FBI Linguists use their knowledge of other cultures and languages to help the FBI fulfill its mission to protect the United States from threats both international and domestic. Linguists work with a team to defend the country against foreign counterintelligence threats, cases of corruption, espionage, cybercrime and other unlawful offenses. All FBI Linguists begin their careers as Contract Linguists.
Learn more about each of the FBI’s foreign language career opportunities, and find out more about our foreign language testing battery, below.
- Contract Linguists
Learn About Contract Linguist Opportunities
Contract Linguist opportunities are available in many major U.S. metropolitan areas with the FBI and the National Virtual Translation Center (NVTC). Applicants can choose to work with one or both organizations. 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 Analysts.
Contract Linguists earn an hourly rate as determined by their language proficiency levels, 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 have the ability 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 performing a search for the keyword “Language” posted “Anytime” in the Basic Search box here. Before applying, please review our How to Apply page.
Additional positions and information about the FBI’s language program are available in the sections below.
- Contract Speaker Proficiency Tester
Contract Speaker Proficiency Tester
Contract Speaking Proficiency Testers are in charge of making sure that applicants for Contract Linguist, Special Agent, and Language Analyst roles are proficient in the languages for which they are applying. Contract Testers administer Speaking Proficiency Tests over the telephone to applicants and onboard employees.
While they are provided training to execute their role as speech evaluators, Contract Testers are considered self-employed and are not eligible to receive government benefits. As such, a flat rate is paid per test and is best considered as a supplement to other income. The workload is dependent on the current needs of the FBI.
Contract Speakers are allowed to perform the responsibilities of their roles at either their homes or places of work. Depending on their skill level, Contract Testers who reside in the Washington, D.C., area may be eligible for other contract work.
Contract Speaker Tester applicants must:
- Have U.S. citizenship.
- Take a Speaking Proficiency Test (SPT) in the language in which they will test and score at the well-educated native-speaker level.
- Pass an English-speaking test at the professional level if the testing language is not English.
- Successfully complete a two-week workshop in Washington, D.C.
- Be available to work at least 15 hours per week.
- Foreign Language Program Management
Foreign Language Program Management
Foreign Language Program Managers are responsible for prioritizing and managing workloads, managing the distribution of assignments and preparing reports. Opportunities for Foreign Language Program Managers are available at FBI offices around the country.
Those assigned to the FBI Headquarters are tasked with managing a national program related to specific fields, such as language testing, quality, training and education and operations management.
Foreign Language Program Managers assigned to larger FBI Field Offices are responsible for supervising a group of at least three Supervisory Foreign Language Program Coordinators.
The Supervisory Foreign Language Program Coordinators who are supervised by the Foreign Language Program Managers, are responsible for managing a group of language professionals consisting of Language Analysts and/or Contract Linguists. Foreign language ability is not a necessary component for this managerial role.
In order 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 while working nights and weekends as needed.Apply Now
- Foreign Language Contract Rater
Foreign Language Contract Rater
The Contract Rater position is an exciting opportunity within the FBI for individuals who are interested in earning supplemental income. Contract Raters are responsible for rating written exams administered as part of the Foreign Language Test Battery. These exams may include translation tests, writing tests and listening summary exams.
Considered self-employed and working on contract for the FBI, Contract Raters earn a flat rate per test administered. Applicants for this role are not eligible to receive government benefits. Workloads for Contract Raters vary and are dependent upon the needs of the FBI.
Applicants who are chosen for the role must complete Contract Rater training onsite in Washington, D.C., meet the FBI’s general eligibility requirements, and score at least an ILR Level 3+ on the writing test as outlined in the Foreign Language Test Battery. Successful candidates must also be available to work at FBI Headquarters during regular business hours.
- Foreign Language Test Battery
Foreign Language Test Battery
In most cases, the Language Analyst and Contract Linguist opportunities require that applicants pass listening and reading tests in the foreign language, 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 skill levels that score in the general professional proficiency range on the Foreign Language Test Battery. In some cases, candidates are accepted with limited working proficiency in the case of rare or hard-to-find languages.
The Interagency Language Roundtable Proficiency Levels chart is a tool that allows applicants to self-assess their foreign language ability prior to taking the formal exam. More information about the Interagency Language Roundtable can be found here.
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 understand fully 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 Program FAQS
I cannot 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” 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 have received this message because your responses to the application questions indicate that you do not meet the FBI’s basic requirements and your application has been discontinued. If you think you have 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 1968-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. 2) You have an application in a draft status waiting to be submitted. In this case, you do not 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 educational experience and all relevant information are reflected on your resume. Resumes are reviewed in addition to the online profile, so this information will still be captured by the case manager.
I have noticed an error in my application. How can I change it?
To maintain the integrity of application responses, you are unable to modify question responses once the application has been submitted. In order 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. In order to be considered for a Contract Linguist role, you must be a U.S. citizen.
Do I have to renounce my dual citizenship if I am selected for a Contract Linguist role?
It is not a requirement that you renounce your dual citizenship, but 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 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. The same applies to translation tests from English into the foreign language. 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 non-electronic 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.