Salary Expectations for CIA Agents

As part of what’s known as the intelligence cycle, officers of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (often referred to as “agents” by the uninitiated outside of the agency) collect, disseminate, and analyze foreign intelligence as it relates to national security.

Vital members of the U.S. Intelligence Community, CIA officers provide intelligence to senior U.S. policymakers. The agency is just as complex as you’d imagine (more than 20,000 employees are said to work here, although exact numbers are classified), and much of the work of the organization is shrouded in secrecy.

While the FBI is the federal agency charged with domestic intelligence, the CIA oversees all foreign intelligence. But don’t mistake it for a police agency, as no law enforcement arm exists here. Instead, the officers of the CIA identify, recruit, and manage foreign assets with access to pertinent information, with the sole purpose of extracting intelligence of a national security interest. The information gained by CIA officers help shape U.S. foreign and national security policy, including decisions about initiating covert operations and striking high-value targets—yes, it’s that important.

As you would expect, it’s a career path that comes with its share of personal and professional rewards—including salaries that often reach the six figures along with federal government benefits that are the envy of other agencies.

 


A Closer Look at the Starting Salary Ranges for CIA Officers in Various Specialties

Hiring/Pay Bonuses for CIA Officers

Benefits and Perks for CIA Officers


 

A Closer Look at the Starting Salary Ranges for CIA Officers in Various Specialties

As a governmental agency, the CIA follows the General Schedule (GS)-the pay scale for federal employees. The GS features 15 pay grades (GS-1 to GS-15) and ten pay steps within each grade. Based on current CIA job descriptions, most CIA officer positions start at the GS-10/11 level.

Beyond a job’s standard education and experience requirements, starting salaries in the CIA are largely dependent on experience level. Therefore, you’ll notice rather broad starting salary ranges:

  • Collection Management Officer
  • Starting salary: $59,426 – $90,461
  • Minimum qualifications: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university (no preferred major or program of study) and a minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Director of Operations Language Officer
    • Starting salary: $65,442 – $108,422
    • Minimum qualifications: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university (no preferred major or program of study) and a minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Operations Officer
    • Starting salary: $59,426 – $90,461
    • Minimum qualifications: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university (no preferred major or program of study) and a minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Specialized Skills Officer
    • Starting salary: $65,442 – $90,461
    • Minimum qualifications: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university (no preferred major or program of study) and a minimum GPA of 3.0
    • Knowledge/experience in social media, marketing, crisis communication, technology development, advertising, business, finance, military psychological operations, military aviation fields, and/or counterintelligence
  • Staff Operations Officer
    • Starting Salary: $59,426 – $90,461
    • Minimum qualifications: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university (no preferred major or program of study) and a minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Targeting Officer
    • Starting Salary: $59,426 – $90,461
    • Minimum qualifications: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university (no preferred major or program of study) and a minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Technical Operations Officer
    • Starting Salary: $57,510 – $152,352
    • Minimum qualifications: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and a minimum GPA of 3.0 in one of the following fields:
      • Biology
      • Chemistry
      • Computer Science
      • Engineering (electrical, computer, mechanical, aerospace, etc.)
      • Material Science
      • Mathematics/Statistics
      • Physics
    • Experience in one or more of the following areas: Additive manufacturing, analog design/circuits, digital design/circuits, digital signal processing design and programming, fiber optics/cable communications, internet/web technology, networking security/engineering, programming, project/program management, signal processing and analysis, systems architecture/engineering, video/audio design and circuits, voice/data communications
  • Cyber Security Officer
    • Minimum Salary: $81,785 – $144,538
    • Minimum qualifications: Bachelor’s degree and minimum GPA of 3.0 in one of the following fields:
      • Information Assurance
      • Computer Science
      • Cyber Security
      • Computer Engineering
    • Track record of progressively responsible cyber experience in one or more information security areas, such as: system security penetration testing, systems evaluation, hunt operations for malicious actors, security information management/security event management, network mapping, encryption systems and public key infrastructure
  • Multi-Discipline Security Officer
    • Starting Salary: $53,285 – $108,422
    • Minimum qualifications: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university (no preferred major or program of study) and a minimum GPA of 3.0
    • Desired qualifications: Professional certifications in physical security, personnel security, cyber protection, or acquisition disciplines
  • Cyber Exploitation Officer
    • Starting Salary: $68,968 – $109,943
    • Minimum qualifications: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and a minimum GPA of 3.0 in one of the following (or related) fields: computer science, digital/computer/network forensics, computer engineering, applied mathematics, information security/information assurance, telecommunications, data analysis/analytics
    • Desired qualifications: foreign language skills and ability to script/code

According to the CIA, most officers are hired at an entry level, and they must complete classroom training, practical exercises, and a variety of interim assignments during their first two years of service. After this foundational training is complete, officers move on to advanced training activities designed to prepare them in their selected profession. Because of this extensive level of training, officers of the CIA must commit to a five-year contract term agreement.

Hiring/Pay Bonuses for CIA Officers

Are you bilingual? If so, you’re the perfect candidate for a foreign language incentive.

The CIA values officers who are proficient in a foreign language, preferably one that they consider “mission critical,” and are willing to pay out hiring and/or bi-weekly bonuses for employees with these skills:

  • Foreign Language Incentive Program: If you qualify under the Language Maintenance Program, which includes possessing and maintaining language proficiency from a qualifying list of languages, you’ll receive a maintenance bonus pay that ranges from $75 to $400 bi-weekly. And if you qualify for their Language Use Program by using another language in your CIA position, you’ll earn another bi-weekly bonus.
  • Language Proficiency Hiring Bonus: If you meet the minimum proficiency requirements from the CIA’s list of qualifying languages and you work in a language-designated occupation, you may qualify for a hiring bonus of up to $35,000.
  • Mission Critical Language Hiring Bonus: If you are proficient in one or more of the CIA’s “mission critical” languages, you may qualify for a hiring bonus of $5,000 for each language.
  • Pre-Entrance On-Duty (EOD) Mission Critical Hiring Bonus: If you receive a conditional officer of employment for a language-designated occupation and you meet proficiency requirements in a mission critical language, you may qualify for a bi-weekly bonus of between $75 and $250.

Benefits and Perks for CIA Officers

As employees of the federal government, CIA officers enjoy outstanding benefits and perks that can really add to their overall salary package.

  • Annual leave: You’ll earn 13 days of annual leave for the first three years of your employment with the CIA. Thereafter, you’ll earn 20 days of annual leave until your fifteenth year. Work with the agency for more than 15 years and you’ll enjoy 26 days of annual leave. If you serve overseas, you can add up to 15 days of leave annually.
  • Sick/Family-Friendly Leave: You’ll earn 13 days of leave each year to use for illness, adoption, or medical appointments.
  • Alternative Work Schedules: As an employee of the CIA, you may be eligible for alternative work schedules that include flextime, a compressed work week, part-time, job-sharing, and more.
  • Wealth: The CIA has plenty of opportunities to build and protect your wealth, including flexible spending accounts, life insurance, and an outstanding, three-tier retirement program that a Thrift Savings Plan, Social Security, and the FERS Basic Benefit Plan. CIA officers may retire at age 50 if they have 20 or more years of service; others can retire by age 55-57.
  • Student Loan Repayment Assistance Program: This program helps employees repay student loans that they accrued before employment. Maximum benefits include $5,000 a year/$30,000 lifetime maximum.
  • Supplemental Insurance: A number of options are available for dental, vision, and long-term care insurance.

 

Salary and employment data compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which CIA officers work. 

All salary and employment data accessed August 2020.

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