Matthew Burton

So you want to be an intelligence analyst

Students occasionally write to me and ask for advice on getting a job in the Intelligence Community. (I became an intelligence analyst at DIA after undergrad. I was there for about three years, and after that, I did a few years of consulting for various intel agencies.) The below is a gist of that advice. It is heavily biased by my own experience, and none of the below is meant to be universal.

What is it like?

Before I tell people how to get a job in intelligence, I make sure they actually want to. Many people are attracted to the Intelligence Community because of its depictions in popular culture. That’s fine. But if you want a lasting career in intelligence analysis, you need to get past the superficial intrigue and be happy with the desk job that remains.

Intelligence analysis is a research job, pure and simple. Popular depictions of intelligence analysis–just like popular depictions of police work or emergency rooms–exaggerate the frequency of dramatic, nail-biting case work. The work can be dramatic at times, but most of the time, it is routine and ordinary. You do it from a cubicle. So if you’re not a researcher-at-heart who loves digging through stacks of information, don’t go through the arduous process of getting the security clearance. It will waste your time and your taxpayer dollars.

Your subject of focus won’t necessarily be a matter of public interest. You might work on terrorism. Then again, you could end up working on something like Ukrainian ethnography.

Why would the U.S. Government devote resources to Ukrainian ethnography when the current threat is Islamic extremism? The reason is important to understanding your role as an intelligence analyst: The primary point of intelligence analysis is not to defeat current threats. Instead, it is to foresee, prepare for, and prevent tomorrow’s threats. The Intelligence Community works for policymakers and military leaders. First, the intelligence apparatus produces assessments about global security threats–some immediately critical to US security, some not. Policymakers read the assessments of the immediate threats, then decide on a course of action: call a foreign leader, make a speech, inform Congress, drop a bomb, etc. The assessments about the non-critical issues are mostly ignored by policymakers. These people are very busy, and have time only for two things: things that will be in tomorrow’s headlines, and things that will be headlines unless the policymakers do something about it. Everything else gets largely ignored.

But when the next unforeseen threat arrives, it’s very important that the policymakers have immediate access to expertise–expertise attained through years of quiet research that, until now, received little attention. In order to ensure that this expertise is available, the Intelligence Community focuses on all sorts of subjects that, while not in today’s headlines, may become the next major threat.

Some of these subjects may never get widespread attention during your career. This means that in addition to liking the slog, you have to be content knowing that your hard work may never get any attention from policymakers. You are, in effect, being paid a professional salary to write doctoral theses that few people will ever read. Another way to look at it is that the US Government is subsidizing your intellectual curiosities in order to keep you on retainer, just in case your subject becomes the root of a national security threat.

Develop the right skills

The sole requirement. If intelligence analysis is a research job, that means you have to be able to write well. Even if your particular analysis job doesn’t require you to produce written reports, the essence of your job will be to distill lots of information into an argument, and structure that argument in a way that withstands intense scrutiny. You can’t do that if you can’t put your argument in writing.

I entered college ignorant to the importance of writing. A few key classes changed that, simply by forcing me to compile primary sources, state a thesis, and write a paper supporting that thesis. If you are in college and you want to be an intelligence analyst, focus your curriculum on classes that require you to do this–seminars, laboratories, independent study, etc–as opposed to test-driven, lecture-based courses. The exact subject matter is less important. Chemistry research, history research, Ukrainian ethnography research…it’s all of interest to the Intelligence Community. (Remember: even if it’s not a current threat, they want to be prepared for all possibilities.) If you can gather facts and communicate what those facts mean, you can be an intelligence analyst. Everything else on your résumé is icing.

Icing. While not as important as basic research ability, it does help if you have existing expertise in a subject of current import. Even though all subjects are of interest to the Community, there are more jobs available in Islamic extremism than Ukrainian ethnography. It’s especially beneficial if you have a skill that’s both applicable to a current threat and rare, like Arab linguistics or cyberwarfare.

Some subjects–particularly technical ones–will always be in demand: chemistry, nuclear physics, biology, and computer science come to mind. Expertise in these fields helps the country prepare for the most serious weapons threats.

Books. To help your writing, read On Writing Well. It is excellent. To understand the intellectual challenges of intelligence analysis, read The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis. It is useful for all researchers, regardless of field. (An older edition is online for free.)

