Five Things Needed To Be an Effective Secret Service Agent

As one might imagine, the United States Secret Service has a very rigorous vetting process that goes to great lengths in determining whether an applicant possesses the required traits necessary to be an effective agent. When a new agent is hired, the Secret Service has every expectation that the new arrival will measure up to the almost impossible standards to which he or she will be held. Generally, each does measure up, although some more so than others.

While each Secret Service agent is outstanding in their own way, some are without question more effective than others. Those agents that are most effective share several qualities in common which are critical to be highly successful. These qualities separate the average agents from the best agents.

While there are a practically endless number of traits an effective and successful agent must possess, below are five that are arguably the most essential.


While receiving never-ending training with a variety of weapons, a Secret Service agent’s most important weapon is his or her intelligence. An agent must be able to immediately grasp new information and be able to process that information quickly. Agents are constantly placed in new and unfamiliar situations that require a high degree of intellect to successfully surmount. Also, the ability to effectively communicate both verbally and in writing goes hand in hand with this quality.


Secret Service agents are constantly exposed to situations of potential violence and danger. A Secret Service agent must be able to asses a situation, then take appropriate action in a matter of milliseconds. Failure to do so can result in the death or injury of other agents, citizens, or the President of the United States. A person that cannot make sound and timely decisions should not seek this profession.

Physical Courage.

Secret Service agents by virtue of their assignment may be required to sacrifice their own lives for that of the President of the United States. While this is an extreme example, it is quite real as agent Tim McCarthy demonstrated by placing himself between gunfire and President Reagan. The result was agent McCarthy being shot and seriously wounded. By doing so, he in all likelihood saved President Reagans life. On a daily basis, agents are constantly called upon to expose themselves to dangers the reasonable prudent person would not consider.

Physical Stamina/Discipline.

Secret Service agents frequently work very long hours with little sleep or nutrition. For an agent on the presidential detail, it is not uncommon to work up to 30 days consecutively up to 12 hours per day. Only those agents possessing the highest level of physical fitness can withstand the sometimes-brutal work schedules. In order to survive this way of life, the most effective agents engage in challenging physical training on a daily basis, even at the expense of giving up precious sleep. This level of fitness and the willingness to forego sleep in favor of working out cannot be accomplished without a large degree of self-discipline.


The most effective agents in addition to possessing the traits already mentioned are of high integrity and character. Integrity is defined in its simplest of terms as doing what is right even when no one is looking. There are many times when Secret Service agents operate alone and in situations where only they know the true details of an event. Lives may be saved or lost, or the judicial outcome of a criminal case may very well depend upon an agent’s veracity. For those reasons, an agent’s word and integrity must be without question. 



Meet Dan Emmett!

After a stint in the Marine Corps, DAN EMMETT joined the United States Secret Service, serving on the elite Counter Assault Team before being selected for the most coveted of all assignments in the Secret Service, the Presidential Protective Division. After 21 years as an agent, Emmett retired from the Secret Service and today is an adjunct professor as well as a security consultant for both private industry and the United States government. 


Meet I Am a Secret Service Agent!

Dan Emmett was just eight years old when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The events surrounding the President’s death shaped the course of young Emmett’s life as he set a goal of becoming a US Secret Service agent—one of a special group of people willing to trade their lives for that of the President, if necessary.

I Am A Secret Service Agent is the essential book on the Secret Service—with stories from some of the author’s more high-profile assignments in his twenty-one years of service, where he provided protection worldwide for Presidents George Herbert Walker Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, and George W. Bush. Dan Emmett describes the professional challenges faced by Secret Service agents as well as the physical and emotional toll that can be inflicted on both agents and their families. I Am A Secret Service Agent also shares firsthand details about the duties and challenges of conducting presidential advances, dealing with the media, driving the President in a bullet-proof limousine, running alongside him through the streets of Washington, and flying with him on Air Force One.

With fascinating anecdotes, Emmett weaves keen insight into the unique culture and history of the Secret Service with the inner workings of the White House. 


I Am a Secret Agent

By:Dan Emmett with Charles Maynard

Release Date: June 6, 2017 


     Two winners will receive a copy of I Am a Secret Agent. US & Canada only.

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