Many South Dakota residents, as well as others across the nation, are confused and even misinformed about what, exactly, it takes to be an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

A lot of people have been told that they can just take a class or two, and there are tons of online scams offering certifications and licenses that will supposedly make candidates prime material for FBI acceptance.

The truth is that it just isn’t that simple. Work in the FBI is extremely prestigious and extremely difficult and, as such, not everyone can or should be allowed to do it. In addition to meeting several requirements, prospective FBI agents also have to possess a full on education, not just the kind that can be earned from taking a class or two.

In fact, it is required that all FBI agents have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college, university, or other institution. Even then, higher level degrees, such as master’s degrees and PhDs are preferred and encouraged.

While a certification program might be useful in helping you to supplement an education that is unrelated to FBI service or to help you determine whether or not a career in the field is right for you, it is in no way a substitute for a real college education.

One good piece of information, though, is that you can really major in absolutely anything that you want. The FBI is interested in having agents from diverse academic backgrounds who can bring different kinds of expertise to the workplace.

Agents should, however, be the best of the best at what they do. And this is not to say, either, that there are not academic areas that are more commonly needed and recruited in the FBI, because there certainly are.

Common academic backgrounds to have before serving in the FBI include computer engineering, general engineering, computer information systems, information technology, higher level mathematics, accounting, finance, chemistry, physics, biology, military studies, criminal studies, criminology, crime scene investigation, criminal investigation, criminal justice, law enforcement, foreign languages, and others that are closely related to specific areas of military service.

If you want to ensure that your college background will be relevant to FBI work, then you will need to do your research and find the related FBI careers that go with your studies. If you can’t find a career dealing with your major or prospective major, you can increase your odds of FBI acceptance by choosing a different path.

Don’t expect, either, to just get your degree and then be an FBI agent the next day. Again, the process is not that quick. In addition to your degree, you will also need to have at least two to three years of real working experience, preferably working experience that is related to the degree that you earned. A good “shortcut” for this if you are looking to start serving quickly, is to earn your work experience at the same time that you earn your degree.

Even after you have completed the academic training and the work experience requirements for admittance to the FBI, you still have to fill out an application. Finding out whether your application was accepted or rejected can take a long time in itself.

Then, once you know, even if you are accepted, you still have to complete intensive training and undergo a battery of psychological, physical, intelligence, and background tests before you can begin serving. Joining the FBI is a long and involved process, so don’t expect it to be easy or to happen in just a few days.