Get noticed

The Intelligence Community gets a lot of résumés. Most of them will say nothing about one’s ability to write cogently and form a sound argument. No matter what a résumé claims, it will leave the hiring manager wondering, “Yes, but can this person actually do the job?

Fortunately, because you took college courses that require original research, you have a portfolio of work that proves you have writing skills. Don’t hide your proof. Publish it online. This is the single most important thing you can do to help yourself stand out from everyone else. Don’t worry that your papers aren’t good enough; after all, you aren’t a professional yet. The reader will understand that. Managers seeking recent graduates want to see initiative, curiosity, and potential.

Publishing online used to be hard. That’s not true anymore. If you’re reading this, you can put your research online in under an hour for no fee. Do it. Then provide links in your résumé.

(Bonus opportunity: though not as common an assignment as writing, oral presentations are also a good way to show you can communicate clearly. And unlike the written word, a video shows a hiring manager how well you present yourself and how clearly you speak.)

After you update your résumé with links to writing samples, get your résumé into the hands of a person who physically works at the agency you want to work for.

Note: Many government agencies centralize their recruiting instead of letting individual teams do their own. This means that if you apply for a job online through the standard procedure, your application will go to someone who has no idea what you do or whether you’re good at it. Go ahead and fill out the official application. It can’t hurt. But your time is better spent finding someone on the inside who loves your skills and will advocate for you. 

How do you find such a person? Visit career fairs, use your alumni network, and look for connections on LinkedIn. (I have personally never gotten any value out of LinkedIn, but it is extremely popular in DC. One caveat: most people in intelligence do not advertise their affiliation on social networks.) If you make contact with anyone, send them your résumé and make sure they see your research portfolio. (Caveat: just because a hiring manager wants to hire you, it doesn’t mean they can. The federal hiring process is byzantine. The reasons why merit their own write-up. But the benefits of being known to the hiring manager are invaluable.)

A word about intelligence analysis masters programs. Traditional four-year universities have recently begun offering undergraduate programs in intelligence analysis. Some students have asked me if it’s worth attending. I tell them not to.

Why? Because intelligence analysis isn’t a skill. Research is a skill, and it can be learned in all sorts of different college-level courses. Intelligence, on the other hand, is a practice. And a practice is really best learned on the job.

Will an intelligence analysis degree teach you how to do research? Maybe. But: 1) so will lots of other undergraduate programs, many of which will give you more flexibility as your career preferences evolve, and 2) an intelligence program will probably try to teach you about the bureaucratic machinations of the U.S. Intelligence Community; such things are really best learned on the ground.

For example, one such program’s web site claims that its Bachelors recipients will graduate knowing how to:

  1. Describe the theory and history of the discipline of intelligence.
  2. Demonstrate critical thinking skills.
  3. Analyze collected data/information using a variety of analytic techniques and methodologies.
  4. Communicate analytic products in written, oral, visual, and/or multimedia formats.
  5. Execute extensive open source research and collection management.
  6. Implement and manage intelligence processes and practices.

1 can be learned by reading a few books. 6 is something best learned on the job (because the processes and practices will vary from agency to agency). 2-5 are basic research skills that you should learn in any seminar-intensive college curriculum. Specifically, 5 is a fancy way of saying, “Use the library.” That’s no small feat–most people never come close to understanding all the tools offered by a modern library–but this should be a goal in any research-intensive undergraduate program.

Two caveats:

  • Such programs have–or at least try to have–good career fairs and job placement resources that cater to students seeking jobs in intelligence. So while these programs might not make your résumé better, they could make it easier to get that résumé into the right hands.
  • Some intelligence programs focus on particular disciplines, like geospatial intelligence. This is a specialized type of research, and it is definitely a skill that will make you valuable in intelligence as well as many other sectors. If you know you love maps and want to work with them, go for it. Keep in mind that such programs are available at schools not focused on intelligence, and that they are just as good.

As I said at the beginning, this advice is heavily biased by my own experience. Different intelligence analysts have learned different lessons. Neither of us are wrong. But the above advice worked for me.

 

Thanks to David, Chris, and Mike for reading drafts of this.
This was inspired by Steve Friedl’s far superior So you want to be a consultant…?

