Two Fordham University alumni offered 150 students an insider’s look at how to land what they say is one of the coolest jobs around—a career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Speaking at an executive-in-residence presentation on March 9, FBI Special Agent in Charge George Venizelos (CBA ’82) and Special Agent Anthony Ferrante (FCRH ’01, GSAS ’04) gave brief recaps of their bureau experience. They also laid out skill sets most in demand in today’s FBI—which has grown in scope from chasing bank robbers to preventing the next terror attack.
“No agency has the responsibility that the FBI has,” said Venizelos, an 18-year veteran and one of 39 Fordham alumni working in the FBI’s New York field office. “One of the things that attracts people is the fact that we investigate 300 violations.”
“Working for the FBI is the greatest job anyone could have,” added Ferrante, who uses his education in computer science to work on a counterterrorism cyber squad. “No two days are alike. I could be doing paperwork in the office one day, and sitting in a car doing surveillance for six hours the next.
“When I came to Fordham, I followed my passion, and that’s what I recommend to you,” Ferrante said. “Think about how you can get a job with the FBI. They hire everyone. There is no cookie-cutter FBI agent.”
The pool of applicants, however, is highly competitive. In an average year, the bureau receives 44,000 applications to fill a small portion of the 12,000 special agents and 18,000 professional support employees. This year, because of the tumbling employment, applications have doubled, Venizelos said.
The FBI’s top recruiting categories also change, said Venizelos, every six months or so. The bureau is presently looking for lawyers, accountants, engineers and people with international experience.
“You are going to see finance and accounting going up because of the white collar crises,” Venizelos predicted.
In addition, the bureau is seeking linguistic experts, particularly in Russian, Chinese and Arabic.
There are a series of hurdles that all applicants must clear. First, you must be a U.S. citizen between the ages of 23 and 37, with perfect vision and a four-year degree with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Next, you must pass a polygraph test. The polygraph, said Venizelos, eliminates some 75 percent of applicants for positions in the New York City office.
Ferrante then asked the audience for a show of hands of how many had ever downloaded music illegally.
“That’s a potential polygraph question,” he said.
“Just tell the truth,” added Venizelos, who said many applicants try to cover up little things and get flustered, which causes them to fail.
The starting salary for a special agent is approximately $40,000, but, according to the men, agents can rise in the ranks quickly, receiving hefty raises of up to 25 percent.
“If you are asking about how much we are making, you are probably not cut out to be an agent,” Venizelos said. “It’s not about money. It’s a career. I’ve been to Vienna, to Athens. But I’ve also been to Mobile, Ala. I’ve worked for the bureau in four different states.
“You are not going to have the normal 9-to-5 job, or the normal life. And you are rarely going to have dinner with your family during the week,” he continued. “It’s not an easy way of life, but it is fulfilling.”
The event, “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity: The FBI as a Career,” was sponsored by the Fordham’s Executive in Residence Program, which connects alumni with students to learn about the workplace.