HomeNews & Views Leading with Russian, Bulgarian, Korean & more: FBI Linguists on the Skills Required to Serve

Leading with Russian, Bulgarian, Korean & more: FBI Linguists on the Skills Required to Serve


FBI linguists and language specialists use a wealth of languages—including Korean, Arabic, Bulgarian, Russian, and Spanish, to name a few—to contribute to U.S. national security each day.

For those considering a career with the Bureau, employees urge taking a serious approach to the interview and hiring process, especially when it comes to language skills, but promise big rewards in knowing that the job FBI linguists do makes a difference in the world.

Linguist candidates go through a series of oral, written, and reading language tests, in addition to polygraph and drug testing. For their daily work, they must write and speak proficiently in both the target language (English) and the source language (namely their native or heritage language). Linguists need to be able to shift seamlessly between popular or slang expressions, local dialects, and the more sophisticated or formal terms used, for instance, in meetings with high-level government officials or delegations visiting the FBI Director.

Interview tips? Translation is a learned skill that takes practice: prepare ahead of time to best showcase your talents! It’s also recommended that candidates have a good sense of current events happening throughout the world and are able to discuss them in another language. (This seems like good advice for anyone hoping to spotlight their language skills in the interview process!)

One linguist offers applicants this encouragement:

“As we discussed, the process will be lengthy, but don’t give up! It’s a great job. It’s the best.”

Curious about language jobs with federal agencies? Check out our Careers in Government page for ideas, information on scholarships, and links to several career sites. You can also find out more about FBI careers here.

Then check out our Lead with Korean, Arabic, Russian, and Spanish pages for university programs, scholarships, videos, and blogs related to some of the languages mentioned above.