Categories: Ideas & Thoughts

Moving on » « An idea for to-do lists

91 Comments

  1. Good column, and I hope it attracts new smart people to the field. There’s an aspect of this, though, that might be colored by the fact that you spent a relatively short period of time in that job. A longer career might reflect something of a different take on the subject. I was persuaded of this by a friend to whom I showed your piece; he spent 30 years as “an analyst” at CIA with a liberal arts degree and a European area focus, and offered this response, asking me not to use his name:

    “I have no significant quarrel with this piece, though I must say that I find it a bit sad. If people ask me what I did for a living, I don’t often respond with ‘intelligence analyst,’ but with ‘intelligence officer.’ The difference, as I perceive and experienced it has to do with the breadth of things that a decent intelligence officer would get to do after a decent probationary period. I think that the piece’s description of a mundane, work-a-day world is a bit flat. I’m certainly not suggesting that I or any of my colleagues spent our time dodging bullets like James Bond.”

    “But, look at the actual record: I worked with information that I knew was the result of human agents risking their lives; I then worked with the agents themselves; I got to write things that sometimes went directly to the President of the United States; I got to discuss issues and analysis with people like the Secretary of Defense, and the SACEUR (when that was the epitome of the military architecture); I briefed Congress on the progress of a war while it was going on, and returned to brief the Deputy Director of the CIA, daily, on the impressions I was taking away from those briefings; I ran a many-million dollar clandestine collection program that related to US technology competitiveness; I served a year at the FBI in the then newly forming field of cyber crime and espionage, I briefed presumptive Presidential successors; I really was able to interact with and positively influence some incredibly talented people in the form of the Intelligence Science Board; and I established a Homeland Security office for the intelligence community.”

    “This could easily be considered bragging, but I was careful not to inflate any one of those experiences. I did all that, and I don’t consider myself to have had a career that is all that far removed from the average experience at the Agency.”

    “Taken on its own merits, I wouldn’t open a quarrel. But, if I was sincerely interested in showing someone the potential of the profession, if done at least moderately well, I’d read them my short list and then ask if that floats their boat. If it doesn’t, then there is always mercenary work!”

    [End of quote, back to lewis]
    I myself only spent a blink of an eye as an analyst per se (1985-86) but I did then have that feeling that, once I got a bit of experience under my belt, I would have a broader contextual understanding of the import of my bookish expertise. Anyway, kudos for writing this great companion piece to your “Working for the Man” classic.

    • matthew burton

      October 13, 2013 — 9:15 pm

      Thanks, Lewis. I fully recognize that my advice is based on my own experience. I did have three former colleagues validate the assertions I’ve made, and I don’t think I’ve said anything above that conflicts with what your friend said: your career will likely have moments similar to those seen in every episode of Homeland, and there is nothing wrong with getting a thrill out of those moments. I sure did.

      But I believe it is very important that aspiring analysts (and officers) aren’t motivated solely by a James Bond impression of the field. When those big moments happen, they happen as a result of passionate work from behind a desk.

  2. This is all true. It is also true that “field officers” generally spend 30% of their time talking to sources with access to information (usually working out of an embassy) and the other 70% of the time writing reports from that conversation, sending it up to HQ, and probably never seeing it again. The sources are the ones who are actually “spies,” not the officers themselves. So yes, while intelligence work is rewarding and important, it is a desk job even in the “field.”

  3. Thank you kindly for this post, and the comments. This further cements for me interest in the field, and I was particularly amused by the reference to Ukranian Ethnography – I imagine watching ones relatively obscure research become headline news would certainly add a sense of job satisfaction rarely found elsewhere.

    Now I need further information on how US allies recruit, aside from online…

  4. Hello,
    Thank you for this article. It was quite interesting and helpful. I am considering going into this field after university. For now I have a question, would majoring in Arabic and Islamic studies at university be useful for intelligence analyst? This major really interests me BUT I do need to think about future job opportunities. I was also considering Arabic and Politics.
    Looking forward to hearing your reply,
    Sophia

    • Arabic and Islamic studies will absolutely help your résumé. In terms of other opportunities, I wouldn’t trade Islamic studies for political science. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a job opening that calls for a major in political science. If your major is going to limit your opportunities, it will mostly be because your major did not teach you a hard (as opposed to soft) skill like programming, engineering, or accounting.

