How Do I Become an Intelligence Analyst?

Do you enjoy research, learning new information, and critical thinking? If so, you may wonder how to become an intelligence analyst. Intelligence analysis is a profession most frequently related to national security, so many intelligence analysts find work within federal government agencies, such as the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI).

In this profession, trained analysts study the known facts, or intelligence, about a situation and attempt to predict relevant future strategies and activities. Intelligence analysts in federal government agencies may seek to interpret the behavior of suspected terrorists and anticipate the suspect’s future actions. Within the field of intelligence analysts, employees may embark on different career paths. The FBI, for example, offers opportunities for prospective employees in tactical, collection/reporting and strategic intelligence analysis.

An intelligence analyst for a government agency must first collect the important data or information about a situation. This may call for thorough research of a subject area. Intelligence analysts may view situations through the perspective of other cultures in order to understand past events and predict future occurrences. In these cases, the intelligence analyst should have a solid understanding of language, geography, social atmospheres, economic circumstances, political climates and historical information. Intelligence analysts also gather data by examining intelligence databases at the local and national levels and collaborating with law enforcement and intelligence agencies and personnel. Upon obtaining this information, intelligence analysts must use their reasoning skills to interpret their knowledge, predict the future activities of terrorist organizations, and effectively present their findings.

To pursue a career as an intelligence analyst within a federal government agency, a prospective candidate can gain education or work experience in a variety of subjects. Common areas of interest for aspiring intelligence analysts include physical sciences, area studies, forensic studies, politics, history, law, culture studies and foreign languages. Earning a college degree is recommended, since the FBI typically doesn’t hire candidates that are not at least in the process of completing their senior year of college. While some intelligence analysts enter the field with only their college education and perhaps an internship experience, some candidates for new FBI positions are experienced professionals. Like other specialized professionals within the FBI, intelligence analysts must undergo rigorous career training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

The exciting, adventurous nature of a job in the field of intelligence analysis may appeal to some candidates. In 2009, CNN Money named intelligence analysis among the best jobs in America, citing a median annual salary of $82,500 and an anticipated 15 percent ten-year growth rate. The publication also stated that government intelligence analysts report high rates of personal job satisfaction and benefit to society as among the advantages to pursuing this career.

If you have exceptional critical-thinking skills, a knack for research and the desire to protect national security, knowing how to become an intelligence analyst could be your first step toward your ideal career.

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