FBI Language Specialists use their knowledge of other cultures and languages to help the FBI fulfill its mission to protect the United States from threats both foreign and domestic by translating audio and document source material and providing in-depth cultural knowledge. Language Specialists work with Special Agents and Intelligence Analysts to defend the country against foreign counterintelligence threats, cases of corruption, espionage, cybercrime and other unlawful offenses. Nearly all FBI Language Specialists begin their careers as Independent Contract Linguists.
Learn more about each of the FBI’s foreign language career opportunities and find out more about our Foreign Language Test Battery below.
- Contract Linguists
Learn About Contract Linguist Opportunities
Independent Contract Linguist opportunities are available in many major U.S. metropolitan areas with the FBI. Contract Linguists are required to work on-site and perform work as mutually agreed upon with the local FBI office. Travel opportunities for this role are possible.
Contract Linguists are considered self-employed and are not eligible to receive government benefits. The FBI may invite the best Contract Linguists to join the FBI as full-time Language Specialists.
Contract Linguists earn an hourly rate as determined by their language proficiency levels. Contract Linguists are selected to provide service based on specialized experience and the need for their respective languages in current FBI initiatives. Duties can include, but are not limited to:
- Translating written or audio materials, normally from a foreign language into English.
- Interpreting during a crucial interview of a subject of an investigation or a visit from a foreign dignitary.
- Providing cultural expertise relating to any matter over which the FBI has jurisdiction.
Applicants must meet the FBI’s general eligibility requirements and be able to work at least 20 hours per week. Successful candidates will exhibit proficiency in English and pass the required components of the FBI’s Foreign Language Test Battery outlined below.
There is no specific job posting for the Contract Linguist opportunity. Applicants should apply to the Language Talent Network, which can be found by searching the keyword “Language” posted “Anytime” in the Basic Search box here. Before applying, please review our How to Apply page. Because the Language Talent Network is located on FBIJobs.gov, interested Contract Linguist candidates apply for the Contract Linguist opportunity in a similar fashion to applying for employment with the FBI. However, the Contract Linguist opportunity is a contractual arrangement.
Learn About Language Specialist Opportunities
Language Specialist opportunities are available in many major U.S. metropolitan areas with the FBI and the National Virtual Translation Center (NVTC). Hiring opportunities are available to current FBI Independent Contract Linguists, current FBI employees and external applicants who meet job requirements. Work is performed on-site and out of FBI Field Offices nationwide and FBI Headquarters. Travel opportunities for this role are possible.
Language Specialists provide language and cultural analysis in support of varying criminal, cyber, counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations. Duties can include, but are not limited to:
- Translating written and audio materials, from a foreign language into English and vice versa.
- Interpreting during crucial interviews for subjects of investigations or visits from foreign dignitaries.
- Providing cultural expertise relating to matters over which the FBI has jurisdiction.
Language Specialists are considered full-time FBI employees, eligible to receive U.S. government benefits and follow the General Schedule (GS) scale ranging from GS-7 to GS-13. An applicant’s GS level is determined by language proficiency levels, education and professional language experience. More information regarding nationwide salaries can be found at www.opm.gov.
Applicants must meet the FBI’s general eligibility requirements and be able to travel and work nights and weekends, as needed. Candidates must take and pass the required components of the FBI’s Foreign Language Test Battery and be found proficient. See the Language Testing section for more details.
Applicants who are not current FBI Independent Contract Linguists or FBI employees may apply to the Language Talent Network opportunity on FBIJobs.gov. Applicants may be invited to join the FBI as Independent Contract Linguists or full-time Language Specialists.
Additional information about the FBI’s foreign language program is available in the sections below.
- National Virtual Translation Center
The FBI-managed National Virtual Translation Center (NVTC) provides timely, accurate translation services to support national intelligence priorities and protect our nation and its interests. NVTC primarily supports the U.S. Intelligence Community, but also supports other federal agencies. NVTC has highly trained and carefully vetted Linguists who translate source materials in various formats, such as handwritten notes, electronic documents, or audio and possess knowledge in a variety of subject matters important to the Intelligence Community. NVTC Linguists translate various materials at all classification levels and use the latest human-language technology tools to deliver accurate translations in more than 120 languages.
- English Monitor Analysts
English Monitor Analysts are highly proficient in the English language and provide remote support to cases across the United States. English Monitor Analyst opportunities are available at offices in Clarksburg, WV; Pocatello, ID; and Washington, DC.
English Monitor Analysts provide English language processing support to cases with a foreign language nexus by:
- Providing audio to document summaries and transcriptions of FBI collection content containing a mix of various foreign languages and English.
- Conducting basic threat analysis of the reviewed material and taking immediate action to appraise Case Agents of pertinent information.
- Using FBI research databases and conducting open source research to produce analytical products.
- Deploying investigative support for live 24/7 monitoring operations.