      • I beg to differ slightly. Arabic is an excellent in-demand language, and is a skill many intelligence agencies will be looking for.
        Political Science is also a smart choice. I constantly see Political Science listed under BA requirements for intelligence analyst job postings.
        You have to be smart about your Poli degree. Have an area of concentration. For example, what do you think an intelligence recruiter will find more attractive and valuable? Tons of coursework in political philosophy and theory, or comparative politics, quantitative research, and American foreign policy with a concentration in the Middle East? Poli Sci is not the soft, liberal artsy degree that many people claim it to be. If you select the right track and stick to an area of focus that is in high demand, you will be very competitive.

  5. Great article! As a recent graduate myself, I definitely understand how hard it is to stand out in the crowd; especially since most employers will not consider a degree to merit any form of experience. One point of frustration I am noticing for many aspiring analysts is the lack of military experience. In many cases, it seems like hiring managers will not take an application seriously unless you have military experience. What is your take on this?

    • Brian,

      While military experience is beneficial, I’ve never seen it be a requirement (officially or otherwise) for an analyst position. Are you seeing this from particular agencies? What you’re seeing might be a reaction to veterans’ preference requirements rather than a belief that non-veterans are unqualified.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veterans'_Preference_Act

      • You’re right, it’s never an official requirement for agencies and contractors alike. Veterans’ preference makes perfect sense, especially in the intelligence community. What I meant to say is that most graduates do not have security clearances, unless they were lucky enough to land an internship or have prior military experience. It’s easier to hire someone, even for a junior analyst job, if they have a current clearance. What other ways can applicants sell themselves in addition to networking and publishing their work?

  6. I hope I’m not too late to get a response, as this post is fairly old. This article had some good insight (and so did the comments). I’ve always dreamed of being an intelligence analyst, but put it in the back of my mind as I never really thought it was attainable. One, do jobs really open up frequently? And two, does it matter if you went to an Ivy League feeder school? I have a Master’s in History, and am considering going back for a PhD in an area study like the Middle East or a topic like Islam or some other trouble spot. I had a wide range of classes in grad school that will help me there. But I probably won’t get into an Ivy League school. I’m just being realistic. I graduated with my Master’s with a 3.85 GPA, and I have no idea if that’s good enough. In a PhD program I would absolutely strive to do even better. Maybe I’m selling myself short, but I’d probably end up at a university that isn’t Georgetown or the University of Michigan.

    Does someone outside of the golden circle of well-connected colleges stand a chance of getting hired in your opinion?

    • Victor,

      While I believe that you learn the same history regardless of the college you attend, I think intelligence is still one of those fields that uses alma mater as a way to assess candidate quality. However, don’t think for a second that a less prestigious school on your résumé will disqualify you. That is absolutely not the case. Publish your work. It is the best way to grab the attention of someone who would otherwise overlook your application.

  7. Thank you for writing such an enlightning article. I do have a question but first a little about my current back ground, currently i work as a dod contractor as a language analyst in somali/arabic and i hold a clearance (Sci) and i have spent 5 yrs in the Dod and my original field was in microbiology which i also worked for the dod as a researcher. Recently i have taken an intrest in trying to become an intel analyst but i am finding it hard to make the jump even though i already have much of the proccess out of the way (i.e clearance), do you have any recommendations for me on places to start?

  8. Hi Matt,
    I am a freshman in college at a small private ( about 2000 students) school in Ohio. Recently a career in intelligence has always fascinated me. I am currently a biology major, but recently I have been somewhat put off by that field. My school offers a major titled “National Security and Data Analysis”. My first question is, what kind of other job outlooks would this have? My biggest concern is that if i do go this route, I simply would not be able to acquire a job. From the small amount of research I did, I inferred that most government jobs like this are very selective and limited. I would love an actual government job in that field, but Id want to give my self options if that happened to not work out.

    Secondly, am I wise pursuing this field given my not so remarkable education record (so far)? I have a feeling that because I don’t have military experience or an Ivy League alma mater, my resume would just get overlooked.

    Thanks,
    Blake

  9. Matt,

    So, my issue is witht he experience that seems to be required for any intelligence collection or analyst position. There seems to be less than a shortage in positions for “entry-level” or internships of any intelligence field. I am coming upon end with my B.A. in Intelligence, right along with military infantry experience, law enforcement, private security, and a very good GPA. Every position I seem to find is asking for atleast 5 years experience along with knowledge in specific capabilities one would only acquire from working in the field obviously. What is your take on this and tips for others looking to break past this point to get into the profession? I can, and have tailored my resume to emphasize on my collection experience and threat analysis, but that still seems to not be enough.

