President of the United States, their immediate family members, former presidents and their spouses, presidential and vice presidential candidates, and visiting heads of foreign governments.
Education Qualifications for Secret Service Agents
Since their overall mission involves both protective services and criminal investigations, the special agents of the U.S. Secret Service must be expertly skilled to handle the rigors and requirements of this federal law enforcement position.
Today’s Secret Service agents must be prepared to commit to their protective mission, while also displaying proficiency in investigations with skills related to:
- Identity crimes
- Counterfeit/fraudulent identification
- Access device fraud
- Computer fraud
- Money laundering
- Asset forfeiture
- Advance fee fraud
Educational and experiential qualifications are strictly defined by the Secret Service. All new Secret Service special agents must meet the requirements of the GL-7 federal level (the minimum level at which special agents are hired).
Applicants without a formal education may qualify at the GL-7 level if they possess at least three years of specialized experience in criminal investigations, surveillance work, or organizing evidence for prosecutors.
Applicants often qualify for Secret Service jobs through the completion of a formal college degree program. To qualify at the GL-7 federal level, applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with superior academic achievement, which is defined as possessing at least a 3.5 GPA in all courses related to the major and a 3.0 overall GPA.
Individuals who are unable to meet the superior academic requirements may qualify if they have completed at least one, full year of graduate studies beyond a bachelor’s degree.
Many Secret Service jobs are filled at the GL-9 level, which requires possessing either one year of specialized experience at the GL-7 level or possessing a master’s degree, LLB or JD degree from an accredited college or university.
Although specific majors for Secret Service jobs are not outlined by the Agency, typical degree programs pursued by individuals interested in working as special agents include:
- Forensic psychology
Earning a Degree Relevant to a Career with the U.S. Secret Service
Sociology Degrees and Standards for Secret Service Agents
Sociology undergraduate degrees have become commonplace among individuals interested in careers in federal law enforcement, such as special agents in the Secret Service. A bachelor’s degree in sociology offers study on social structure, culture, and the theoretical social processes that shape our modern society. Sociology bachelor’s degrees often serve as an excellent foundation for individuals seeking graduate degrees and also help individuals interested in criminal justice-related fields meet their professional objectives.
Core courses within a sociology undergraduate degree often include:
- Introduction to sociology
- Social demography
- Deviant behavior
- Social research methods
- Sociological theory
- Human and cultural geography
Forensic Psychology Degrees and Standards for Secret Service Agents
Forensic psychology is an ideal educational path for individuals interested in criminal investigation through careers such as Secret Service agents. These degrees allow students to understand human thought, behavioral concepts, theoretical perspectives, and trends and ethical issues. They also allow students to develop insight into behaviors and mental processes within the field of criminal investigations, while also allowing them to apply fundamental research methods in data analysis, research design, and interpretation.
Core courses within a forensic psychology undergraduate degree often include:
- Introduction to criminal justice
- Law, justice and family
- Forensic law
- American politics
- The American legal tradition
- Introduction to psychology
- Scientific investigations
Criminology Degrees and Standards for Secret Service Agents
Stemming from study in sociology, criminology focuses on the study of historical and contemporary patterns of crime and victimization, as well as the social responses to crime and the process of crime control.
Undergraduate and graduate degrees in criminology, both of which often provide a solid foundation for careers in federal law enforcement, allow students to understand the theoretical and empirical methods of studying crime and delinquency. Students in these programs typically focus their studies on the functions and dynamics of the criminal justice system, as well as the link between these processes and any number of social institutions and organizations.
Core courses within a criminology degree often include:
- Introduction to criminology
- Sociology of law
- Research methodology
- Theories of deviance
- Social problems
- Police and policing
- Critical issues in criminal justice
- Sociology of violence
- Elite and organized crime