Over the course of my career, I met with background investigators on a number of occasions. Every time, the investigator was courteous, professional, and all business. I had no idea where this person came from. I suspected she was with the FBI. Perhaps he was with the Secret Service. I never asked, but I always thought I’d rather be out meeting people and digging for information than sitting behind a desk. Likely, those investigators were contracted employees. And if you’ve ever wondered yourself what it’s like to be a background investigator, now’s your chance.
background investigator JOBS
According to NextGov’s Joseph Marks, the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) is making “significant progress hiring investigators and developing new tools,” but in spite of the 400 investigators hired last year, there’s no end in sight for the massive backlog of background investigations, and applicants can expect to wait as long as 500 days for a Top Secret (TS) clearances. That’s where opportunity comes in.
Behind every clearance is a background investigator. And behind every government agency are contractors helping out. While Marks reports that to keep digging out the NBIB intends to hire an additional 180 background investigators this year, only 11 investigators or investigator assistant positions are posted on USAJobs. Federal contractors are hiring background investigators, as well, hoping to help NBIB dig out. CACI, for instance, is looking for 16 investigators with duty from Twenty-Nine Palms, CA, to Tampa, FL. Quick searches of other resources produce job announcements in the several hundreds. So for background investigators, jobs are out there.
THE investigator PROFESSION
According to the Association of Certified Background Investigators (ACBI), there are four ways to serve as a background investigator: the federal route, contract investigators, sub-contract investigators, and employee investigators. Typical experience requirements are “3 – 5 years federal, military or law enforcement investigation.” Of course, having a current security clearance in hand is a huge advantage; otherwise, you’ll find yourself in the same wait you’re trying to help tackle. As ACBI notes, “The process of becoming a CI or EI is a long process when the individual does not already possess a current security clearance. . . . This background investigation may take anywhere from 6 weeks to a year, depending on the agency conducting it.” Yes, that’s the problem.
Your office is your home, and your car. As a contracted background investigator, you’re on the clock when you hit the streets, and your salary depends, of course, on how many hours you work each week. The standard expectation is 40 hours. You could certainly work more and pump up the numbers. And there’s clearly plenty to do. If you enjoy working alone, driving long distances, meeting new people every single day, and asking them probing questions, a career—or stint—as a background investigator might be for you. It’s certainly worth a look.