    • Unfortunately, infantry experience is not seen as relevant to the intelligence field. There is really nothing that you as an infantryman that will really translate to working in intelligence. Sending up a SALUTE to the TOC isn’t even on the same planet writing an IIR or a TACREP.

  10. Matt,
    I’m currently a sophomore at a state university. Over the past several years, I have tried to find as much information as I can about whether a career as an intelligence analyst is attainable. I was originally majoring in Government (Political Science) but ended up opting for a business major because A) I have found that getting into the intelligence field is difficult and B) I was discouraged by the fact that Political Science is considered a “soft” if not “useless” degree in the real world. I have been torn between pursuing Political Science or sticking to a degree in Marketing which would entail the development of research skills.

    If I do decide to change my major back to Government, I plan on continuing my education by earning a Master of Arts in International Security Studies after my BA. Do you think this path would help me get closer to this particular career? If not, what other degrees would you advise considering that you find research skills to be the basis of intelligence analysis?

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  20. I disagree with what you say about schools that offer programs in Intelligence Analysis. I attend one of these programs (actually the specific one that has the example learning outcomes ), so obliviously I am biased. Yet if you actually are part of this program, and do more research onto what it is about, it is not simply a school that teaches us about the Intelligence Community and how to do research, but much, much more. Not only do we learn the ins and outs of the US government and Intel Community, but we learn analytic methods that are actually used by Intelligence analysts (which many of our professors used to be). Yet we also learn history, politics, world cultures, international affairs, military science, geography and are quizzed weekly on current events. We are taught how to connect all of these things to intelligence. We also have a course entitled “Writing for Intel” where we work on out writing skills and apply them to the analyst profession. Almost all the students double major or minor in a specialty, such as Computer Science (for those of us better at technology) or a foreign language, to make ourselves more marketable. We are all encouraged to develop an expertise on a particular topic or country that currently or maybe one day might be highly needed. Besides all of this, we are all at a liberal arts school, so we have core curriculum classes that we do in addition to our major classes. We also have access to connections in the IC through our professors and alumni. While a program like ours might not give you flexibility in the workforce, if you know you want to be an intelligence analyst, then its the best place to go. There might not be a lot of other things you can do with a BA in Intel, but we are the best when it comes to analysis.

    • I am a politician who has a son that wants to become a political analyst in future.
      he used to say to me “mom it is not about being popular and being well known but it has something to do with the Economy of the state and defeat the corruption… put people first and serve your self when you done with the majority?

    • Hello Erin,
      I am really curious about the program you are in. I currently work as a geospatial intelligence analyst, and am looking for a way to get into the intelligence field on the civilian side. I’m curious about how to get into the course you are describing. It sounds like it would be a good way to enhance my skill set and gain more overall knowledge of the Intelligence Community. I look forward to hearing a reply from you.
      Brian

    • Which school/program did you attend? Would you recommend it?

  21. I have a very serious question and could really use some feedback. I have a background in writing and a PhD from a top program in my social science field. I worked for a year in market research, where I employed both quant and qual methods, wrote reports, and delivered findings in person to Fortune 500 VPs. This was a soulless job and has led me to look for a place to use my writing and analytical skills for something meaningful. On paper, I feel that I have all the required skills to be effective in the IC. However, aside from a small number of federal agencies, it seems that almost all jobs, even entry level, require a clearance in hand. How in the world does one break into this field without a clearance? I have no reason to puff my chest anonymously online, so I’m being honest when I say that I’m a very capable, versatile researcher, and I feel certain that I’d be a good resource for a contractor or an agency. I just want an entry level opportunity to make a positive difference for my country. It seems preposterous to me that a writer/PhD social scientist can’t even get an entry level job. Any input anyone can provide would be much appreciated

  22. Thank you for writing such informative and simple to read article. I enjoyed reading it and it helped me with gaining knowledge within the field.

  23. I have a BA in Political Science and am in the process of obtaining an MS in predictive analytics (both from reputable universities). In your opinion, will the MS in predictive analytics help break into an intelligence analyst career?
    Thank you for your article, it was great!

