The Naval Criminal Investigative Service employs more than 1,000 special agents to assist the Marine Corps and Navy with criminal investigations. Becoming one of these elite agents requires several years of preparation and careful planning. If you want to work as an NCIS special agent, make sure you know the job description, basic requirements and what type of education will help you fulfill your dream.


Helpful classes to take in college in preparation for a career as a NCIS special agent include foreign affairs, criminology, forensic science and cybersecurity.

What Do NCIS Special Agents Do?

NCIS describes the job of a special agent as one of the most difficult opportunities in all of law enforcement. These agents investigate federal crimes that take place inside the Marine Corps and Navy. The crimes they investigate include:

  • Terrorism
  • Espionage 
  • Defection
  • Assassination

If you're inspired by NCIS shows, you may wonder, "Where is NCIS located in real life?" Due to the nature of the investigations, NCIS agents work all around the world. However, the force has a headquarters in Quantico, Virginia. The day-to-day job of an NCIS special agent can vary depending on the investigation. Duties can include:

  • Traveling great distances for long periods
  • Completing counterterrorism operations
  • Arresting civilians and military personnel
  • Preparing and executing search warrants
  • Writing briefs and reports

Basic Requirements for NCIS Special Agents

Before NCIS considers any further qualifications, applicants must meet a few basic requirements:

  • Under the age of 37 at the time of the application (a few exceptions apply)
  • Able to correct vision to 20/20 
  • Full color sight
  • Born or naturalized citizen of the United States
  • Possess a valid U.S. driver's license

Furthermore, NCIS requires learners to be able to pass rigorous background checks. If selected, candidates must pass a background check at the top-secret clearance level as well as physical tests and a polygraph exam.

NCIS College Courses

Although NCIS does not require applicants to hold bachelor's degrees, learners with this credential rank higher than others in the hiring process. Bachelor's degrees in political science, criminal justice and other areas can help.

If you want to gain impressive skills to improve your chances, consider classes in:

  • Foreign affairs
  • Criminology
  • Forensic science
  • Cybersecurity

Candidates should also take time to get in good physical shape. Part of the initial hiring process includes stress tests, running and other physical examinations.

Gain Relevant Experience

Although NCIS does not set any specific minimum for education or work experience, earning some of each can help you stand out in this competitive field. You can get work experience through internships, the military or other law enforcement agencies.

Before applying for a NCIS special agent position, you can boost your resume with an internship at the agency. The agency offers about 150 students the chance to intern in locations across the country each year. Internships at other investigative organizations can also help.

Although NCIS serves two military branches, special agents do not need military experience to apply. However, time served in the Navy, Marine Corps or a law enforcement agency can help you stand out as well.

NCIS Special Agent Training

Candidates who earn selection for NCIS go through two special training programs to prepare them for this unique position. The first is the Criminal Investigators Training Program that many federal agents complete in Glynco, Georgia.

The CITP lasts about 56 days and includes courses in evidence management, using firearms, driving in dangerous situations, testifying in court and criminal case management. Candidates then go immediately to the Special Agent Basic Training Program, which includes courses in:

  • Financial crimes
  • Hostage negotiation
  • Computer forensics
  • Various foreign languages
  • Forensic sciences
  • Interrogation and interviewing skills
  • Foreign counterintelligence

NCIS Special Agent Hiring in 2019

The NCIS website declares that they constantly look for qualified individuals to apply for special agent positions. When you earn enough education and work experience to feel ready to apply, contact NCIS.

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