Special agents with the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, or NCIS, travel around the world to investigate criminal cases in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, such as espionage, terrorism and assassination. The job is both exciting and demanding, and the government chooses only the best candidates as special agents. To qualify to become an NCIS special agent, applicants must be U.S. citizens between the ages of 21 and 37, must complete a bachelor's degree and must meet other criteria, such as passing background checks. Though no specific undergraduate major is required, many choose criminal justice for the training it provides.
Criminal Justice Courses
Criminal justice courses provide aspiring agents with the training to understand the criminal justice system, legal procedures and investigative strategies. Criminal justice courses also include the study of criminal behavior and the psychological and sociological factors that may contribute to it. Appropriate classes may include criminal justice, criminology, criminal procedure, investigative procedure, criminal law process and public policy. Criminal justice course work often includes the study of special populations, such as juvenile justice or justice and minorities.
Computer Programming and Forensics
More and more crimes are taking place with the assistance of computers and the Internet. NCIS agents must analyze computer data and Internet activity for evidence of criminal activity -- both to stop crimes before they can be committed and to convict criminals after a crime has taken place. Aspiring NCIS agents must take classes in computer forensics and computer programming to learn how to intercept or excavate data. The training may also be used to create programs that can thwart criminal activity or monitor it, such as spying programs.
An understanding of psychology and human behavior is essential to understanding criminal activity. Aspiring NCIS agents should take courses in psychology to learn how to profile suspected criminals and understand their motivation for committing crimes. This knowledge can help agents prevent crimes, as well, by understanding the warning signs for certain criminal behavior. Useful course work can include a basic psychology class, cognitive psychology and criminal psychology. Some programs may offer courses that specifically study forensic psychology or the psychology of criminal behavior.
Economics and Finance
NCIS agents also investigate economic crimes against government agencies, such as embezzlement, insider trading or illegal currency exchange. Courses in economics, finance and statistics can provide aspiring NCIS agents with the training to understand the issues surrounding these crimes, such as how investment and exchange markets work, how trade agreements between countries govern commercial activity or what loopholes in tax code can be exploited for criminal activity.