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A Day In The Life Of A Secret Service Agent

Updated October 22, 2018 98.2k views13 items

The people who undertake Secret Service training keep presidents, vice presidents, first families, and even candidates safe. But their own lives can be incredibly dangerous.

The Secret Service agent job description includes both protection and investigation. Being an agent may seem glamorous, but it's often anything but. Agents spend long hours watching crowds for suspicious behavior, constantly functioning on high alert. They carry weapons, investigate crimes, secure locations, and keep some of the most powerful people in the world safe.

These dedicated agents occasionally struggle to find a good work/life balance, and maintaining relationships can get tricky. They take the good with the bad, though, serving tirelessly no matter which president holds office.

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    Downtime Can Get Agents Into Trouble

    Sometimes Secret Service agents just get bored. In 2015, agents got drunk and accidentally rammed a car into barriers at the White House. In 2014, an agent passed out in the hallway of his hotel after a night of drinking in the Netherlands. But alcohol isn't the only temptation.

    Several agents brought adult entertainers to a hotel and received citations for soliciting sex workers in Colombia in 2012. 

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    Salary Caps Put A Big Strain On Agents

    Most Secret Service agents receive a salary cap of $160,300 per year. The amount can increase during an election year, but they might also have to work without being paid.

    When the Trump administration exceeded the Secret Service budget in 2017, agents' hours and paychecks significantly decreased. Even agents working overtime lost money.

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    Burnout Is Really Common

    Budget issues aside, the attrition rate for Secret Service agents is high. They may burn out within four or five years due to the schedule and stress level.

    Agents don't swear oaths to sacrifice themselves for their charges, but they do dedicate themselves to the job and the country. Most agree to be available 24 hours a day, to go wherever they're needed, and to abide by the agency's moral and ethical mandates.

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    They Engage In Creative Scenario Training

    The Secret Service didn't start doing extensive scenario training until after the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Bobby Kennedy. Now, agents experience a variety of scenarios to prepare for all kinds of emergencies. The most basic scenario, Attack on the Principle (AOP), simulates a threat that occurs when the president walks in a crowd. The agents put everyone through a metal detector, watching body language, facial expressions, and suspicious behavior. 

    The mock scenarios can also occur on planes, in fake movie-like sets, during water emergencies, or in mock shootings. Agents can be shot with non-lethal bullets or experience fake explosives.