How to become a NCIS Special Agent

The selection process for becoming a NCIS Special Agent has become more competitive in recent years due to a growing applicant pool. The increased interest on the part of potential recruits has allowed this agency to become considerably more selective in who earns admittance to the agency.

Prior to applying, you should evaluate yourself to determine if you meet the minimum requirements which are:

  • Must be older than 21 and younger than 37 years of age (if you have served in the military or other law enforcement agencies, you may be exempt from this requirement)
  • Must be a U.S. citizen
  • Must have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited university
  • Must possess a valid driver’s license
  • Must have 20/20 vision with or without correction, and normal color vision
  • Must be able to pass a background check and obtain a Top Secret Security clearance
  • Must be willing to travel
  • Must pass a panel interview

If you meet these requirements, you may begin the application process. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service does not accept applications for Special Agent year-round; you may check the NCIS website to learn if they are currently accepting applications. If they are accepting applications for Special Agent, you must visit the USAJobs website and complete the application for this position. All the requested information on the application should be completely and accurately provided; false information on the application may disqualify you from this position.

Upon completion of the application, you will be transferred to the website for the Office of Management and Budget, where you will be asked to complete a short questionnaire. This quiz ensures that you meet the minimum requirements for this job.

If you qualify to become an NCIS Special Agent, you will be contacted by the agency to schedule a written test and a Panel Interview. The written test is essentially a test that evaluates the personality and psychology of the applicant. According to most anecdotal reviews, the exam is a free-form test without right or wrong answers; it is designed to provide an overall profile of the applicant. It is possible to fail this exam if the applicant tries to manipulate the results rather than providing instinctual responses.

The Panel Interview will be conducted by three members of the NCIS, with at least one member designated as the Application Coordinator. The number of Special Agents may fluctuate. The interview itself tends to be very structured with most questions formulated beforehand. This questions may cover topics like education, prior jobs, family, friends and drug use. In many cases, interviewers will evaluate applicants in the following areas:

  • Attire
  • Professional attitude
  • Knowledge of world affairs and geopolitics
  • Professional skills including intelligence, law enforcement or counter-terrorism experience
  • Language skills
  • Willingness to relocate domestically and abroad

If you pass the PI stage, you must submit to a medical examination and a drug test. This will be followed by a polygraph test. In general this test includes questions on the following topics:

  • Terrorism
  • Espionage
  • Sabotage
  • Deliberate harm to government computer systems
  • Misuse of classified information
  • Interactions with foreign representatives
  • Personal involvement in serious crimes
  • Use of illegal substances dating back seven years
  • False information provided on a security form

The final step in the process is an intensive background check performed by the FBI. This may include interviews with family, friends, employers and other significant acquaintances as well as inquiries into education, military service, and employment history.

Physical Requirements

To serve as an NCIS Special Agent, one must perform many duties that involve a high degree of strength, agility and endurance. The entry requirements to become a Special Agent reflect the need for these qualities. There are two components of the selection process that assess an applicant’s physical abilities: the physical abilities test and a medical examination.

The medical examination consists of a variety of physician supervised tests to ensure that the applicant meets basic health standards. The exam typically involves

  • Hearing test
  • Vision test—the applicant must possess 20/20 vision with or without correction and possess near normal color vision
  • Blood tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • EKG
  • Blood pressure

The physical abilities test is modeled on the Physical Efficiency Battery (PEB) used by many other federal law enforcement agencies. The PEB is not administered during the selection process, but is at the beginning and the end of the FLETC Training Course. It is also administered twice yearly. Unlike some law enforcement agencies, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service does not designate a minimum score on the PEB, although improvement over a period of time is expected.

The Physical Efficiency Battery includes the following:

  1. Agility Run—the recruit must start from a kneeling position and sprint across 30 feet while avoiding four obstacles and then return using the same path.
  2. Bench Press—a single repetition of a chest lift is necessary. The recruit may request increased weight in increments of five pounds
  3. Endurance Run—the recruit must complete 1.5 miles while running. The run is held on a quarter mile track.
  4. Sit and Reach—While sitting with both legs extended on the floor, the recruit must push a measuring device as far as possible towards their feet without lifting their calves.
  5. Body Composition—the test supervisor will measure the recruit’s body fat using skinfold calipers at three locations. For males, these locations are the chest, abdomen and thigh, while for females, they are the triceps, hip and thigh. The measurements are then entered into a computer application to determine the percentage of body fat.

All NCIS Special Agents are required to carry firearms and be proficient in their use. All agents must complete the firearms training course during FLETC and periodically qualify in their use throughout their careers.


There are two training programs that instill the skills necessary to perform as NCIS Special Agents. The first is the Criminal Investigators Training Program (CITP) at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, GA. This program is the basic training course for all federal investigators and may be exempted if the new recruit has already completed it and served as a criminal investigator in another federal agency. The CITP is 56 days in length and includes instruction in the following areas:

  • Firearms
  • Tactical training
  • Criminal case management
  • Surveillance
  • Interviewing
  • Vehicle handling skills
  • Evidence management
  • Courtroom testimony

The second training program is the Special Agent Basic Training Program (SABTP) and immediately follows CITP. This program is unique to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and introduces recruits to the basic practices utilized in the agency. This program is 46 days in length and is also held at FLETA. The exact components of the SABTP are constantly being modified to meet the changing needs of the agency, but includes mainstays like NCIS report writing, field training exercises and agency manuals.

Upon completion of the CITP and SABTP programs, the Special Agent is assigned to a field office or naval vessel. During the course of their careers, Special Agents may also complete in-training seminars on various topics including:

  • Foreign counterintelligence
  • Economic crime
  • Foreign language
  • Forensics
  • Hostage negotiation
  • Interview and interrogation
  • Computer forensics

The career of an NCIS Special Agent is one of constant change with new challenges in every stage. While some agents may choose to specialize in a certain area, others are constantly adapting to meet changing agency missions.

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