The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) serves the nation’s interests by collecting and analyzing foreign intelligence related to national security threats, foreign governments and industries, as well as terrorist cells operating both in and outside of war zones. Intelligence obtained by the CIA is disseminated to key U.S. heads of state, including the President and his cabinet, and is used to help guide strategic military decisions, as well as decisions concerning foreign policy.
At the request and direction of the President, the CIA operates in a covert manner, ensuring the actions, activities and whereabouts of agents and operatives are never compromised.
It is not a secret that the CIA employs a select group of the most qualified agents to perform undercover operations that contribute to the intelligence cycle. Careers with this prestigious federal agency are reserved for only the most qualified, competent and suitable candidates.
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The Central Intelligence Agency is a massive federal entity that hires professionals with distinct expertise from a variety of backgrounds. The work of the CIA is carried out through four separate offices:
- National Clandestine Service
- Directorate of Intelligence
- Directorate of Science and Technology
- Directorate of Support
Specializations within the CIA deal with everything from congressional affairs and legal issues to tactical operations and counter-espionage. Employees of the CIA may be scientists, engineers, economists, linguists, accountants, computer specialists, and mathematicians, among many others.
How to Become a CIA Agent in Clandestine Services
CIA agents in the CIA’s National Clandestine Services program serve as the front-line gatherers of clandestine information regarding foreign countries. Their work may involve gathering intelligence on international developments of a critical nature, including political, military, weapons of mass destruction, and terrorist issues.
Individuals who want to achieve intelligence positions with the CIA may seek careers as:
- Core collectors
- Operations officers
- Collection management officers
- Staff operations officer
- Specialized skills (targeting officer)
Individuals who want to learn how to become CIA agents in the agency’s clandestine services must meet the requirements for the Clandestine Service and Professional Trainee Programs.
The Professional Trainee (PT) Program (for staff operations officers and specialized skills – targeting officers) is designed for individuals who possess a bachelor’s degree with no significant work experience. Most candidates are between 21 and 25 years old.
The Clandestine Service (CST) Program (for core collectors, operations officers and collection management officers) is designed for individuals with a bachelor’s degree, as well as several years of business/military experience. Most candidates are between 26 and 35 years old.
Candidates for CIA agent jobs in clandestine services must:
- Be a citizen of the United States
- Be at least 18 years old
- Possess a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0
- Have strong interpersonal skills
- Have a strong interest in international affairs
- Be able to write clearly and accurately
The CIA lists the following desirable qualifications for CIA agent jobs:
- Experience of foreign lands and traveling abroad
- Experience living abroad
- A sensitivity to other cultures
- Foreign language proficiency
- The “critical” languages of the CIA include: Arabic, Dari, Korean, Persian, Somali, Chinese, Indonesian, Pashto, Turkish, Urdu, and Kurdish
Bachelor’s degrees of interest include:
- International business
- International relations
- Biological engineering
- Chemical engineering
- Physical science
- Nuclear science
Individuals applying for CIA agent jobs with the National Clandestine Service must include their college transcripts and a one-page cover letter detailing why they are interested in an NCS career and what distinguishes them from other applicants.
The application process includes two personal interviews, a medical and psychological examination, a polygraph interview, and an extensive background investigation.
How to Become a CIA Special Agent in Investigations
The CIA’s Inspector General is the agency’s investigative unit that is responsible for conducting inquiries into possible violations of laws, mismanagement, abuse of authority, gross waste of funds, and any dangers to the public health or safety within the CIA.
Individuals who want to become CIA agents through the Inspector General must:
- Be United States citizens
- Possess a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0
- Must possess at least three years of criminal investigative experience focused on complex matters
- Have considerable knowledge of criminal and administrative investigative techniques
- Be able to assemble and analyze large quantities of data
- Be able to discern key issues and draw appropriate conclusions
- Be able to work independently or part of a team
- Be able to work under pressure
- Be able to interact with people of different cultures, backgrounds, and values
- Have strong negotiation skills, discretion, and diplomacy
- Have not used illegal drugs within the past 12 months
Although specific bachelor degree programs are not a requirement for achieving CIA agent investigative jobs, many candidates in this field pursue bachelor degree programs in:
- Criminal justice
- Emergency management
- Homeland security
- Police science
- Criminal justice administration
Individuals must complete the 56-day Criminal Investigation Training Program through the Federal Law Enforcement Training Program as a condition of employment. The CIA training program is an extensive, 18-month, headquarters-based program.