FBI agents, or more specifically FBI special agents, are responsible for conducting investigations on a national level. Areas of investigation may include white-collar crime, cyber crime, terrorism, piracy, kidnapping, corruption and drug-trafficking. FBI special agents are paid based on a pre-set pay scale, and salaries may increase with location or further responsibility and experience.
The FBI Pay Structure for Agents
The FBI pays its special agents on a general base salary schedule that applies to all government employees. Within this schedule, there are a total of 15 job grades, with GS-1 being the lowest and GS-15 being the highest. Within each pay grade, there are 10 steps, with one being the lowest and 10 being the highest. The pay grades are based on a particular job's set of responsibilities. Pay grade increases with more responsibility. The steps increase with both experience on the job and performance. FBI agents have a substantial degree of responsibility, so their pay ranges start fairly high on the government schedule of job grades.
Pay Scales for New Agents
Special agent trainees receive their pay based on pay grade GS-10, step one. In 2011, this amounted to $45,771 a year. As they are trained in Quantico, Virginia, they also receive an additional locality pay that equates to 17.5 percent of their base salary. They will continue to be on the GS-10, step one pay grade, when they are qualified to become newly assigned special agents. A one-time payment of $22,000 is available to special agents relocating to high-cost cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Boston or San Francisco.
Special agents may eventually see their pay grade increased to GS-13, which starts out at $71,674 a year at step one and increases to $93,175 at step 10. With enough experience, FBI special agents may be promoted to supervisory or executive positions. Such positions are typically paid at grade GS-14 and GS-15. The highest pay-grade, GS-15 at level 10, equates to $129,517 in base salary.
Those working with the FBI may see pay increases based on where they live and work. Salaries may increase from 12.5 percent to 29.7 percent, depending on the level of expenses in the city of employment. Agents in more expensive cities, such as New York City, will typically see such an increase. Additional pay such as bonuses, danger pay, and Law Enforcement Availability Pay, called LEAP, are also given to some agents, based on eligibility. LEAP is awarded to those on stand-by for overtime work. Benefits such as health insurance, life insurance, paid time off, and retirement benefits are also included as standard.