English Monitor Analysts are considered full-time FBI employees, eligible to receive U.S. government benefits and follow the GS scale ranging from GS-7 to GS-12. An applicant’s GS level is determined by language proficiency levels, education and professional language experience. More information regarding nationwide salaries can be found at www.opm.gov.
To qualify for the English Monitor Analyst position, applicants must satisfactorily complete the FBI’s English Test Battery to demonstrate a professional proficiency in the English language and meet the FBI’s general eligibility requirements.
The English Test Battery is comprised of three tests.
- English Composition Exam (EC): Examinees respond to a specific prompt.
- English Listening Summary Exam (ELSE): Examinees summarize audio content.
- English Transcription Test (TRT): Examinees provide an exact rendition of audio content.
- Foreign Language Program Management
Foreign Language Program Management
Foreign Language Program Managers are responsible for developing, enhancing and innovating the FBI Foreign Language program by prioritizing and managing language resources and needs. Foreign language ability is not a necessary component for this managerial role. Foreign Language Program Managers are full-time, GS-level government employees working out of FBI Headquarters or large FBI Field Offices around the country.
At FBI Headquarters, program managers are responsible for specific aspects of the national foreign language program to include language resource management, language testing, quality, training and education, communications and operations management. Tasks may include, but are not limited to:
- Analyzing data and preparing reports to identify new language resources and trends.
- Planning and conducting extensive surveys and studies to assess language needs and program policies.
- Coordinating and managing highly visible Foreign Language activities.
- Managing the distribution of assignments and workloads nationwide.
At FBI Field Offices, program manager responsibilities include supervising a group of at least three Supervisory Foreign Language Program Coordinators, who task FBI Contract Linguists and supervise Language Specialists. Foreign Language Program Management tasks include, but are not limited to, serving as a liaison between the FBI Field Office and FBI Headquarters, conducting analysis to identify language needs, and managing the distribution of assignments and workloads in the assigned FBI Field Office.
To be considered by the FBI for a role as a Foreign Language Program Manager, the applicant must meet the FBI’s general eligibility requirements and be able to travel and work nights and weekends, as needed. Please continue to visit FBIJOBS.gov for hiring opportunities.
Applicants must possess at least one year of specialized experience equivalent to the GS-13 grade level. Specialized experience is defined in the specified job postings and may include program, asset, personnel and administrative management. Supervisory experience, knowledge of intelligence, investigative processes, regulations governing foreign language translations and related specialties under the program’s jurisdiction may also be required.
- Foreign Language Test Battery
Foreign Language Test Battery
Language Specialists and Contract Linguists at the FBI translate audio and written materials in summary and/or verbatim form. Occasionally, they’re asked to interpret. To ensure examinees meet the demands of the job, they must pass a test battery, consisting of a series of language tests. The testing requirements for Language Specialists and Contract Linguists are identical.
The Language Specialist and Contract Linguist opportunities require that applicants pass listening and reading tests in the foreign language, as well as a translation test from the foreign language into English and speaking tests in both English and the foreign language.
The FBI looks for candidates with language skill levels that score in the general professional proficiency range on the Interagency Language Roundtable Skill Level Descriptions. For more information about these proficiency levels, go to www.govtilr.org.
Examinees take tests in listening and reading. In the listening test, examinees hear conversations in the foreign language and answer multiple choice questions in English about what was said. In the reading test, examinees read short paragraphs in the foreign language and answer multiple choice questions in English about the content of the passages.
LISTENING SUMMARY TESTS
In some languages, examinees may be given a listening summary test. These tests consist of short audio materials in the foreign language to be summarized in English.
In the translation exam, examinees must translate several short paragraphs from the foreign language into English. Examinees provide a verbatim translation, meaning that the translation must contain exactly the same information as the original and be written in correct English.
Dictionaries are allowed for listening summary tests and translation exams only. Electronic dictionaries are not permitted.
Examinees who pass the written tests will be asked to come back for a second testing session, which includes two speaking tests, one in the foreign language and one in English. Each test consists of a structured conversation over the telephone with native speakers; each lasts about 45 minutes.
Interagency Language Roundtable Proficiency Levels
Proficiency Levels Proficiency Ability 0 – 0+ No proficiency/memorized proficiency. May have memorized several everyday phrases, but cannot carry on a conversation or read a document. 1 – 1+ Elementary proficiency. Can understand or produce simple questions and answers. 2 – 2+ Limited working proficiency. Can participate in conversations on routine social demands and limited job requirements. Can understand straightforward material about people, places, and events. 3 – 3+ General professional proficiency. Can follow and contribute to a conversation with native speakers and defend personal opinions. Can read and understand large daily newspapers and written material in professional field. 4 – 4+ Advanced professional proficiency. Can prepare and deliver a lecture, give a persuasive argument, and carry out a job assignment as effectively as in the native language. Can read and understand virtually all forms of the written language, including complex texts, without a dictionary. 5 Functionally native proficiency. Can use the language with complete flexibility, making use of an extensive and precise vocabulary. Can successfully translate virtually all texts with flawless expression. Able to fully understand all forms and styles of speech intelligible to the well-educated native listener, including a number of regional and illiterate dialects, highly colloquial speech and conversations.
