CIA Career Possibilities and Information

Do You Want to Be a Spy?

Surveillance Briefcase
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Are you looking into CIA careers, in other words being a spy? Shhhh! Don't answer that. The National Clandestine Service of the CIA (US Central Intelligence Agency), which is responsible for covertly collecting human intelligence (aka spying), has some very specific rules for applicants. Rule number 1: don't tell anyone you're applying for a job. Rule number 2: Don't tell anyone you're even thinking of applying!


CIA Careers

The National Clandestine Service (NCS) offers several career paths. Some are primarily located abroad while others are at the agency's headquarters in Washington, DC. 

  • Core Collectors and Operations Officers usually work overseas recruiting and handling foreign sources of human intelligence.
  • Core Collectors and Collection Management Officers also spend the majority of their careers working abroad. They manage the collection of human intelligence and evaluate and disseminate it to the US foreign policy community and intelligence community analysts.
  • Staff Operations Officers are the liaisons between NCS stateside headquarters and overseas field officers. They spend most of their time in Washington, DC but may have temporary overseas assignments. They are experts in either a specific region or a transnational target, for example, terrorism or crime.
  • Specialized Skills Officers work either at DC headquarters or overseas. They utilize their experience in the military or their language, technical or media skills to conduct or support CIA operations. Job titles that fall under this category include targeting officer, language officer, paramilitary officer, programs, and plans officer and information resource officer.

    Entry-Level CIA Careers and Job Qualifications

    Entry-level job candidates join the NCS as trainees. Core collectors enter through either the Professional Trainee Program or the Clandestine Service Program, depending on their prior work experience. To go directly into the Clandestine Service Program, the candidate must have several years of work or military experience.

    Those who do not will enter through the Professional Trainee Program before moving into the Clandestine Service Program. Headquarters employees, such as staff operations officers and specialized skills officers, participate in the Headquarters Based Trainee Program. At the end of his or her time training, a candidate will be placed in a career track that agency officials deem appropriate for his or her demonstrated skills and the agency's needs.

    All job applicants should have a bachelor's degree with a grade point average of at least 3.0. Proficiency in a foreign language is required for those who are training to become core collectors. Those applying for headquarters-based jobs must have a demonstrated interest in international affairs. While applicants come from a variety of disciplines, those with a background in international business, finance, international relations, economics, physical science or nuclear, biological or chemical engineering are the most desirable. US citizenship is required for all positions.

    Spying is a career rife with stress. One must be able to cope with this. Other necessary qualities include good judgment, ability to multitask and manage time well, strong written and oral communication skills and excellent problem solving and critical thinking abilities.

    A willingness to continuously learn is also important. Since assignments often require one to be part of a team, the ability to work with others is imperative.

    The Application Process

    If you are interested in working for the National Clandestine Service you can apply for a job online at the agency's website. There you will also find complete details about the application process. Before you apply, you must create an account. Don't do this unless you are sure you have enough time to complete the application. You will need to do so within three days of creating your account. When that time is up, your account will be disabled.

    It will also be disabled once you complete your application. At that time you will receive an on-screen confirmation. They will not send an email confirmation. You can apply for up to four positions at one time, but they request that one does not submit multiple applications.

    If your application is accepted, pre-employment processing may take up to one year. During that time you will have personal interviews and be subject to medical and psychological testing, drug testing, a polygraph and an extensive background check. Through this background check, NCS will ensure that you have no allegiances to other countries, are trustworthy, can't be coerced and are willing to protect sensitive information.

    Pros and Cons of Working for the National Clandestine Service

    If you want intrigue, the NCS has it. Even the pages containing information about career opportunities read like a spy novel. The word "spy" is never used and applicants are warned never to reveal their intentions. A life undercover isn't for everyone, though. One must keep his or her identity hidden from others. And because the work is covert, there is little public recognition for a job well done. The agency, however, rewards and recognizes its employees internally.

    NCS officers serving overseas receive competitive pay. Their benefits include housing for themselves and their families and their children get educational benefits. They also get to travel around the world.

    Source: CIA Clandestine Service Careers

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