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A special agent is a detective or criminal investigator who works for a government agency. He or she investigates suspected and alleged criminal violations of laws to determine if evidence is sufficient to warrant a prosecution. While other government agencies refer to their authorized representatives as agents, the title special agent is reserved for those whose general function is investigation, criminal justice and homeland security. However, not all criminal investigators are called special agents; some agencies entitle their investigators as criminal investigators although that term may have been used interchangeably with special agents.
The term secret agent however, should not be confused with the special agent title, for while the latter is an individual employed in the capacity described above, the former is used to describe individuals employed or engaged in espionage. Special agents who are sometimes assigned to engage in secret or undercover activities as part of investigative operations and counter espionage might be referred to as undercover agents, but never as secret agents.
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Special agents investigate many forms of criminal activities such as kidnapping, bank robbery, cyber crime, drug trafficking, sabotage, bribery, fraud, extortion, financial and other white-collar crime and violations of federal statutes. They work to enforce the law of the nation and are involved in national security issues, monitoring ongoing situations, conducting investigations to look for threats and protecting national borders. They are responsible for investigating interstate criminal activity, international espionage and potential terrorist threats.
To accomplish their mission, they handle undercover assignments, gathering evidence through surveillance and observation, monitoring activity on court-authorized wiretaps, interviewing witnesses or suspects to obtain intelligence on illegal activities, and examining personal, financial and business records. They serve arrest warrants and take individuals into custody as required by the court, gather evidence and testify in courts to present the facts surrounding any criminal action. However, most jobs in the organization are administrative. Much of the data and evidence collection requires a tremendous amount of paperwork. Filling out forms, preparing reports and keeping records are other important tasks involved with this career.
Special agents may work indoors or outdoors based on assignment. These trained professionals work irregular hours, including nights, holidays and weekends. The work environment can change daily, as can job duties. Work conditions vary, depending on the specific job and situation.Travel is a big part of the special agents' job as they are often required to travel wherever operations exist. They must be ready for assignments in all places at all times and subject to call twenty-four hours a day.
There is no daily routine in the work of an agent. Everyday is different as assignments vary from time to time. An agent is usually assigned a forty hour work schedule but commonly works overtime. The work can be both exciting and dangerous. Agents who can accept the responsibilities of the job will find it a rewarding career.