- Language Testing Frequently Asked Questions
Are there study guides or preparatory materials?
Other than using your language skills frequently, there’re no way to prepare for the tests.
How soon after the tests will I learn my results?
FBI Field Offices are notified of the test results within about a month of the test administration. The Language Personnel Resources Team will notify Contract Linguist applicants who are unsuccessful in passing the language test battery.
What if I can't make it to the test?
As soon as you know that you’re unable to make the test, call your Field Office Point of Contact (POC). Since speaking tests require a significant amount of coordination, the FBI has a policy that those who fail to show up for a speaking test without calling to cancel cannot be rescheduled for a period of one year.
Should I bring anything with me?
Bring a picture ID and dictionaries to use during the translation portions of the test battery. All other materials will be provided. Electronic dictionaries are not permitted.
Whom should I contact if I have a question?
Your Field Office POC can answer any questions about the testing process.
- Language Program Frequently Asked Questions
I can't find a job posting for Contract Linguist on www.fbijobs.gov. Where do I apply?
There is no specific job posting for the Contract Linguist opportunity. You should apply to the Language Talent Network, which can be found by searching for the keyword “Language Talent Network” posted “Anytime” in the Basic Search.
I received a message saying that I "did not pass preliminary screening." Why is this? What should I do?
You’ve received this message because your responses to the application questions indicate that you don’t meet the FBI’s basic requirements and your application has been discontinued. If you think you’ve received this message in error, please review your responses to ensure that you answered all of the questions and each question as you intended. If you find an error in your application, you may resubmit your interest using the same profile.
Once I submit my application, what can I expect?
You will receive an automatic response indicating that your application has been successfully submitted. Your application will be reviewed and, if you meet the FBI’s needs and criteria, you will be contacted by your local Field Office to schedule language testing.
I received an error message that says “you have already initiated or completed a submission for 17802 - Language Talent Network.” What does this mean and what should I do?
This means one of two things: 1) You have successfully submitted a previous application that must be withdrawn from the “Submissions in Progress” window of the My Career Tools page; or 2) You have an application in a draft status waiting to be submitted. In this case, you don’t need to withdraw your application, just complete the submission of the pending application.
My college/university/major is not on the Education list. What do I do?
Ensure that your resume reflects your educational experience and all relevant information. Case managers review resumes in addition to the online profile, so this information will still be captured.
I have noticed an error in my application. How can I change it?
To maintain the integrity of application responses, you’re unable to modify question responses once the application has been submitted. To change a response, you must withdraw the application and resubmit.
How can I update the resume I included with my application?
Unfortunately, there is no way to modify a resume once it has been uploaded to an application. If there is a significant change in your resume, you can send the updated version to Linguists_Postings@fbi.gov.
Do I have to be a United States citizen before I can apply for a Contract Linguist opportunity?
Yes. To be considered for a Contract Linguist role, you must be a U.S. citizen as of the day of application.
Do I have to renounce my dual citizenship if I am selected for a Contract Linguist role?
It’s not a requirement that you renounce your dual citizenship at time of application, but in the future, if you’re asked to maintain a contract with the Bureau, you must be willing to renounce if asked.
Is there an age requirement to be a Contract Linguist?
You must be at least 18 years of age to be a Contract Linguist.
Is there a residency requirement that I must meet before I can apply for a Contract Linguist opportunity?
Before applying to become a Contract Linguist, you must have lived in the United States for three of the last five years, unless you were employed outside of the country by the federal government.
Testing and Processing
How will I be tested as a Contract Linguist applicant?
The Foreign Language Test Battery consists of three different types of exams
- Listening and Reading Tests — In the listening comprehension test, you will hear conversations in the foreign language and answer multiple-choice questions in English about what was said. For some languages, you will also be asked to write a summary of the conversation in English. In the reading comprehension test, you will answer multiple-choice questions in English about the content of short passages written in the foreign language.
- Translation Tests — The translation test from the foreign language into English consists of three to four short passages. Your translation must contain exactly the same information as the original passage and be written correctly in English. It will be scored for both the accuracy of content and quality of expression. If a translation test is not available for your foreign language, you will take the English composition test, which involves writing an essay on a given topic. For both translations and compositions, you are allowed to use a nonelectronic dictionary.
- Speaking Tests — After passing the written test, you will take a speaking test in the foreign language and English. These tests consist of a structured conversation conducted over the telephone with native speakers of the test language.
Eligibility Requirements for Contract Linguists
In order to be eligible for employment with the FBI, including its Talent Networks, applicants must not violate any of the automatic employment disqualifiers, and adhere to the FBI’s pre-employment drug policy. Please ensure you meet these standards before submitting an application. All disqualifiers are extensively researched during the FBI Background Investigation Process. For more information, see FBI Employment Eligibility.