United States Secret Service agents have dual missions. They provide protection for the President, the President’s family, prominent candidates and politicians. Special agents also protect visiting dignitaries.
In addition, the Secret Service acts on its original mandate of investigating counterfeiting. As a result of the increased globalization of criminal conspiracies, the roles of Secret Service agents have expanded to include such computer-based crimes as identity theft, Nigerian scams, and access device fraud.
The Secret Service also provides forensic and technical assistance to an array of law enforcement organizations to help find missing and exploited children. The agency has an advanced forensic laboratory that uses exclusive techniques to analyze the following:
- Credit cards
- False identification documents
- Questioned documents
Applying to Become a Secret Service Agent in Virginia
Virginia residents who seek careers as Secret Service agents must be able to obtain top-secret clearance. Applicants must meet a number of stringent requirements to be able to become a Secret Service agent.
Basic Requirements – All applicants must be US citizens who are at least 21 years of age. Prospective agents must have good eyesight with uncorrected vision of at least 20/60. Surgery such as Lasik can be used to meet this requirement, although applicants must wait several months after their surgery to apply.
Applying at the G-7 Level – Applicants are required to have a high level of education. They must either have at least a year of graduate education OR have obtained a bachelor’s degree with a high GPA or some other measure of distinction:
- One way to qualify is to have a GPA of 3.5 in their major or 3.0 for all of their coursework. This can be for either their full term of studies or from the final two years. Additional ways to meet this requirement include having been elected to a national honor society or ranking in the top third of their class.
- Part of the education requirement may be waived for applicants who possess a year of relevant specialized experience in such areas as undercover operations and surveillance, investigations, presenting evidence to the prosecution, or apprehending and arresting people.
Applying at the G-9 Level – Applicants for this rank must have more advanced education such as a graduate, J.D., or LL.B. degree. Those with a year of law enforcement experience such as investigating, conducting surveillance and undercover operations, raids, and/or seizures, organizing evidence to present to the prosecution, or going from arrests to interviews and interrogations may be exempt from part of the education requirement.
Further Information about the Application Process – Potential agents who seek more information about the hiring process can contact one of the Field Offices in Virginia. They are located in the following cities:
- Norfolk: 757-441-3200
- Richmond: 804-592-3086
- Roanoke: 540-857-2208
Hiring Process and Training to Become a Secret Service Agent in Virginia
Individuals who are being considered for Secret Service jobs go through a rigorous screening process. The agency tests their level of physical fitness. After this, applicants must pass both a Treasury Enforcement exam and a report writing test. Next, the agency conducts a series of interviews. Once they are satisfied that the applicants are worthy to become agents, the Secret Service thoroughly vets these individuals before they are granted top secret clearance.
Recruits then undergo two phases of training. First, they train at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia. They must pass the ten week Basic Criminal Investigator Training program. Next, they train at the elite James J. Rowley Training Center for the Secret Service and must pass the seventeen week Special Agent Basic Training Program that takes place close to D.C.
Threat Assessment Following the Virginia Tech Shootings
The Secret Service is considered one of the most elite law enforcement organizations in the world and has a great deal of expertise at threat assessment. This expertise is used at the National Threat Assessment Center—an international resource for assessing threats.
Following the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, the Secret Service partnered with the FBI and the Department of Education to explore the increasing incidents of violence at institutions of higher education. Given that many such institutions resemble small cities, this was a daunting task.
After examining cases of violence from 1900 to 2008, the researchers found that nearly three quarters of the incidents involved targeted attacks. Only a small percentage of the cases involved the targeting of random individuals, making it hard to draw conclusions about what leads an offender to target random individuals exclusively. The researchers are expanding their efforts to analyze such factors as mental health issues and previous behavior to be able to draw better identify offenders prior to an attack and thus save lives.