On this episode of FBI Retired Case File Review, Special Agent Cerena Coughlin, an FBI Applicant Coordinator and recruiter for the Philadelphia Division and first office agent Special Agent Cassandra Winkel, update us on all phases of the FBI special agent hiring process and the training program at the FBI Academy.
This is part 1 of this recruitment episode. Also check out Part 2 – Episode 258: Listener Q & A – FBI Special Agent and Analyst Positions, where SAs Coughlin and Winkle provide detailed answers to listener questions.
At the end of these show notes, I’ve listed the audio timestamps for topics discussed during the episode.
March 2001 – Present
“The main changes in just the last couple of months are where the physical fitness test comes in the process, our drug usage policy, the length of time a new agent trainee spends at Quantico, and the curriculum.”—Special Agent Cerena Coughlin
Special Agent Cerena Coughlin has been with the FBI for 21 years. Her first office was the Los Angeles Division where she was a member of the Innocent Images SAFE Team investigating cases involving the sexual exploitation of children. Her next assignments were to Counterterrorism squads in the Los Angeles and Baltimore Divisions. In the Philadelphia Division, before being assigned as the FBI recruiter, she was on a Cybercrime squad.
April 2021 – Present
Special Agent Cassandra Winkel began her career with the FBI in September 2017 as a Staff Operations Specialist (SOS) working counterterrorism matters at FBI Headquarters. During her time in this assignment, SOS Winkel worked in the Counterterrorism Division’s Assistant Director’s Office, Foreign Threat Tracking Task Force, and Domestic Terrorism Operations Section. In April 2021, upon receiving an appointment to the FBI Academy, she was promoted to Special Agent Winkel. She is currently working counterterrorism in the Philadelphia Division.
To view comprehensive special agent hiring, employment information, and applications for all FBI positions, visit:
Episode 257: Audio Timestamps
00:06:10 – Qualifications
00:10:05 – Start at FBIjobs.gov
00:12:03 – Phase 1 Testing
00:13:12 – Meet and Greet
00:22:12 – Physical Fitness Test
00:31:37 – Phase 2 Written Test and Interview
00:38:50 – SF-86 Background Investigation
00:40:10 – Polygraph and Drug Policy
00:46:25 – Fitness Test Prior to Report Date
00:48:25 – Firearms Policy
00:49:57 – Mobility/Transfer Agreement
00:54:55 – Beware of Unofficial Resources
00:57:07 – Salary
01:00:55 – Office of Preference Transfers
01:04:09 – FBI Academy Curriculum
01:07:43 – SOS and IA Position (Detour)
01:14:16 – Backgrounds of New Agent Trainees
01:16:06 – Typical Day at the Academy
01:17:35 – Firearms
01:20:26 – Physical Fitness Test
01:24:57 – Academic Tests
01:27:31 – Training Timeframe and Curriculum Changes
01:29:59 – Atmosphere and Dorm Life
01:32:22 – Field Office Assignments
01:41:09 – When and Why They Joined the FBI