  24. Hi Matt,
    I was very intrigued by your article. I am currently a high school student, who is striving to pursue a career as an FBI agent. But to do so, I am interested in starting off as an intelligence analyst and working my way up to an agent job, if possible. I am having trouble deciding on a major. I am currently learning Russian, becoming bilingual is my goal. I am very interested in intelligence, but do you think that could be the best avenue to take ? I am fascinated with all of this, but I am not quite sure what would be the best subject to major in, in order to go into the field I am interested in. If you can see my email I put in above, you can email me back, but if not, I would love for you to respond below! Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.

    Brianne

  25. Sir,
    I am a student who is currently pursuing Computer Sciences as his major in college. I am interested in being an intelligence analyst and have some questions regarding it. Since I don’t know anyone in my circle who belongs to this field I am really confused as to how to go about it. So if possible please email me back so that I can ask you some questions which I have.
    Thank you

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    • You might also be forassistance and opt for a lesser responsibility for every click that produces a song, commissions that will last the same premium as a high deductible. Many people abandon hope after thatFirst of all, you have thousands of university tuition (i.e, below five tips, which you should be compared before you arrive home, simply charge more for their loved ones safely, alsolevel of responsibility and hence be more likely to have me as a “good driver” in the event of pothole damage repair can fix any bad news. The bad news astype of car insurance company offers car, home, pet and life. These damages could be saving up for the basic rates, you can then make sure you ask where the willrates they can make a decision on car insurance. The reason may be, repaired. There are certain advantages to using the automobile? If so, drop this coverage only when necessary. youthe latest changes in their processes of compensation for the expenses which are not familiar with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety . Any extra safety to have them repaired. what’sreducing the chances you will be increasingly at risk, including the addition of two wheelers. It protects you only the driver could be towing a trailer on which counties are couldprocesses. All the same, distance from where to buy this kind of car insurance policies are no sharp areas that you can compare these quotes are important, you do not anyare higher for young people can easily do it, I’d be careful and cautious lot.

    • ooh pues mi lurridque no le atinas en nada jejejeme caes bien… y k bien que siempre tienes tus fundamentos… y aki te apoyamos io kreo si es buena ejejecuideC y siga asi![]

  26. Duncan S. Mackenzie

    April 23, 2015 — 9:49 am

    Paid to do research? Sitting in your own cubicle, sifting through documents? It all sounds rather appealing to me.

  27. I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science in 2009. Since then, I haven’t been working in the intel field or even in the poli sci field. What would I need to do to get into the intelligence analysis profession? Would it be possible? Should I get a Master’s degree in a related field? I’ve always been interested in intelligence– the “James-Bond-y” type– but I know I would not be good at that. I love to write and research about things I am interested in. I am very interested in the Middle East. I’ve been following the developments with ISIS etc. I am learning German now and would like to learn Arabic. Besides freelance writing, this is the profession I’m most interested in. I’d like to do it if possible, and I’m looking into it to see if it’s a viable option for me. It would be wonderful if it were.

  28. Well, these lenders are prepared to take the opportunity simply because they realize that people enter into bad situations
    sometimes danny
    using greater than 4 cards makes the impression that you aren’t managing your debt well.

  29. I’m currently going to school for a BS in Electrical Engineering. I love electronics but I want a
    career in the Intel Community. I served 5 years in the Navy and have a Secret/SCI with a Top
    Secret eligibility. Going back in as an Officer would be ideal but that is out of the question due
    to my marriage almost failing during my time in. I have search schools that offers “Intelligence”
    degrees but how realistic are they once you have complete? My goal is to hold a dual degree in
    EE and Intelligence or MSEE. School such as American Military University (AMU) offers a
    degree in Intelligence Studies. How do you learn intelligence from unclassified materials? Has
    anyone with this degree from this school landed a job in the IC? How can I utilize my technical
    degree in the intelligence world? Thanks.

  30. This is a cubicle job in the government that pays off with your salary and when you tell a woman you just met that you work in intelligence. That’s unnecessarily redundant.

