A career as a CIA analyst
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is responsible for collecting intelligence on foreign countries and global issues related to national security. The CIA does not make policy but provides reports to the president, the National Security Council, and other policymakers to help them make national security decisions based on the CIA’s intelligence analysis.
What does a CIA analyst do?
The Central Intelligence Agency hires people who are experts in a particular subject area as analysts. Their job is to examine and evaluate information gathered from individuals, foreign media, and satellites from around the world. The quality and reliability of this information can vary considerably. The analyst’s job is to deduce how valid, complete and reliable that information is and then combine and cross-check it with other sources and produce coherent intelligence that the agency can work.
What types of CIA analysts are there?
As intelligence is gathered in many fields, there exists many different types of CIA analysts. The CIA operates several distinct categories of expertise and each type of expert has a different function and set of duties. A CIA analyst may therefore have a more specific title such as:
Analytic methodologists develop and apply new or established approaches to analysis — such as statistical, polling, econometric, mathematical, or geospatial modeling methodologies — to add rigor and precision to the agency’s overall intelligence analysis and collection.
The minimum requirements for becoming an analytic methodologist are to have an advanced degree or highly qualified bachelor’s degree in a field related to:
- Computer programming
- Mathematical programming
- Survey research, design and analysis
Counterintelligence Threat Analyst
Counterintelligence threat analysts identify and assess foreign entities’ threats targeted at U.S. operations and interests. Counterintelligence threat analysts provide strategic assessments and tactical analyses to U.S. policymakers regarding their findings.
Preferred candidates for these positions have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in one of the following fields:
- Mechanical engineering
- Electrical engineering
- Security studies
- Telecommunications technologies
- Computer engineering
- International studies with a focus on technical studies
Counterterrorism analysts are responsible for determining the aims and motivations of foreign terrorist groups and identifying specific threats to the U.S. and its interests. Counterterrorism analysts are responsible for preventing attacks and disrupting foreign terrorist networks.
Candidates for these positions are preferred if they have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in the following, or similarly related, fields
- National security studies
- International affairs
Cyber Threat Analyst
These analysts are responsible for identifying, monitoring, and countering threats posed by foreign cyber actors against U.S. information systems, critical infrastructure, and cyber-related interests. Analysts provide written assessments and brief U.S. policymakers and the U.S. cyber defense community on these dangers to U.S. interests.
Candidates for these positions are required to hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in one of the following fields:
- Computer Science
- Computer Engineering
- Digital Forensics
- Cyber Security
- Information Assurances
- Security Studies
The CIA employs economic analysts to assess financial, trade, and economic trends and developments relevant to U.S. security matters and interests. Economic analysts may work closely with analysts from other fields such as political and military to obtain a complete picture. They then use the information they have gathered to write intelligence papers and briefings for U.S. policymakers.
Preferred candidates for economic analyst positions hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in one of the following programs, or similar:
- Business administration
- Economic crimes management
Intelligence Collection Analyst
Intelligence collection analysts are responsible for gathering intelligence, identifying any gaps in intelligence, and for developing strategies to close these gaps. The collection of intelligence is used to produce reports that provide U.S. policymakers and analysts with the information needed to understand national security threats or when making crucial decisions.
Candidates for intelligence collection analyst positions must hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a program related to the intelligence community, such as:
- International studies
- National security
- Political science
Leadership analysts use psychological tools to study the lives of foreign leaders and top officials. They use this information to analyze how they are likely to act in certain situations. They then provide reports and briefings to U.S. policymakers and other relevant decision-makers to help them make informed decisions.
A bachelor’s or master’s degree is required in either leadership studies or a closely related field, such as:
- Political psychology
- Organizational psychology
Medical and Health Analyst
Medical and health analysts research, analyze, and write assessments and provide briefings to senior policymakers on global health issues, such as the social, political, and economic impact of disease outbreaks and the health of foreign leaders.
Candidates for these positions are required to hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in science with postgraduate training in public health, epidemiology, biomedical sciences, or related fields.
The major responsibility of military analysts with the CIA is to collect and evaluate information about the strategic capabilities and objectives of foreign military forces and to gauge the abilities of their defense and weapons systems. Their work is typically used by U.S. government policymakers when taking steps to ensure national security or preparing for war.
Candidates with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in one of the following subjects have an advantage when applying for a military analyst position.
- Political science
- International relations
- Security studies
- Military history
CIA political analysts assess the political strategies and goals of foreign governments to determine the impact of these strategies on U.S. interests. This can often require a deep understanding of the ideologies, cultures and values of the country or region. This understanding is needed to provide an in-depth analysis that allows policymakers to make the most informed decision possible.
Individuals who hope to become a political analyst with the CIA are preferred if they hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in one of the following, or closely related, fields:
- Political science
- National security studies
- Foreign area studies
- International relations
Science, Technology and Weapons Analyst
Science, technology, and weapons analysts apply their expertise to analyze foreign weapons development, weapons proliferation, cyber warfare, and emerging technologies.
STW analysts draw upon their technical knowledge to determine the threat that a weapon or technology might present to U.S. interests. They present their findings to policy and operational decision makers via reports and presentations.
A bachelor’s or master’s degree is required for these positions. The subject fields are wide but revolve around physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, aerospace and engineering.
