What is the Secret Service?
The United States Secret Service (USSS) is a federal law enforcement agency headquartered in Washington, D.C. In addition, the service has more than 150 offices throughout the United States and abroad.
Originally, the Secret Service was established in 1865, with the primary purpose of suppressing the counterfeiting of U.S. currency, which was a big problem at the time. In fact, following the Civil War, an estimated 1/3 to 1/2 of the currency in circulation in the country was counterfeit.
In 1901, following the assassination of President William McKinley in Buffalo, New York, the Secret Service was tasked with its second mission, which was protecting the U.S. President.
Today, the Secret Service’s official mission is to protect the president, vice president, and other high-profile members of the government and to conduct investigations into crimes against the financial infrastructure of the United States.
The Secret Service is authorized to protect:
- The president, the vice president, (or other individuals next in order of succession to the Office of the President),
- The president-elect and vice president-elect
- The immediate families of the above individuals
- Former presidents and their spouses
- Children of former presidents get protection until they reach the age of 16
- Visiting heads of foreign states or governments and their spouses who are traveling with them, other distinguished foreign visitors to the United States, and official representatives of the United States who are performing special missions abroad
- Major presidential and vice-presidential candidates, and their spouses within 120 days of a general presidential election
- Other individuals, as designated by an Executive Order of the President
- Facilities and venues such as the White House, the Vice President’s House, the Treasury Building, embassies,
In addition, the Secret Service protects National Special Security Events, when designated as such by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
How to Become a Secret Service Agent
Required Skills, Experience, Training, and Education
According to their website, there are four main types of jobs available:
- Special Agent (SA)
- Uniformed Division (UD) Officers
- Administrative, Professional, and Technical (APT)
- Special Officers (SO)
The requirements and qualifications to become a Secret Service Agent / Officer are extensive. You’ll need to meet a set of general requirements, medical requirements, education, and experience requirements. In addition, you’ll have to go through an extensive application and interview process and complete a set of exams. At a minimum, officers/agents should have the following skills and experience:
The following are examples of some of the requirements and qualifications. Please visit USAJobs.gov and view individual job descriptions for more specific information:
- Must be a United States citizen
- Must have a valid driver’s license
- Must have a high school diploma or equivalent
- Must be within a certain age range. For example, some of the job listings require that you be between the age of 21 and 37 at the time you receive an offer of employment.
- Must have good vision and hearing
- Must provide a resume
- Know how to carry and use a firearm
- Certify that you have registered for the Selective Service
- Submit to a drug test and disclose any prior drug use
If selected to move forward, you will go through additional phases that may include:
- A written exam
- A physical abilities test (yes, you have to be in shape)
- Credit check
- Complete a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) training program.
If you are selected to move forward to the next phase of the application process, additional requirements may include:
- A security interview
- A polygraph test (e.g., lie detector test)
- Psychological testing
- Medical examination
- Background investigation. You will have a Top Secret security clearance as an agent, so the bar is set very high. Your background must be clean.
In addition, it is helpful if you meet the following criteria:
- Have previous law enforcement experience
- Have previous military service and experience
- Are you open to living anywhere in the world?
- Can travel on short notice
- Are you willing to be away from home and family for extended periods
- Are fluent in multiple languages.
Salary and Benefits
As of December 2018, jobs in the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division range from $60,000 to $100,000. In addition, job pay benefits include health insurance, vacation, and sick pay. One-time bonuses may be paid for the completion of certain training and successful completion of exams. Most new officers will start on the low end of the pay range. Applicants who have higher education and experience may receive higher pay.
Find a Job at USAJobs.gov
If you have the required skills, education, and training and are ready to start looking for a job, visit USAJobs.gov to get started.
In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect
- Kessler, Ronald (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 285 Pages – 08/03/2010 (Publication Date) – Forum Books (Publisher)
The author of this book, Ronald Kessler, interviewed over 100 agents to compile an inside view of the agency. The book portrays the dangers agents face as they pledge to take a bullet for the President. It includes stories from agents who served under Kennedy, Johnson, Bush, and Obama. In addition, it reveals how threats on Barack Obama’s life became so serious that they formed a secret Presidential Threat Task Force to track threats. Threats on his life rose more than 400% compared to Bush, his predecessor.
Secrets of the Secret Service: The History and Uncertain Future of the U.S. Secret Service
- Hardcover Book
- Byrne, Gary J. (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 304 Pages – 12/26/2017 (Publication Date) – Center Street (Publisher)
Author and former Secret Service Officer, Gary Byrne to understand the history and evolution of the service. He talks about the challenges officers face, including political interference, burnout, and other problems that create risk for the people they protect. Byrne identifies
The author hated the Clintons and spent plenty of time clarifying that. This is a huge distraction from the main purpose of the book. While I’ve highlighted this book for its content related to the service, I don’t recommend buying it unless you want to read about someone’s political views.
Book Description – From the author of The Wizards of Langley, this definitive survey of the US intelligence community, covering its history, organizations, operations, and management in detail, is now fully updated with new material on homeland security, intelligence sharing, POW, and detainee interrogation, and national intelligence organizations.
The role of intelligence in US government operations has changed dramatically and is now more critical than ever to domestic security and foreign policy. This authoritative and highly researched book provides a detailed overview of America’s vast intelligence empire–its organizations, its operations (from spies on the ground to satellites thousands of miles in space), and its management structure.
The Secret Service: The Hidden History of an Enigmatic Agency
- Melanson PhD, Philip H. (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 456 Pages – 09/21/2005 (Publication Date) – Basic Books (Publisher)
This new edition of the definitive history of the Secret Service explains the 2004 Bush campaign’s political uses of the agency and the new challenges it faces as a branch of the Homeland Security Department, in a post-9/11 world. This book uncovers facts about the Agency’s role in such traumatic national events as the assassination of JFK and the shooting of President Reagan.
Included are revelations about presidential demands on the agency, the problems of alcoholism, divorce, and burnout among agents, and the Service’s inexplicable failure to develop profiles of potential assassins. This book assails the public image of the Secret Service as a highly professional apolitical organization, exposing politics’ often-detrimental influence on the Agency.
For more information, visit one of the following:
United States Secret Service – Visit the official website to learn more about the history, organization structure, roles and responsibilities, and news about the USSS. You can also find more information about the types of careers available.
Twitter – The official Twitter page for the USSS. Follow them to get updates on events, important announcements, accomplishments, and other news.
Learn about other U.S. Government Agencies