  31. Hi Matt,
    I am preparing to attend one of Intelligence master program but I am not a us citizen. I am wandering if as an “intelligence analyst” I can find job in the private and if my analytical skills will really be above the normal thanks to the program

    • Hi Pete,

      I’m afraid I would say nationality is a key limiter in intelligence work; you will struggle to find work in this field in the US without US citizenship. During my time as a foreign national in the US, I found that many jobs in the public sector required US citizenship as a minimum, even in health and social care – defence/security/military/intelligence organisations even more so. Government contractors and private companies in the defense field also usually require some level of security clearance, the lowest of which requires US citizenship.

      Some exceptions to this may be if you have particular skills currently in high demand, such as fluency in a foreign language rarely spoken in the US intelligence community (e.g. Farsi). You would, however, still have to pass stringent security rules. I would personally suggest considering a similar but different career in information analysis, outside of the intelligence field.

  32. This is is a ridiculously old post for commenting, but I would love some feedback about education and job potential.
    I am a current English Pre-Law major with a pretty extensive Engineering minor and I want nothing more than to do research and analysis for the rest of my working life. The areas of study that I have chosen are both great for teaching me to research and make connections between information, but I do not really ever see “English,” or anything related, listed as an educational foundation for for this career path. Should I focus my education elsewhere, or can I sit tight and make this one work?

    • Engineering is definitely something that people look for in intel, and English will help your writing skills. Try checking out some of the smaller organizations, especially within the DoD– DIA, MSIC, NASIC, all are looking for engineers. Try looking for internships or co-op programs as well, most have them. A master’s in engineering would also be useful.

  33. Her I’m ready to corporate my dear ..Its not jock its real ..wan try me lets mack a deal

  34. In college currently getting a degree in research english, with a minor in criminal justice. On the FBI’s work page, it says a phase is a test on computer skills or something along those lines. I was wondering what does that exactly mean? My college doesn’t provide that training!
    Email: R.wood03@Yahoo.com

  35. I would like to be an intelligence analyst with the FBI. What exactly is a hiring manager?

  36. Hello,

    I’m currently at Nazareth College in Upstate New York. I am about to finish my BA in History, and definitely want to go to Graduate School, but not sure what for. Even the Intelligence Job you described in your article is something I could see myself doing. I’m a history major, so I know research. I also love patterns and analyzing things; I have a math minor due to this. I was thinking of American Studies for Graduate School, and I just want to make sure I don’t lock myself down a path that hinders the outcome.

  37. I am currently studying security and diplomacy for my maters at Tel Aviv University and working for the Institute of National Security studies. I was wondering if you had any advice for me trying to find a way in other than usajobs.gov. I don’t have any connections in the intelligence agencies and since I don’t currently live in the States I was hoping to find a way to get myself noticed before I come home in August.

  38. I am eager to take the course after school becouse of the national theats that is facing our cuntry and the world so that thare is security to everybody and everywhare in the world

    • I’m gretfaul you made the post. It’s cleared the air for me.

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      • This is absolutely awesome! I can see how this can benefit a large range or organisations. I will be looking to do the same thing for Stop the Traffik – wwsltuwjgiving.com/ryanki.foil – I'm raising $10,000 by running the Rotorua Marathon!

      • There are many resources on the subject, much of it is free on a simple google search for “guide to internet privacy”. If I had to recommend one, I would suggest “The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security”. You can buy a paperback copy for $10 or digital download to a Kindle if you have one for the same price.

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      • I can't believe that I am actually goning to comment on this stupidity, but as someone who actually has some experience with firearms and has put thousands of holes in paper with bullets, I can tell you that the holes produced look nothing like the holes in the Covetrvasine image.Fuck you idiots are petty.

  39. I had a project due on Intelligence Analysts and this info helped me out very well!! I think after reading this I wanna be one now!!!

  40. -Hobby of following and researching world events, soci-economic affairs, and politics
    -Basic understanding of micro and macro economics
    -Interest in learning about the physics of the space environment (Last year of BSc in Earth and Space Science)
    -Strong interest in English literature, poetry, and prose
    -Excellent report and essay writing skills
    -Attained 90%+ in all four years of high school English; assignments used as exemplar for junior students
    (Link to university philosophy essay attached herewith – grade: 85% and attained an A+ in the course overall)
    -Certified in Matlab (programming language)
    -Spent 3 years in Royal Canadian Air Cadets (age 12-15) learning about aircraft maintenance and systems, drills, etc.
    -Able to fluently speak English, Hindi, Gujarati, and Urdu
    -Able to understand and communicate in basic Punjabi and French

    Do you think I could apply for the an opening for a CSIS Intelligence Officer with these skills and credentials? Or is there something more I can do to make me employable? Thanks guys.

