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Special agents are highly skilled detectives in local or federal law enforcement organizations. Professionals conduct investigations by employing undercover surveillance tactics, interrogating suspects and witnesses, and creating reports for use in criminal trials. There are many different types of special agent jobs available to qualified individuals in local police departments and national agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the United States. A hopeful detective must fulfill specific educational requirements and complete a rigorous training period in order to obtain most special agent jobs.
A special agent who works for a local law enforcement division is responsible for conducting covert investigations and talking to witnesses in order to find out the details of a crime. He or she might go undercover to gather information about a suspicious person or group, or set up surveillance equipment around a home or building where criminal activity is suspected. A professional often uses the Internet and computer databases to gather background information about suspects and to locate people who may be involved in a crime. Detectives in police departments often hold very specific special agent jobs, focusing on certain types of investigative work. An agent might specialize in uncovering gang activity, stopping the sell and distribution of drugs, or investigating robberies.
Many types of special agent jobs can be found in federal organizations. In the United States, FBI agents perform multifaceted investigations on high-profile crimes and criminals. They might conduct delicate surveillance or undercover work in dangerous atmospheres, locate missing persons, and use intense interrogation methods to get information from suspects.
Other federal agents might work for the DEA, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms,(ATF) or the United States Secret Service. DEA agents try to predict and prevent drug trafficking, while ATF agents investigate bomb threats and illegal firearms sales. Secret Service men and women protect high ranking government officials, including the President, by researching situations, watching for suspicious activity, and apprehending people who may pose a threat to security.
Individuals are typically required to receive college degrees and complete training academy programs to hold special agent jobs. Local special agents usually spend 10 to 14 weeks in police academies, where they learn about investigative work, firearms safety, laws and regulations, and legal proceedings. Most federal agents have bachelor's degrees or higher in criminal justice or a related field, and many are required to know a foreign language. Prospective federal agents in the United States must go through 18-week training courses at specific military bases or training facilities before finding jobs.
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