How to become a CBI officer? A detailed guide

Do you have the investigative nerve in you that’s keen on analysis? Are you someone who yearns to break your head on tricky investigations? Here’s a job that can give an exciting test to your analytical skills!

Yes, the prestigious CBI or as the proud acronym reads ” Central Bureau of Investigation” is your right abode! Your sharp wits and nose-for-details can land you in a job that’s worth the challenges. Yes, I said that right. It’s nevertheless a hard climb, but your quirky spirits will find the journey the most interesting.

So, what’s your baby step to this high-profile career? Take a breath! We will take you through all that you need to know!

What is the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)?

Let’s say one of those Interpol member countries wants to conduct an investigation in India. Whom do they contact? The central Beuro of investigation (CBI). Now, that gives you a hint on what CBI is. It is the premier investigation agency in the country. 

For those who are still clueless,  CBI is the agency in charge of dealing with high profile cases such as investigations regarding corruption, breaches of central laws enforceable by the Government of India, multi-state organized crime, multi-agency or international cases, etc. It operates under the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions and is usually handed over cases of corruption, economic crimes, special crimes, suo moto crimes, and other high profile cases. 

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI): Establishment, jurisdiction, branches

The agency which was originally a part of the special police establishment got renamed as the central bureau of investigation (CBI) through a home ministry resolution in 1963. Though this wing was established to investigate corruption inside the government, it’s jurisdiction was later expanded to cover almost all kinds of high profile cases including murder, kidnapping, and terrorism. It can take up such cases only if the state or the central government makes a request. But if ordered by high courts, the CBI can take up any case without waiting for the permission from the concerned government. 

The central bureau of investigation has 6 branches with each of them specializing in investigations in a particular area. They are Anti-Corruption Division, the Special Crimes Division, the Economic Offences Division, the Policy and International Police Cooperation Division, the Administration Division, the Directorate of Prosecution Division and the Central Forensic Science Laboratory Division. 

Okay, this part went a bit too long. Can’t help it. You need to know what you are up for. Now, let’s get to the part that matters the most. How to become a CBI officer?

How to become a CBI officer?

Let me tell you that there are a few routes through which you can get there. While some will let you aim directly for the top roles or group ‘A’ posts in this division, other routes might lead you to a much lower grade. You will have to make your way up the hill from there. Now, let’s look at these routes.

How to become a CBI officer: SSC Combined graduate level (CGL) examination

If you are okay with taking up the post of a sub-inspector in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and is planning to climb up the ladder from there, SSC’s Combined Graduate Level (CGL) examination is the pathway I would recommend. All direct recruitments to Group B and Group C posts in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) are through Short service commission (SSC) exams. In fact, this is the most popular route towards becoming a CBI officer. But that doesn’t mean this is anywhere close to easy. Competition! You will have to face it. A post under the central government, big or small, what else can you expect? 

The minimum eligibility for a candidate to appear for the Combined graduate level exam is to have an undergraduate degree from any recognized university. You should be below the age of 25 and also meet the physical and medical requirements. 

Now, let’s talk about the process

It involves three stages. The combined graduate level examination, followed by medical examination and personal interview. 

Combined graduate level examination

The combined graduate level examination consists of two rounds of written examination. Both the rounds will be objective in nature and the candidate will have to attempt answering multiple-choice questions. 

The first round has only one paper and the duration of this round will be 2 hours.  This paper intends to test a candidate’s general intelligence and reasoning skills, general awareness, quantitative aptitude, and English comprehension.  This paper will have 200 questions with each carrying one mark. 

The second round has two papers with each having 200 hundred questions. A candidate will be given 2 hours for each paper and his or her quantitative aptitude and English language abilities will be tested in this round. 

Medical examination

You must be aware of things that happen during the selection process for police service or the army. Along with all those educational requirements, you will also have to meet the physical requirements as well. After all the things I told you earlier about the central bureau of investigation, you can’t expect to get away with this part. Your physical and mental fitness, your ability to cope up with different physically demanding situations, all will be tested here. And of course, the requirements will be a bit different for males and females. You can check the SSC official notification for more details about this stage.

Personal interview

First of all, you will get here only if the first two stages are cleared. Here, a panel from the central bureau of investigation will interview you. They will test your abilities again to determine if you are the right candidate. This is the final stage of the process and you will join the CBI as a sub-inspector if you clear this. 

From here you will have to climb up the ladder to reach top-level position.  This happens through promotion by seniority or Limited Departmental Competitive Examination.

How to become a CBI officer: UPSC Civil services examination

What if you don’t wish to take the long route? Yes, you will have the option to become a CBI group A officer directly without waiting in the long queue for promotions. But that’s going to be a hard nut to crack. 

There is a provision for IPS officers to get transferred to State Police Cadres which includes CBI, IB, and RAW. Here, they can join the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as group A officers. But for this, you’ve to become an IPS officer first.

Yes, I’m talking about the UPSC civil service examination. You’ve to clear that with a rank good enough to qualify for Indian Police service (IPS). Then, you can try for a transfer to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). 

Now, how to become an IPS officer? That’s common knowledge. IPS is one of the All India Services (AIS) and the recruitment happens through UPSC Civil service examination. The Civil Services examination has 3 stages. Namely, the prelims, the mains, and personal interviews. 

The preliminary exam is popularly known as Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT). It consists of two objective type papers. This is followed by the main exam and the personal interview. While submitting the application form for mains, you will have the option to choose the service you wish to get preference for. If you’re going for IAS, you should choose IAS as the first preference. The main exam consists of 9 conventional subjective type papers.

Now, how to become a CBI officer? Those are the two ways through which you can get into the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as an officer. Trust me, that’s not going to be easy. 


The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is India’s premier investigation agency. Becoming a part of this highly reputed organization is a tough nut to crack. The most common routes candidates who wish to join the CBI take are Combined Graduate Level Examination and UPSC civil services examination. We hope this illustrated analysis has cleared your doubts on how to become a CBI officer. Always remember that you make your own destiny. Make sure that you invest time and thought before making your life-changing decisions.

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