When thinking of an “intelligence analyst,” most people’s minds go to well-known government organizations like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). But the career possibilities for intelligence analysts are far more diverse. The intelligence community’s overarching goal is to gather, analyze and deliver foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information to U.S. leaders. The career field thus spans numerous government branches — including the president and policy-makers — as well as the military, law enforcement and public and private companies.
A career at a national intelligence agency is not a quick-hire position — it requires intense dedication and educational experience, as well as the completion of a lengthy government hiring process. In a pool of competitive applicants, certain traits, skills and experiences will help you stand out to hiring officers. You can highlight these characteristics during the application process to land your dream job in intelligence.
How to Get a Job in the Intelligence Community: DIA, NSA, CIA, FBI, and More
The intelligence community is composed of several government organizations and other public and private agencies. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), National Security Agency (NSA), CIA, FBI and various government and military departments are among the 17 member agencies that make up the intelligence community.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) organizes and coordinates the efforts of the other 16 agencies. From education and business to computer science and security, there are diverse career fields within the intelligence community that require different skill sets. Some skills are universally important across all intelligence careers, while others may be specific to a position.
The journey toward getting a job in intelligence is both demanding and rewarding. The application process varies between different intelligence agencies, but several steps are required:
Obtaining a security clearance: The government must grant you a security clearance before finalizing the hiring process. This clearance depends on a number of factors relating to your life history and overall fitness for guarding the nation’s secrets. Soundness of judgment, willingness to abide by regulations, risk of coercion and personal integrity are all important factors. Many intelligence agencies also require a polygraph test to confirm the truthfulness of the information provided during your security clearance.
Verifying citizenship: You must be a U.S. citizen to apply. Dual citizenship does not automatically disqualify you from applying, as long as you are not deemed a security threat.
Testing drug use: The intelligence community is a drug-free workplace, and recent or frequent use of drugs may qualify you as a security risk. Your application may involve urine testing, and intelligence employees are subject to random urine testing, as well.
Checking personal integrity and conduct: Security clearance also depends on the nature, extent, severity and likelihood of continuing past behavior. Security officials weigh all information — past and present, favorable and unfavorable — as well as mitigating factors in determining whether to grant clearance.
Examining medical fitness: Intelligence agencies seek to ensure intelligence employees can perform essential job functions. Physical and psychological fitness are both factors in the hiring process.
A Look Into Working in the Intelligence Community
From attorneys to physicists to criminal investigators, the intelligence community depends on a varied and highly qualified workforce. You will share many values and experiences with your coworkers in the intelligence community. The Constitution and various laws and regulations govern all national intelligence activities.
The intelligence community also shares core values between all departments, as formally issued by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in 2014 in a document regarding the principles for professional ethics. Regardless of individual position or agency affiliation, these principles — Mission, Truth, Lawfulness, Integrity, Stewardship, Excellence and Diversity — are the standards all intelligence employees must uphold. They reflect the tremendous responsibilities the intelligence community collectively bears.
Skills Needed to Be an Intelligence Analyst
Intelligence analysts are responsible for evaluating information and data to identify and mitigate threats to national security. Hiring managers will be looking for candidates with certain traits, experiences and skills:
Personal traits: Reliability, honesty, soundness of judgment, discretion and strength of character are all examples of traits you should possess and emphasize in your application.
Educational experience: Most applicants should consider earning a graduate degree, especially in law, to be a competitive candidate. Along with computer science ability, being highly competent in your particular field of expertise is a sought-after trait. Educational experience in data science and analysis, history, political science, international relations and information sciences are all applicable backgrounds for intelligence analysis.
Skills: Intelligence analysts must be capable of problem-solving by identifying, researching and assessing complex issues. Strong verbal and written communication skills are needed for the intelligence analyst career, ideally backed by a nuanced understanding of economics, politics and international affairs. Intelligence analysts will also have to make critical decisions under pressure based on analytic tools and databases.
In general, you will need to demonstrate strong character, extensive, relevant educational experience and a range of skills. These skills include problem-solving, research and writing, communication, decision-making and the ability to work under pressure. In some cases, as with FBI intelligence analysts, having specialized knowledge of the languages, cultures and histories of certain geographic regions is also a valuable skill.
How to Get Into the Intelligence Community: Career Paths and Backgrounds
The intelligence community includes a diverse set of departments and agencies, and there is no one path to starting an intelligence career. It may be best to think of intelligence as an accession career, meaning most people enter the field from another profession. The military, law enforcement, the information technology industry and colleges and universities are a few major sources of prospective candidates.
But you don’t need to come from one of these paths to get into the intelligence community. No matter your career history, you must first receive clearance based on factors like security risk, moral character, personal conduct and medical fitness before even starting the rigorous application process. From there, you should emphasize certain personal characteristics, educational experiences and hard and soft skills to be a competitive candidate in the eyes of hiring officers.
Contact CareerProPlus Today for Help Getting a Job in Intelligence
If you’re thinking of pursuing a career in the intelligence field, be prepared for an involved application process. You will need to demonstrate moral and medical fitness, expertise in your current field and a range of critical skills to succeed as an intelligence analyst. CareerProPlus is the recognized industry expert for resume writing and career coaching, and we have over two decades of experience serving military, corporate and federal clients. To get started on your intelligence career, contact us at CareerProPlus today.
Barbara Adams is the founder and CEO of CareerPro Global, Inc. and has led the company since 1990. She is recognized as one of the pioneers in the career services industry and a titan of the resume writing industry. Barbara has built CPG into one of the largest and fastest-growing premier career services organizations industry-wide. She is committed to CPG’s core factors that include quality product, exceptional customer service, a successful proven process, and taking care of her people. Barbara has Co-Authored numerous books, including:
Roadmap to the Senior Executive Service
Roadmap to Becoming an Administrative Law Judge
Job-Winning Military to Civilian Resumes
Roadmap to Federal Jobs
She also co-authored the certification requirements for the Master Military Resume Writer (MMRW) and the Master Federal Career Advisor and Trainer (MFCA-T) certifications.