What Classes Should I Take in College to Become an NCIS Special Agent?

NCIS agents are assigned to large ships.
NCIS agents are assigned to large ships. (Image: Michael Blann/Photodisc/Getty Images)

In the espionage game, operatives work under many covers, but you might be surprised to learn that even U.S. military agencies change their identity from time to time. Consider the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. It’s had at least seven iterations, morphing from the Office of Naval Intelligence in 1882 to today’s NCIS. Still committed to intelligence operations, investigations and security, the name may have changed but the agency’s mission to protect the U.S. on land and sea has remained unchanged for nearly 130 years. For those aspiring to work for the NCIS today, certain college courses should be taken.

Picking the Right College

Pick the best college you can afford and major in criminal justice, a hot major these days. College Prep U ranks these schools as being tops in criminal justice for 2011: Penn State, the University of Cincinnati, Florida State, Michigan State, Rutgers, Temple, Arizona State, and the universities of Florida, Illinois and Nebraska. The curricula at these schools includes all of the classes you'll need to apply for a job as an NCIS agent.

Online Programs

You can choose to apply to an online criminal justice program if you are the type of student who can handle cyberspace classes. Best College Rankings.org named Boston University, Everest University, American InterContinental, Westwood and Kaplan as having the top online criminal justice programs. Keep this in mind: the NCIS website asks only for a bachelor’s degree with no specific major. Some college is better than none, so even if you don’t have a criminal justice major, you can still apply to be an agent.

Electives for Non-Majors and Criminal Justice Majors

Rely upon science and criminal justice electives to reinforce your undergraduate education if you’re a non-criminal justice major. Sign up for labs, classes and practicums in psychology, biology, communications and human behavior. As a criminal justice major, take courses in the theory and practice of criminal and forensic science, justice administration, statistics, qualitative and quantitative research, and homeland security .

Monitoring NCIS College Class Requirements

While you’re in college, you should bookmark and monitor the NCIS website to keep abreast of any changes in the agency’s college requirements and employment status. You can also inquire into an NCIS internship once you’ve reached your junior year. Non-paid internships are available at NCIS headquarters in Washington, D.C., and at field offices. An internship gets your foot in the door. You can also increase your chances of being hired by becoming proficient in one or more languages before you graduate. Farsi and Arabic are highly sought by all agencies within the field of homeland security.

Agency Classes

After you graduate from college, you can apply to NCIS for an entry-level job if no openings for agents are available. Once you are offered a permanent agent job, you’ll find yourself right back in school. New agents train at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, learning everything from crime scene processing to unarmed self-defense. Language studies are intensive, so your ability to speak one is going to set you apart from the crowd. NCIS posts agents around the world, most on board naval vessels, so if you achieve your career goal, you may wish to stockpile Dramamine.

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