How to Become a CIA Agent

Many young adults dream of becoming a CIA agent. While many people may think that a job at the CIA will give them the opportunity to play James Bond, it’s important to acknowledge the reality of a CIA career. The United States Central Intelligence Agency offers a variety of career options for students and young adults. While some positions will require international work, there are thousands of support roles for motivated individuals. The CIA hires individuals for computer security, linguistics, systems analysis, finances, business management, procurement and more. The following guide discusses how one can gain a position at the CIA.

Disqualifying Factors

Individuals working at the CIA must have a spotless background. When undergoing a background check for a position at the CIA, all aspects of an individual’s past will be checked for discrepancies. Anything that may indicate a security risk will disqualify an individual.

For example, a misdemeanor, shoplifting incident or DUI may disqualify an individual from a potential position at the CIA. While drug use is discouraged, the occasional use of soft drugs like marijuana prior to employment won’t impact one’s eligibility. However, anything relating to hard drug use will probably disqualify one from a potential position.

In addition, one’s friends and family can impact eligibility for hire. Friends and family members that belong to anti-government groups, anarchy groups and “occupy” groups will cause an individual to undergo additional scrutiny during the hiring process. In some cases, it can take several months to receive a security clearance prior to hire. During a security clearance, human resource agents from the CIA will interview friends, family members and neighbors.

Qualifying Factors

The CIA hires for a wide variety of positions. For example, the CIA’s website indicates an interest in individuals with mathematics, engineering, linguistics, history, physics, biology, physiology and communications degrees. While job positions aren’t listed on its website for national security reasons, anyone with a solid degree is welcome to apply for a position.

It’s essential to have a strong GPA when applying for a position with the CIA. While the CIA’s website indicates that individuals with a GPA above 3.0 will be considered for hire, it’s a good idea to have a GPA above 3.5 to remain competitive.

In addition, an individual must possess excellent analytic, writing and oral skills. Some positions listed on the CIA’s website will require the submission of a portfolio. For example, a position as an Intelligence Analyst would require one to submit a five to eight page article detailing a subject related to national or international security.


Salaries at the CIA can vary significantly based on experience, education and position. Many entry-level positions listed on the CIA’s website have starting salaries that range from $50,000-$100,000 USD. There is minimal information available on positions available above entry-level.


It’s important to carefully research a potential career at the CIA before applying for a position. While working at the CIA may seem glamorous, entry-level salaries are similar to those of private companies. An individual must decide if the security clearances, social obligations and travel requirements are worth an industry-average salary.

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