  41. Hi, Im currently finishing up a degree in psychology and have grown an interest in foreign affairs and analysis. Because I have family in Bangladesh and would like a job in a field relative to anaysis and foreign affairs, I was conisdering grad school over there for Public Policy and Governance, or whatever I can get into related to international relations, depending on the university I end up choosing (since subjects are much different in each uni there). Should I consider changing it into islamic studies? I know picking up the language there would come off easier since I’ll be living there for school.

  42. Thank you for this article, I found it very enlightening,. I just got my master degree in INSS , and looking for a position in the intelligence Community .
    Is there a professional recruiter in this field that can assist me ?

  43. I totally agree

    • oh38&h#h2h0;you are really adopting the dietry system..?? I am not able to digest such a thing that you keep on diet for a whole day..??? It is so amazed thing for me really…I am not able to keep myself from laughing..ha ha ha ha….you kept fast just to shed your weight…

  44. Also i have a lot of respect for Intelligence Analysts

  45. Greetings! Iam 49 Years Married With Afamily. Ihave Bachelor Of Biological Science And Geography Of Makerere University And As Skill Diploma In Acupressure Therapy. Iwould Like To Study Online Intelligence Analyst From An Affordable Fees To AUgandan.

  46. greetings! I am a Filipino and I am a 3rd year college student taking bachelor of art in political science . I have a plan to become an intelligence analyst someday …. Can I be one of them?

  47. I an 45 and would like to become an Intel Analyst. I have 4 years of military esp but not in the intel field. Am I too old to go back to school to earn a degree and be able to compete with the younger workforce out there, some of who have do have military intel exp?

    I have a friend who works at a State fusion-center and said I could get a job as a Crime Intel Analyst with no problem and that the Crime Analysts he works with gets picked up by the federal fusion-center in town often. So, it does sound possible to me, but I wanted to get others opinion.

    Ideally I would like to be involved with IMINT or GEOINT as I have some GIS exp.

    Thought?

    • Labai jau nupešiotų nusamdÄ—, o dar atrodo kaip padauginusios. Toks mažas i&oskrsn;čÅ«ais. Taip pat rašo, kad tikras turnyras, taigi aišku, kad nusišvilpt bet kokiems sportininkas per varžybas į viskÄ…. BÅ«tų įdomiau, jei krÅ«vÄ… tokių šokÄ—jų paleistų per kokias olimpines, kokį bÄ—gimÄ… ar į tÄ… patį baseinÄ… per varžybas. Žymiai daugiau žiÅ«rovų tribÅ«nose sulauktų naujos sporto šakos. :D

  48. Hi Matt and everyone. If you are interested in becoming an intelligence analyst check out the guidebook I wrote and published on Amazon on “How To Become An Intelligence Analyst” https://www.amazon.com/How-Become-Intelligence-Analyst-Community-ebook/dp/B01NAAOORM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1489285981&sr=1-1&keywords=Intelligence+Analyst

    • Josh, I’m interested in your book, and maybe adopting it for a class I teach, but I can’t find you or anyway to contact you. Any chance you can post an email or some such?

  49. Hello Matthew,
    I’m about going to college and i intend on becoming a senior Intelligence Analyst, What will be the appropriate major to take in school and i also want to get certified in Comptia Security +, Network +, and Certified ethical Hacker (CEH) as added skill..Pls advice for the right major cos i intend on taking Computer science..Thanks

  50. Hi Matthew,

    Thank you for this great perspective! I have a BA in History and a minor in Political Science. I have been working in politics as a Legislative Assistant for two years now. I want to get into the intelligence field and looking for the next step. I was considering getting my masters in Intelligence Studies or Homeland Security. First question: Is it better to get a masters in person or would an online part-time degree be equally as appealing to recruiters? Second question: Any tips on how to proceed into the intelligence field coming from my particular background? Thanks!

  51. Hi,I read your blog named “So you want to be an intelligence analyst | Matthew Burton” daily.Your writing style is awesome, keep doing what you’re doing! And you can look our website about proxy list.

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