How to Become an Intelligence Analyst: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Research the requirements to become an intelligence analyst. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in intelligence analysis.

Do I Want to Be an Intelligence Analyst?

Intelligence analysts work for a variety of organizations, most notably federal government agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Security Agency (NSA), and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The tasks involved in this line of work entail the extensive research into and collection of information from many sources. Intelligence analysts then sort, target, and identify relevant data, which is reported to key officials.

Individuals employed by government bodies usually enjoy a measure of job security as well as good benefits. Each organization will have their own unique pay grades, salary tables, and job titles. For example, the salary for a position with the CIA as an intelligence analyst ranges from $50,864 to $99, 296 per year. Intelligence analysts rarely work in the field and spend most of their time in an office or digital laboratory, sifting through and deciphering information pertinent to law enforcement cases. This job carries less risk of personal injury than most careers related to law enforcement.


Job Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Intelligence studies, national security, political science
Experience Some experience preferred in areas like cryptology, intelligence collection, military or foreign service
Key Skills/Requirements Critical thinking, analytical skills, problem solving, decision making, communication skills, interpersonal skills, foreign language skills preferred, ability to pass background investigation or obtain security clearance, must be a U.S. citizen
Computer Skills Proficiency with industry software used to perform classified tasks

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

An intelligence analyst is expected to have earned at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. Degrees in intelligence studies, political science, national security and international studies are all beneficial to aspiring analysts. In addition, coursework in counter-terrorism and homeland security can increase employment opportunities. Fluency in another language is also important for some positions. Computer courses are also helpful.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship program. Participating in an internship provides students with the opportunity to learn more about the field of intelligence analysis. Depending on the sponsoring agency, the program highlights may include providing aspiring candidates with an overview of how the process of intelligence gathering works from the initial point of research to collection, assessment and preparing reports.

Step 2: Apply for a Position

Those who successfully complete a rigorous interview and testing process may be offered a position as an intelligence analyst. Application and acceptance standards are quite high and stringent. Disqualification is based on several factors depending on the hiring agency and includes having a criminal record and illegal drug use.

Success Tip:

  • Be prepared for a background investigation. Working as an intelligence analyst includes handling confidential information. Moreover, an extensive background investigation is required. Obtaining a position working for top-level federal agencies, such as the FBI, CIA, or NSA, entail several lengthy steps including passing a polygraph examination as well as criminal record and credit checks. Past and current employers and neighbors will be questioned, and references will be required. These thorough investigations usually take several months to complete.

Step 3: Continue Your Education

In order to showcase your dedication, it is important to take the initiative! For example, if you were interested in working on issues related to a particular part of the world, do your best to become acquainted with the social, cultural, political, and economic climates of those areas. In addition, do your best to pick up the local language. The better informed you are the more qualified you become to tackle issues you're interested in.

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