Department of State Diplomatic Security Special Agent

A special agent overlooks the Shiprock land formation on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico.

Federal Bureau of Investigation / Wikimedia Commons

The United States Department of State exists to foster and maintain peaceful and stable relations with nations around the world and to promote democracy and prosperity for all. Perhaps the most visible function of the State Department is ensuring diplomacy through open dialogue and security for diplomats and enforcing federal laws related to U.S. missions, both at home and abroad. In order to help the members of the Department of State carry out their duties, the department employs a service of specially trained agents, known as Foreign Diplomatic Security Agents.

What Diplomatic Security Agents Do

Foreign Service Diplomatic Security Agents work both domestically in the U.S. and around the world. At home, they are responsible for conducting investigations into cases of possible passport and visa fraud, providing security and protective services to the U.S. Secretary of State, and securing dignitary protection for visiting foreign dignitaries below the head-of-state level. Abroad, Diplomatic Security Agents are in charge of ensuring security for U.S. missions and embassies. They also advise ambassadors on matters of security while overseas. Specific duties of Foreign Service Diplomatic Security Agents include:

  • Conducting complex investigations
  • Providing protective services to high-level foreign diplomats
  • Coordinating security services to U.S. missions and embassies
  • Preparing reports and warrants
  • Providing security-related training
  • Giving courtroom testimony
  • Assisting with counterintelligence operations

The Qualifications for Diplomatic Security Agents

In order to be considered for a career as a Foreign Diplomatic Security Agent, interested candidates must:

  • Be a United States Citizen
  • Possess a bachelor's degree or higher education
  • Be at least 21 and no older than 37, unless they have prior military or federal service
  • Be registered with the Selective Service as required
  • Hold a valid United States driver's license

In addition to the minimum qualifications, applicants must sign a minimum qualifications document affirming that they are willing to live anywhere in the world and carry and use a firearm in the performance of their duties. Preference is given to candidates who possess abilities in foreign languages.

The Hiring Process for Foreign Diplomatic Security Agents

Once you've applied, you will undergo a stringent background investigation process, which will include prior work and criminal history checks. The hiring process will include an online questionnaire, a series of written tests and exercises, and oral interviews. Applicants will also need to be able to qualify for a Top Secret security clearance. You'll need to be able to pass a physical fitness assessment and a medical exam.

Training for Diplomatic Security Agents

If the Department of State decides to hire you, you'll attend six months of training to become a special agent. The training will begin with orientation in Washington D.C., followed by basic agent training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia. After completing your training at FLETC, you'll return for advanced training in the District of Columbia. Initially, new agents can expect to be assigned to domestic posts for two years, after which time they will likely be sent to a post overseas.

How Much Diplomatic Security Agents Earn

New agents can expect to earn between $41,000 and $56,000 per year, depending on education and experience level. Additionally, agents can qualify for Law Enforcement Availability Pay and locality pay.

Determining If a Career as a Diplomatic Security Agent Is Right for You

Department of State special agents have a rewarding and exciting job ensuring the security of diplomats and missions both at home and abroad. They have to be willing and able to spend long periods of time overseas and work with a variety of different people in different environments. If this is the sort of work that appeals to you, then a job as a Diplomatic Security Agent may be the right career for you.