A targeting analyst examines key individuals and organizations who may pose a threat to U.S. interests and determines their importance or significance. The targeting analyst calculates the risks involved in the attack, and the weapons required to obtain the desired level of damage or casualties. This information is used by policymakers and military officials to determine a plan of action.
These professionals may focus on a specific region of the world or on a specific topic, such as narcotics trafficking, terrorism, counterintelligence, cyber threats, and weapons proliferation.
There are a wide range of acceptable degree subjects for this position.
CIA analyst salary and job outlook
Starting salaries for CIA analysts will be dependent on the employee’s area of expertise, level of education, experience, and if they have additional skills such as languages. The CIA has a range of starting annual salaries for analysts that range from $58,070 – $159,286.
Job prospects for CIA analysts are helped by an increased emphasis on combating terrorism plus an expanding range of potential threats. The opportunities to advance your career within the agency are vast as they have a worldwide workforce and a steady stream of agent openings due to older agents taking advantage of the CIA’s generous early retirement packages. There are companies that actively look to hire retired CIA analysts for private information analyst work, either in a full-time or in a consultant position.
Why pursue a career as a CIA analyst?
The CIA is one of the central pillars of our government’s security operations. Its professionals play crucial roles in preempting threats to the safety of our nation. A CIA analyst is one of the most important positions in the agency. Their job is to gather information from multiple sources and comprehend and interpret it so that the interests of the U.S., at home and abroad, are safe.
What type of people become CIA analysts?
In addition to being smart, analysts must be able to work in a fast-moving, demanding environment. They need excellent communication skills and a strong commitment to collaborating as part of a team. Other essential qualities are integrity and being able to keep highly sensitive information confidential. When collecting and sifting through data to compile intelligence assessments, you will need patience, objectivity, and good problem-solving skills.
How do you become a CIA analyst?
To become a CIA analyst you need a degree, preferably graduate level such as a master’s. Your degree does not have to be in any particular academic field as the agency wants analysts who have a broad range of backgrounds, interests, experiences, and perspectives. As so much of an analyst’s work has an international-perspective and involves working with information of foreign origin, an understanding of international political, economic and social matters plus fluency in a language other than English is highly prized.
If you are studying for your degree and would like to see if working for the CIA might be a good fit for you, you can apply for one of the agency’s undergraduate or graduate student programs. To be considered, you will need at least a 3.0 GPA, excellent communication and writing skills, and an interest in foreign affairs. To be accepted, you will need to go through the standard hiring process, including medical and security evaluations that are detailed below.
To be considered for a job at CIA, you must be:
- Physically in the U.S. or one of its territories when you apply.
- A U.S. citizen (dual U.S. citizens also eligible).
- At least 18 years of age.
- Willing to move to the Washington, DC area.
- Able to successfully complete security and medical evaluations, including a background investigation, a polygraph interview, and a physical and psychological examination.
To become a CIA analyst, you can expect a process similar to the one below.
Step 1 Apply online
- Hold a degree required for the CIA analyst position
- Create an account on the career application center website
- Find an open CIA analyst job and complete an application online
- Complete the personal evaluation form
- Upload your resume and any supporting documents
If you meet the position requirements, you will be contacted. If you do not hear from them, they will not be considering you for the position. The next steps are:
- Pass a thorough background investigation
- Take and pass a polygraph test
- Take and pass a drug test
- Pass a credit check
- Pass a thorough mental and physical medical examination
Receive word from a CIA recruiter that your application has been accepted
Step 2 Screening, testing, and interviews
If they are interested in your application, you will take part in phone screenings, testing, and in-person interviews at one of their secure sites. Testing may include taking an online aptitude test or personality assessment. This step can take 2-3months.
Step 3 Conditional offer of employment
If you are a good match, you will receive a conditional offer of employment. Following this, a set of medical and security checks will commence related to your being given security clearance. These checks may take 2-3 months.
Step 4 Security and medical evaluations
In the final stage, which can take from 6-12 months or longer, you will need to complete detailed medical and security evaluations, including
- Background investigation
- Polygraph interview
- Physical and psychological examination
Step 5 Official job offer and onboarding
If you make it through the security and medical evaluations, you will receive a call to discuss specific onboarding activities and your start date.
Finally, this advice is taken from the CIA’s hiring requirements page:
Regardless of their area of specialty, these analysts are some of the smartest people in the country, and their work has far-reaching consequences on the security of the U.S. and the world.
Frequently asked questions
What type of benefits do analysts enjoy?
The CIA offers generous benefits packages, including paid time off, access to fitness facilities, federal health insurance, federal life insurance, education and training, childcare services, flexible scheduling early retirement, and student loan repayment assistance.
Does the CIA offer any type of continuing education or training opportunities?
Analysts receive on-the-job and formal classroom training. They can also take courses at one of several of Washington DC’s top universities. Sponsorships are available for university and professional training in relevant programs.
Can I tell people that I am a CIA analyst?
Yes. But the CIA requires that its employees abstain from discussing the exact nature of their work with others, including family and friends.
Can I learn languages once I am with the CIA?
The CIA has state-of-the-art language programs in a multitude of languages to help employees master a new language. Both new and current employees with foreign language skills are eligible for financial bonuses and incentives meeting proficiency requirements.