Whenever you see the President of the United States, you’ll see Secret Service agents. These ever-watchful protectors are responsible for his safety 24/7. The agency’s special agents and uniformed division officers are in action at the White House, and at presidential appearances at home and abroad. The Secret Service is also charged with protecting the vice president and his immediate family, as well as former presidents, presidential candidates and visiting foreign dignitaries.
In addition to protective services, the agency investigates and guards against financial crimes, including counterfeiting, identity theft, computer fraud and cyber attacks against the nation’s banking, financial and telecommunications infrastructure.
Job Outlook and Salary Range for Secret Service Agents and Officers
The Secret Service has about 3,200 special agents and 1,300 uniformed division officers, as well as 2,000 or so personnel in technical and other support functions, according to the agency’s website. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide specific data for Secret Service agents or officers, it notes that employment of law enforcement officers, in general, is expected to increase by 4% nationwide from 2014 to 2024.
According to the Secret Service website, uniformed division officers had a typical starting annual salary of about $52,000 in 2010 and special agents were hired at salaries ranging from about $44,000 to $75,000. Special agents also receive an additional 25% Law Enforcement Availability Pay because of the extra hours they work and their nontraditional schedules.
As with employment opportunities, potential salaries can be affected by an individual’s work history and educational qualifications, as well as other market factors.
Education and Training for Secret Service Agents and Officers
To be considered for employment with the Secret Service, applicants must be U.S. citizens, and have a valid driver’s license and good vision.
For uniformed division officer positions, candidates must also:
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent
- Be between the ages of 21 and 40 upon appointment
- Complete the 12-week Federal Law Enforcement Training Center’s (FLETC) training program, as well as 13 weeks of specialized training; trainees must pass both programs at the first attempt
- Pass the Police Officer Selection Test
To apply to become a special agent, candidates must also:
- Have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college, with excellent academic achievement such as a 3.0 GPA or higher
- Be between the ages of 21 and 37 upon appointment
- Complete the FLETC’s 10-week Basic Criminal Investigator Training program, along with the 17-week Special Agent Basic Training program; prospective agents must pass both programs at the first attempt
In addition, special agent and uniformed division officer applicants must be able to obtain a Top Secret clearance, be physically fit, and pass a background investigation, drug screening and polygraph test. Agency employees are expected to demonstrate the Secret Service’s five core values: justice, duty, courage, honesty and loyalty.
After completing training, uniformed division officers are typically assigned to a position providing protection at government buildings and embassies in and around Washington, D.C. Once they have gained experience, officers may be eligible for specialized assignments, such as motorcade support, the counter-sniper team or crime scene search.
New special agents are assigned to duty in one of the agency’s domestic field offices for up to eight years before transferring to protective duty. Overseas assignments may be an option for special agents with foreign language skills.