Aug 23, 2016

Aug 23, 2016

Careers in Intelligence

intelligence training, field agents, FBI
Popular television series like “Homeland,” “Quantico,” and the BBC/WGBH series “Sherlock” give us insight into the careers and job aspects of men and women who work in various disciplines of intelligence.

While the popular trope associates a job in intelligence with either being a government agent or a computer wiz, there are many other opportunities for intelligent and skilled individuals to work in exciting positions in the world of intelligence.

Let’s investigate and learn more about who really works in intelligence and what they do.

They Aren’t All James Bond


Not everyone who works in intelligence is dapper and daring, ready to travel the world on missions to gather intel with the help of hi-tech gadgets and fast cars. It might surprise you to know that they often have skills and interests much like yours, and lead ordinary (although exciting and fulfilling in different ways) lives that often keep them grounded to their hometowns and communities.
The number of women working in intelligence is growing (making up nearly 50% of the workforce), with the CIA currently campaigning to encourage more women to join the Agency.[1] Women have been promoted to five of the CIA's top eight positions, indicating that gender is not an obstacle to entry or success in this field.



Women are leaders at the CIA
Photo Credit: www.aflo.com and NBC

Sadly, while women seem to hold equal footing at the CIA, the same can not be said regarding other types of diversity. The numbers of racial and religious minorities working there have been abysmal, sparking a new mission to make vast improvements.[2]


If They Aren’t Spies or Hackers, What Do They Do?

People who work in intelligence can be: 
  • Accountants
  • Analysts[3]
  • Computer/Technical Specialists
  • Economists
  • Engineers
  • Linguists
  • Managers and Administrators
  • Mathematicians
  • Psychologists
  • Researchers
  • Scientists
  • and much more.


Intelligence at work: Behavioral Analysts, Linguists, Tech Specialists, and agents on “Criminal Minds”. Image Credit: go.sky.com

There are thousands of jobs in intelligence, with opportunities for all kinds of professionals.[4]

As we discussed in “What is Intelligence?”, intelligence is not limited to cyber intelligence or human intelligence— there are jobs for chemists in forensic intelligence, technical specialists in signals intelligence, actuaries in financial intelligence, etc.

What Are Their Qualifications?

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs), as well as education and experience meeting a high standard are required to work in intelligence.

Employees in intelligence usually have academic degrees in their intelligence discipline, and have demonstrated expertise in their filed.
Skills needed to work in intelligence:

  • Analytic methodologies
  • Communication skills (oral and written)
  • Research methods
  • Teamwork
  • Working with structured and unstructured data
  • Cognitive abilities and skills
  • and more.

Intelligence process resembles a puzzle – bits of data are gathered from various information sources in different formats. One needs analytical skills in order to bring all the pieces together and solve the puzzle.

People who work in intelligence are also subject to:
  • IQ tests
  • Health examinations
  • Personality tests
  • Criminal background checks
  • Periodical clearance procedure
  • Vetting through interviews of family, friends, co-workers, schools, and financial institutions.
Sensitive information (e.g., DNA for criminal testing, government secrets related to espionage, financial account information in fraud cases) must be treated according to protocol, and intelligence agencies and institutions want to ensure that their employees are of high moral character, are fully capable, and have the personal intelligence (the “head for it”) to handle the intel they work with in their professions. [5]



By Tech. Sgt. Dave Nolan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


There are also pieces of information that are shared between a very limited number of privies only (may be even as less as 2 or 3). As a rule, such an information is always very classified and it has direct impact on national security. Being a privy requires the highest level of self-discipline and assumption since some critical decisions have to be made in a real time.

Where Do They Work?

In addition to working for law enforcement and government agencies (armed forces, police, customs, INTERPOL for domestic and foreign intelligence), intelligence employees also work in other sectors:

  • Private investigation firms
  • Banks
  • Insurance companies
  • Defense contractors
  • Private corporations
Private intelligence agencies also exist, such as Egeria in Canada, Terrogence and Black Cube in Israel and the UK, AEGIS in the UK, and Kroll in the USA. Since the September 11th terror attacks on the USA, the use of private sector intelligence has greatly increased.[6]

People of myriad backgrounds and interests work in intelligence, and while making the cut can be challenging, those who do are highly skilled professionals who are working to discover and defend us all.


[1]http://www.attn.com/stories/10171/how-cia-is-trying-to-recruit-women
[2]http://time.com/3826472/cia-diversity/
[3]http://matthewburton.org/become-an-intelligence-analyst/
[4]https://www.intelligencecareers.gov/iccareers.html
[5]https://news.clearancejobs.com/2012/12/17/getting-a-job-in-the-intelligence-community-what-you-need-to-know/
[6]http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/19162/role_of_private_corporations_in_the_intelligence_community.html


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