NCIS Criminal Investigator Description

Serving as an NCIS Special Agent is reserved for only a select few who possess superior mental and physical capabilities. Applicants must successfully complete a number of entrance examinations, both intellectual and physical, as well as a rigorous training program in order to achieve the status of a Special Agent. Each year thousands of applicants seek out this coveted title with only a handful offered entry into the program.

NCIS Special Agents must demonstrate tactical skills, knowledge of investigative techniques, and ability to perform in a variety of cultural and professional environments. Although it is not required that applicants possess military or law enforcement experience, those who do possess prior experience in these organizations often have a competitive advantage in the selection process.

Field agents are called upon to serve in a variety of roles. In their primary capacity, they are criminal investigators and must possess the intellectual capacity for reconstructing a crime, analyzing evidence and pursuing leads to a satisfactory conclusion. Because Special Agents must operate within both a law enforcement and military context, they must have a baccalaureate degree and a Top Secret security clearance.

Special Agents are often required to serve in hostile situations and must possess the skills to manage and respond to violent actions. Many of these skills are instilled during training in the NCIS Basic Agent Course administered at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. These skills include:

  • Crime scene analysis
  • Domestic security
  • Surveillance
  • Counter espionage
  • Polygraphs
  • Interrogation
  • Unarmed self-defense
  • Weapons use
  • Language studies

As federal law enforcement officers, NCIS Special Agents possess expertise in forensic science, information technology, legal issues, interrogations and security matters. Many NCIS Special Agents are asked to infiltrate criminal organizations to collect information about illegal activities and criminal offenders. NCIS Special Agents have been instrumental in threat assessment analysis of criminal organizations like international drug cartels and economic criminal organizations.

Since the attacks on September 11, 2001, NCIS Special Agents have exercised much broader authority to identify threats to the U.S. and the Navy, and neutralize them. In this counter-terrorism capacity, Special Agents have been deployed to hostile situations throughout the U.S., neighboring countries and warzones around the world. In these operations, field agents are authorized to collect intelligence, manage intelligence assets, and pre-emptively act to eliminate terrorist threats.

In recent years, NCIS Special agents have also been instrumental in protecting U.S. Naval personnel and property from attack through information systems. These cyber attacks have proven to be highly dangerous to national security and have become more popular forms of hostile actions by terrorists and foreign governments. NCIS Special Agents with specialized training and expertise have helped preserve the lives of American sailors and soldiers and prevented the compromise of U.S. defenses.

The final role that NCIS Special Agents fulfill is that of intelligence officers. In this role, Special Agents often spearhead operations to enter high risk situations, collect intelligence, manage or extract intelligence assets and take immediate action to interdict potential threats. Once this information is gathered, Special Agents must analyze its accuracy, reliability and imminence. If the intelligence is assessed as reliable, it is then disseminated to the appropriate military and civilian agencies for immediate response.

NCIS Special Agents are among the best law enforcement officers in the country. These agents must perform at the highest standards in a multitude of military, counter-terrorism, and law enforcement contexts. This requires immense physical and intellectual abilities which must be maintained at optimal levels throughout their careers.

Salary & Benefits

Naval Criminal Investigative Service Special Agents enjoy a great many benefits in addition to the prestige of one of the most important law enforcement careers in the U.S. government. As a top tier law enforcement position, NCIS Special Agents receive a very lucrative salary which is governed by the Department of Defense National Security Personnel System (NSPS). Under the NSPS, NCIS Special Agents qualify for Investigative and Protective Services Career Group or YK1/YK2 pay scales. According to the latest NSPS pay chart, this translates into the following salaries:

  • YK1 - $26,858 - $65,371
  • YK2 - $40,695 - $93,175

In addition to the basic salary, NCIS Special Agents are also eligible for Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP) which compensates officers for additional hours, off-schedule availability, and hazardous duty. LEAP bonuses are fixed at 25 percent of the base salary.

There are also a number of benefits available to NCIS Special Agents that are also available to other federal law enforcement employees. This includes:

  • Federally subsidized health insurance—the government will pay 72 to 75 percent of health insurance premiums
  • FEDVIP—dental and vision insurance is available for the agent and their families
  • Retirement plan—Special Agents are automatically enrolled in a 401k-type plan which deducts three percent of the salary.

Like other federal law enforcement officers, NCIS Special Agents have the option of retiring at age 50 if they have 20 years of service, or at any time after 25 years of service with full benefits. This typically translates into 1.7 percent of their final salary times 20 (for years of service) as a retirement pension. Many retirees also qualify for a FERS Special Retirement Supplement which is equivalent to a Social Security pension if they had retired at age 62.


NCIS Jurisdiction & Investigative Priorities NCIS Experience & Education Requirements