FBI agents are iconic figures in America and many people who aspire to law enforcement want to join this elite law-enforcement group. Being an agent involves more than carrying a gun and being an investigator, though. Agents are highly trained employees of the federal government and although their careers can be glamorous, their salaries are the same as many other civil servants.

Duty Office

After an FBI agent is appointed to the Bureau, he or she is assigned to one of 56 field offices, depending upon the agent’s specialty and the office’s needs. The agent ranks his or her desired locations to work and this list is compared to the list of offices where the FBI has a need. The agent can expect to be at this first assignment for approximately three years. During his or her two-year probationary period, each new agent will have an experienced mentor agent.

Salary Add Ons

The federal government pays greater salaries depending on where the field office is located. This is called locality pay and it is designed to account for cost-of-living differences. Locality pay increases range from 12.5 to 28.7 percent. Agents also receive an availability pay bonus in addition to their salary. It is 25 percent more and accounts for the fact that FBI agents are expected to work an average of 50 hours per week.

Beginning Pay

FBI agents are on the federal government’s law enforcement pay schedule. They begin at the GS-10, step 1 level. This pay grade pays $45,771 per year in 2011. With locality pay and availability pay, first-year agents can earn between $64,365 to $73,634 per year depending upon where they are stationed.

Maximum Pay

Field agents can advance through a GS-13, step 10 pay level. The base pay at this level is $93,175 per year in 2011. With locality pay and availability pay, field agents at their maximum pay level can earn $131,027 to $149,895 per year. Agents who choose to move into supervisory, management and executive positions can move up to a maximum of GS-15, step 10 position. The base pay at this level is $129,517 per year. With locality pay and availability pay, these agents can earn a maximum of $182,133 to $208,360 per year.