Protecting the President and Vice President of the United States and their families may be the most visible job done by Secret Service agents. But it is not the only service that the Secret Service provides to U.S. citizens. Created in 1865 as a branch of the United States Treasury, the Secret Service today is a federal law enforcement agency under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security.
The United States Secret Service is involved in two primary activities: protection of the President and Vice President and their families and other dignitaries and heads of state, as well as providing protective service throughout the White House and special events relating to the Presidency; and criminal investigation of laws relating to currency, U.S. currency and treasury bond counterfeiting, identity theft, computer fraud, financial, banking and telecommunications fraud and any financial-based crimes utilizing computers. Private Leslie Coffelt is distinguished as the only Secret Service Agent to be killed in the line of duty, protecting President Harry S. Truman from an assassination attempt in 1948.
Special agents are the most visible positions available within the Secret Service. Other employment opportunities include accountants, criminal research specialists, administrative assistants, intelligence research specialists, special officers and information technology specialists.
Because this agency deals with matters of national security of the highest level, qualifications are extremely stringent. You must be a U.S. citizen at least 21 years of age, in excellent health and superior physical condition, including eyesight that is at least 20/60 binocular uncorrected and correctable to 20/20.
Successful passage of the TEA (Treasury Enforcement Agent Examination) is mandatory to becoming a Secret Service agent and you can study for this examination ahead of time. Applicants must also successfully pass through a thorough background investigation, including a physical examination, drug screening, polygraph examination and various one-on-one in-depth interviews. The scope of this investigation may take as long as nine months for completion.
Although its headquarters is in Washington, DC, the Secret Service has 136 field offices throughout the United States and internationally in such countries as Italy, Mexico, Spain, The United Kingdom, Thailand, Columbia, France and Germany, so the ability to speak multiple languages other is helpful toward Secret Service employment.
The U.S. Secret Service employs approximately 6,500 people, roughly half of whom are Special agents, the remainder being Uniformed Division Officers and Administrative and Technical Support Staff. Entry-level annual salaries average $38,000.