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Become a Military Intelligence Specialist: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a military intelligence specialist. Research the education requirements, training and experience you will need to start a career as a military intelligence specialist. View article »

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Video Transcript

Military Intelligence Specialists

Military intelligence specialists gather, research and analyze the geographic, linguistic and sociological information necessary for military operations to be successful. The raw data presented by military intelligence specialists to commanders helps military leaders determine the most advantageous course of action, and the accuracy of the data presented can impact the safety of the military unit as a whole. An intelligence officer typically has a specialty that determines what a job will entail.

This job can include leadership and management responsibilities, such as prioritizing activities and resources, analyzing received intelligence, maintaining relevant files for long-term projects and delivering reports to senior staff. Military intelligence specialists can be assigned to various locations, including ships at sea for naval military intelligence specialists, for example.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's
Degree Field(s) The Pentagon has a list of 17 majors which may be relevant to positions in this field
Key Skills Critical thinking, analytical skills and a strong ability to communicate; reading comprehension, active listening and learning, speaking, writing, judgment and decision-making, complex problem solving, map reading, coordination and monitoring skills
Computer Skills Ability to use databases, imagery exploitation software
Technical Skills Knowledge of digital photography, signals and communication equipment, surveillance systems, military aerial systems and geographic information systems (GIS)
Salary (2016) $86,426 (median annual salary for intelligence officers, which include military intelligence specialists)

Sources: The Pentagon, O*Net Online, U.S. Army, Payscale.com

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Steps for Military Intelligence

What steps do I need to take to be a military intelligence specialist?

Step 1: Acquire a Degree

A bachelor's degree is typically required for all aspiring officers in the military. Initial rank may be determined not only by level of degree earned, but by the particular field in which that degree is acquired. According to the U.S. Pentagon, there are 17 academic fields which may potentially be relevant when determining the service grade for a particular recruit. Among these are political science, military science and cartography.

Beyond the bachelor's degree level, aspiring intelligence officers may complete master's or doctoral programs in a number of relevant fields, including political science, history, military science, law and engineering. The level of education an aspiring intelligence officer possesses, as well as the relevancy of that subject, can dictate how much military experience is required to become an intelligence officer and at what level a new officer may enter into the military.

You will want to participate in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). College students who wish to enter the U.S. military may find it advantageous to join the local ROTC training program offered by their school. ROTC is an academic elective that provides instruction on army customs, military tactics, leadership skills, physical fitness, weaponry, personnel management and decision-making skills. Students who complete an ROTC program in college will typically enter the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant. Such an experience may help prepare the military recruit for the physical, mental and emotional demands of a life in active military duty.

Step 2: Enlist in the Military

In order to be trained for a career as a military intelligence specialist, it's necessary to join the armed forces. All military recruits are required to take the ASVAB exam, a skills battery that evaluates aptitude and ability in a number of different areas. Individuals wishing to apply for positions in military intelligence may need to score well in particular skills in order to be recruited for this field. New military recruits are also required to undergo a series of physical examinations before being accepted into the armed forces, including vision and hearing exams, testing of blood and urine samples and a drug test.

It's important for you to decide on a specialization. Within the field of military intelligence, there are six different specializations:

  1. Imagery intelligence
  2. All-source intelligence
  3. Counterintelligence
  4. Human intelligence
  5. Signals intelligence
  6. All-source intelligence aviator

The specialization chosen will determine the particular skills in which the recruit is eventually employed. Examples of such duties might include analyzing photographic data, organizing counterintelligence investigations or interviewing people.

Step 3: Complete Military Training

Military recruits chosen to be intelligence officers will complete the Military Intelligence Officer Basic Course, a training regime that involves both classroom instruction and active experience in the field. During this training the recruits will learn how to take relevant data and figure out what information is implied by that data. Intelligence specialists do not make decisions about what to do with that information, but they must be able to deliver an accurate analysis of raw data. In many cases, training focuses on finding locations and tracking movements.

Step 4: Advance Through the Military Ranks

Military intelligence specialists can advance through the ranks of their branches of service. In the army, for example, military specialists might first become officers within their own specialization. The lowest army officer rank is second lieutenant. It's the job of a military intelligence lieutenant to control and command military intelligence soldiers during combat and intelligence gathering. The rank above second lieutenant is first lieutenant, and the next rank is captain. Military intelligence captains are responsible for leading units of 200 to 300 intelligence soldiers. They also help to train future military intelligence specialists and advise various departments within the military.

Military intelligence specialists gather, research and analyze the information necessary for military operations to be successful. They have college degrees, strong communication and decision-making skills and working knowledge of software and equipment used in the field. And they earn a median annual salary of $86,426.

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