Job Profile: NCIS Special Agent Career

Working For the Naval Criminal Investigative Services

A day in the life of an NCIS special agent: Conducting criminal investigations, making arrests, counterterrorism operations, extensive travel for long periods of time

The Balance / Derek Abella

Are you interested in working for a truly international law enforcement agency? You may want to consider a career as a Naval Criminal Investigative Services special agent. Made famous by the television show NCIS, special agents with the agency enjoy fascinating jobs involving international mystery and intrigue.

The NCIS is the investigative arm of the United States Department of the Navy. The service provides criminal investigative support to the Navy and Marine Corps. It is made up primarily of specially trained civilian investigative specialists, who are responsible for handling major criminal cases involving Navy personnel and property.

The History

Originally an offshoot of the Office of Naval Intelligence, NCIS has been an integral part of Naval security in some capacity since World War I. Currently, the service employs more than 1,000 special agents working across the United States and around the world in nearly 40 countries to solve major crimes and prevent terrorism. 

Duties & Responsibilities

Anywhere the United States Navy has a presence, the NCIS is represented. Agents are responsible for investigating crimes that involve navy personnel, and their families, as well as Navy equipment and property. Specifically, the NCIS has jurisdiction to investigate major felony offenses that would involve imprisonment of a year or more under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or the United States criminal code.

Special agents do not typically investigate minor felonies, misdemeanors or acts that are only criminal due to a suspect's relationship with the Navy. Instead, they focus on major crimes that would be considered criminal under any jurisdiction, including child abuse, robbery, rape, and homicide. They also investigate any unattended death of naval personnel that is not immediately known to be due to an illness or other natural causes.

NCIS special agents conduct counterintelligence operations against terrorists. They work to help prevent terrorist attacks and gather intelligence on suspected terrorists. They also conduct security checks to ensure that naval ships and compounds are as safe as possible from attack.

Agents also provide cybersecurity services to make sure that naval data systems remain secure. These agents work to detect, thwart and capture hackers and prevent attacks from viruses and malware.

The job of an NCIS special agent often includes:

  • Conducting Criminal Investigations
  • Extensive Travel for Long Periods of Time
  • Counterterrorism Operations
  • Counterintelligence Operations
  • Making Arrests
  • Executing Search Warrants
  • Preparing Search and Arrest Warrants
  • Writing Reports

NCIS special agents are assigned to Naval stations and the United States Marine Corps bases around the world, and an investigator is stationed on every U.S. aircraft carrier and large deck assault ship at sea. Agents may work grueling hours and spend days and months away from home or at sea while on assignment.


To be considered for a special agent position, candidates must be under the age of 37, or they must be current federal employees or eligible for veterans preference. Applicants must also have their vision corrected to 20/20, be a United States citizen and hold a valid driver license.​

Candidates are required to hold at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. An extensive background check will be conducted. Applicants will need to be able to qualify for top secret clearance, which will typically require a polygraph exam.

Essential skills include observation, critical thinking and problem-solving. Report writing skills are vital, as are interpersonal communications skills.

Upon appointment, candidates will attend the NCIS Basic Agent course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga. After completion, agents will be able to learn new skills and specializations as they advance in their careers.


The Naval Criminal Investigative Services conducts hiring periodically, as the needs of the agency dictate. To find openings and opportunities, check with the USA Jobs website. Special agents earn a base salary of around $56,000 annually, not including locality rates and law enforcement availability pay (LEAP) additives.

Is a Career Right for You?

Few opportunities in law enforcement offer the mobility and variety of a career as an NCIS special agent. If you like to travel, enjoy the chance to take on a variety of complex investigations and have an appreciation for the U.S. military, a career with the Naval Investigative Services may be the perfect criminology career for you.