Pierson will succeed Mark Sullivan, who has been director since 2006. Sullivan announced his retirement last month.
"Over her 30 years of experience with the Secret Service, Julia has consistently exemplified the spirit and dedication the men and women of the service demonstrate every day," Obama said in announcing his intention to appoint Pierson director.
"Julia is eminently qualified to lead the agency that not only safeguards Americans at major events and secures our financial system but also protects our leaders and our first families, including my own."
Pierson began her career in the Secret Service, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, in its Miami and Orlando, Fla., field offices. She also has served as deputy assistant director of the Office of Protective Operations, assistant director of Human Resources and Training and most recently as the director's chief of staff.
"Julia has had an exemplary career and I know these experiences will guide her as she takes on this new challenge to lead the impressive men and women of this important agency," the president said.
Sullivan's tenure was marred last year by allegations that about a dozen agents, along with military personnel, had been involved with prostitutes while on assignment in Colombia ahead of a presidential visit.