FBI agents are responsible for tracking and investigating violations of federal laws, typically through the use of surveillance, research and coordinating with local law enforcement agencies. Federal law violations might include cases of serial homicide, kidnappings, bombings, bank robberies or fraud.
Contrary to their typical representation in popular culture, such as in the guise of Clarice Starling in "Silence of the Lambs," agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation sometimes describe their daily activities as tedious. Not only must they document and report all of their activities, but the process of investigation itself can be extremely intricate and time-consuming. Large cases often require great attention to detail over an extended period of time before any arrest can be made.
In fact, FBI agents are not always entitled to make arrests themselves, and they have no power whatsoever to punish suspects. Their role is simply to investigate and gather evidence, typically leaving the actual arrests and prosecution to other law enforcement and judicial agencies. An FBI agent is not even guaranteed continued involvement in a case after an arrest has been made.
Some FBI agents work in specialized scientific laboratory roles, where their job is to collect and analyze evidence forensically.
It is common for FBI agents to work alone or in pairs on individual cases.