257: FBI Special Agent Hiring and Training Update

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.

Special Agent

Cerena Coughlin

March 2001 – Present

SA Cerena Coughlin on “Orders Night” at the FBI Academy when she learned she was returning to LA (note the big smile).








“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.

Special Agent

Cassandra Winkel

April 2021 – Present

SA Cassie Winkel in her FBI Academy dorm room wearing new agent trainee uniform and gear.










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:



Listen to more FBI Retired Case File Review recruitment episodes here.







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

Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, jokes that she writes about the FBI to relive her glory days. After 26 years with the Bureau specializing in major economic fraud and corruption investigations, she calls on her professional encounters with scams and schemers to write police procedurals inspired by true crime FBI cases in her Philadelphia FBI Corruption Squad crime fiction series featuring flawed female FBI agent Kari Wheeler. Jerri’s FBI for Armchair Detectives nonfiction series enables readers to discover who the FBI is and what the FBI does by debunking misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies. Her books are available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks wherever books are sold. She’s also the host of FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast with more than 300 episodes available on all popular podcast apps and YouTube.


  1. […] 257: FBI Special Agent Hiring and Training Update […]

  2. […] is part 2 of this recruitment episode. Also check out Part 1 – 257: FBI Special Agent Hiring and Training Update, where SAs Coughlin and Winkel take us through all phases of the FBI special agent hiring process […]


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