Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Special Agent Train Pulls Out of the Station at 36

After reading our stories about working for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a few folks wanted to know why those employers don’t hire agents older than 36.

We went straight to the source for a response and here’s how Navy Communication Director Paul O'Donnell explains the situation: “There is an entry age limit because there is a mandatory retirement age for the 1811 job series in federal law enforcement.” For those outside the Beltway, the 1811 series is fed-speak for criminal and non-criminal investigators.

The FBI and NCIS aren’t the only agencies that hire 1811s. So do the Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control, the State Department, Treasury and really, the list goes on.

The reason there’s mandatory retirement is because the agencies want a “young and vigorous law enforcement officer (LEO) work force.” LEOs get to retire at age 50 with enhanced annuities, as long as they have 20-years of LEO-covered service or at any age after 25 years of service.

For NCIS, the Department of Defense gets to set the maximum age for original entry into the special agent job. “Persons not appointed by the last day of the month in which that individual reaches their 37th birthday cannot be originally appointed or assigned to the LEO position,” O’Donnell explained to us in an email.

There is a loophole. “For NCIS, the Secretary of the Navy may approve the original entry of an individual who has passed the entry age limits,” O’Donnell writes. “The Secretary of the Navy may also exempt a LEO from automatic separation until the employee becomes 60 years of age if in their judgment the public interest so requires.”

If you’re 37 or better, you may not be shut out of service completely. There are positions that fall outside the requirement because they’re not 1811 series jobs. You can check the Web site to see everything an agency has open, then click on the qualifications tab to see whether a particular federal job has an age limit.

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