Jobs with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

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The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is an independent federal agency that provides national security intelligence to U.S. policymakers involving foreign countries and their citizens. The work of the CIA involves carrying out an “intelligence cycle,” which includes collecting, analyzing, and disseminating intelligence information to government officials.

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The CIA is under the guidance of a Director, who is nominated by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

The CIA is organized into five components:

  • National Clandestine Service
  • Directorate of Intelligence
  • Directorate of Science and Technology
  • Directorate of Support
  • Offices of the Director

Although, at first glance, it may appear that the CIA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) share many of the same responsibilities, these two federal agencies are, in fact, quite different. They are both members of the U.S. Intelligence Community; however, the CIA has no law enforcement function, instead focusing its efforts on collecting and analyzing information that may be crucial to the formation of U.S. policy, particularly in the area of national security.

Job Classifications and Specialties within the CIA

Even though special agents are the most visible employees of the CIA, this federal agency has a wide array of jobs for individuals interested in CIA careers. Just a few of the career options within the CIA include:

  • Analysis
  • Auditing
  • Architecture and Engineering
  • Accounting, Budget and Finance
  • Cyber Security
  • Education and Training
  • Data Science
  • Engineering
  • Information Management
  • Information Technology
  • Legal Services
  • Public Affairs
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
  • Sign Language

Three career tracks for individuals interesting in becoming CIA agents are found within the CIA’s Clandestine Service. These individuals serve as the major sources of clandestine information on critical international developments. These CIA agent jobs include:

Collection Management Officer – Certified management officers focus their efforts on clandestine human intelligence collection and dissemination and serve as a bridge between core collectors and the intelligence community. They establish intelligence collection requirements and validate sources of intelligence.

Operations Officer – Operations officers collect intelligence concerning the President, the military, and policymakers by recruiting and handling clandestine human sources.

Specialized Skills Officer – Specialized skills officers, who work both at the CIA headquarters in Washington D.C. and at points across the globe, utilize their language, media, military, and/or technical skills to support CIA operations. These officers include:

  • Targeting officers
  • Programs and plans officers
  • Paramilitary officers
  • Language officers
  • Information resource officers

Staff Operations Officer – Staff operations officers are called upon to guide and support human intelligence collections while protecting their sources. The work of staff operations officers means that they often serve as liaisons between CIA headquarters and CIA agents working overseas.

In-Service Training for CIA Jobs

The entry-level CIA agent job is the core collector. Individuals who want to learn how to become a core collector with the CIA must apply for either the CIA’s Professional Trainee (PT) or the Clandestine Service (CST) program.

To qualify for the CIA’s Professional Trainee (PT) program, individuals must possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Most PTs have little to no substantive work experience.

The Clandestine Service (CST) Program is designed for applicants who possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree and several years of substantive business or military work experience. There is a 35-year maximum age requirement for the CST program.

Candidates for both the PT and CST programs must possess a strong academic record associated with their college degree, and they must have a strong interest in international affairs. Although not required, the following are considered highly desirable for these CIA agent jobs:

  • Individuals who have traveled to, and have knowledge of, foreign countries
  • Individuals who have lived abroad
  • Individuals who have cross-culture sensitivity
  • Individuals who are proficient in:
    • Indonesian
    • Korean
    • Pashto
    • Russia
    • Somali
    • Arabic
    • Chinese
    • Dari
    • Turkish
    • Kurdish
    • Persian
    • Urdu

Highly desirable college or university degrees include:

  • Biological engineering
  • Chemical engineering
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • International business
  • International relations
  • Nuclear engineering
  • Physical science

The application process includes successfully completing two personal interviews, a medical examination, a psychological assessment, a polygraph examination, and an extensive background investigation.

Core collectors (CIA Agents) must complete an 18-month Clandestine Service Trainee program, which trains and certifies them to handle tasks vital to foreign intelligence. Upon completion of the training program, new CIA agents are placed on two career tracks: Operations Officers (OOs) or Collection Management Officers (CMOs).

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