What is Included in an FBI Background Check?

While many employers require current and potential employees to undergo background checks, people hoping to secure a job in a state or federal agency are usually subject to an FBI background check. These background checks include slightly different information from traditional employment background checks. Read on to learn what’s involved in an FBI background check.

Who is required to have an FBI background check?

 FBI background checks are required for all prospective employees of federal agencies, public and private schools, local law enforcement, and independent contractor positions that handle sensitive data. Depending on individual state laws, additional professions may also require FBI background checks.

What information is included in an FBI background check?

 FBI background checks usually contain the following information:

  • Criminal history
  • Fingerprinting
  • Credit history
  • Security clearance

Criminal history

All FBI background checks include a summary of your criminal history. The FBI compiles criminal history through information gathered from fingerprint matches obtained through federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. While any company can require a background check as a condition of employment, only you can request a copy of your criminal history summary from the FBI.


While fingerprints are required for anyone who is applying for a position with a federal agency, other professions may require fingerprinting as well. Most states require teachers and daycare providers to submit their fingerprints, and some municipalities require massage therapists, coaches of youth sports teams, and school janitors to undergo fingerprinting as well. Check with your state and local law enforcement officials about locations and proper procedures for fingerprint collection.

Credit history

An FBI background check may also include a credit history. A credit history is often required for security clearance with a government agency or government contractor. According to the FBI, a poor credit history may not disqualify you as a job candidate, but it could delay hiring until the negative entries on your credit are resolved. If the issues on your credit report are significant—such as bankruptcies or multiple judgements—security clearance may be denied.

Security clearance

Security clearance is required for all employees who have a “need-to-know” status with national security info classified at the Confidential or Secret level, including people who work for government contractors who have access to national security data. Along with criminal and credit history, security clearance background checks include interviews with friends, relatives, and neighbors of prospective employees. These interviews are conducted in person by an FBI agent. Top Secret clearance involves all of the requirements at the Confidential and Secret level, plus a background investigation covering a 10-year time period.

How are FBI background checks different from other employment background checks?

Employment background checks typically include the following information:

  • Criminal background
  • Educational history
  • Employment history
  • Residential history
  • Credit history

While there is some overlap with FBI background checks—specifically the criminal background and credit history—FBI background checks usually do not include a potential employee’s educational history, employment history, or residential history. Similarly, most employment background checks do not include fingerprinting or security clearance.

If you have been denied employment due to false information on your FBI background check, our law firm may be able to help. Contact us today.