With the sharp rise in international crime and global terrorism, the role of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has become more complex and enhanced. Soaring global tensions amidst highly volatile relationship structures with multiple countries in different regions have increased the importance of strong intelligence services. The CIA has always been a forerunner in providing top-class strategic intelligence data to law enforcement officials in the government. The Central Intelligence Agency is also responsible for keeping the President of the United States updated on the latest security concerns and helping the Commander-in-Chief make some of the toughest, most complex decisions.
Working in this law enforcement agency can be a major challenge while being a highly rewarding career path at the same time. If you want to learn more about how to become a CIA agent, the following comprehensive guide will give you a detailed understanding of the requirements and the process.
What is the Central Intelligence Agency CIA?
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is the ‘nation’s first line of defense.’ It is a law enforcement agency, with the mission of collecting information that helps keep the country safe from all kinds of criminal activities on a global scale. It provides intelligence on foreign countries and international concerns to the President, the National Security Council and others involved in policymaking related to national security. The main purpose of the CIA is to mitigate threats before they become actual criminal events. Various departments in the agency perform tasks such as collecting foreign evidence, objectively analyzing the data collected and carrying out actions as directed by the president. The Agency itself does not make any policies or decisions, rather, it provides information and advice to those who are in a position of making policy changes and decisions related to national security.
Educational Requirements for Becoming a CIA Agent
The process for becoming a CIA Agent is long and challenging. However, if you have all the information, the path to becoming a CIA agent can be simplified. The minimum educational requirement to join the law enforcement field as a CIA agent is a 4-year long undergraduate degree from an accredited institute. Potential major options for aspiring CIA agents can be the following:
- Criminal Justice
- Forensic Science
- Computer Science
- Cyber Security
- Homeland Security
- Public Safety
- Political Science
Steps to Become a CIA Agent
In order to become a CIA Agent, there are a series of steps that need to be followed, as outlined on the Agency’s official website. The following list will help simplify the process for you:
Step 1: Meet the Requirements to Become a CIA Agent
Aspiring CIA Agents would have to meet a list of basic requirements to be eligible to apply to this law enforcement agency. These requirements have been outlined on the official website for the CIA. According to these requirements, applicants:
- Must be US citizens
- Should be over 18 years of age
- Should ideally have a bachelor’s degree
- Can only apply for positions in the CIA if he/she is physically present in the United States
- Must be highly discreet about their application process, even when speaking to family or friends about it
- Must not have substance abuse instances in the immediate 12 months prior to the application date
- Will have to pass a thorough security clearance including a background investigation, a medical exam and a polygraph test
- Ought to be willing to relocate to Washington and need be willing to travel overseas if and when required by the employer
A list of available jobs at the CIA can be found on the organization’s official website. Applicants are advised to shortlist multiple titles they are interested in.
Applicants can add a maximum of four jobs in their Job Cart on the official CIA website. Please note that it is important to meet the complete criteria for any CIA jobs you are applying to.
All applicants are required to make this account. Please note that once you make this account, it will remain active for three days. Therefore, it is recommended that you compile all your required information and documents before this step.
This step will require applicants to provide honest information about their background, foreign area knowledge, preferences, certifications, expertise, any foreign language proficiency, educational background and military experience along with discharge details.
Step 6: Fill out the ‘Personnel Evaluation Form’
This form will require the following:
- Background data
- Cleared polygraph test
- Past employment information
- Felonious federal debt
- Peace Corps employment
- Selective service enrollment
- Drug use history
- Information about past criminal convictions and violations of law
- Security clearance
- Military discharge and disciplinary proceedings
Applicants can complete this step or choose to skip it.
Applicants may upload their resumes in this section, along with any other documents required for the positions they have applied to.
Once applicants have ensured that all required information has been added and uploaded, they can submit the application package. A confirmation of the submission is sent within two days. Once this confirmation is received, the applicant would have to log in to their account and acknowledge the confirmation. If the applicant has not received this confirmation within two days, he/she can simply submit the application package again. Once the application package has been submitted, it takes around 45 days for the CIA to get back to the applicant. If selected, the CIA will get in touch with the relevant applicant. If you do not hear from the agency within 45 days, that automatically means that your application has been rejected. You may, however, apply again after one year.
How Long Does It Take to Become a CIA Agent?
The CIA does not specify a timeline for the process of becoming a CIA Agent. However, we can break down the process to get an estimated time frame.
It would take 4 years to complete the minimum education requirement, which is a bachelor’s degree. The application process itself may take an additional 2 months to one year, depending on several factors. After this, applicants would have to complete additional training for the job title they choose. For instance, if you want to become a ‘Political Analyst’ with the CIA, there would be additional training for that, the timeline for which has not been defined on the website.
What Does a CIA Agent Do?
A CIA agent performs a multitude of duties, depending on their exact job title. The main job of these agents is to gather and evaluate sensitive intelligence information that relates to national security. Some CIA agents may also work overseas, collecting foreign intelligence. Typical duties of a CIA Agent may include the following:
- Gather and analyse information relevant to national security
- Review foreign media channels and news sources to collect information
- Examine satellite images to keep an eye on potential threats
- Break down coded messages from other regions, that might contain useful intelligence
- Determine the authenticity of any intelligence source used
- Write reports regarding the data gathered to relevant government resources
- Work in cohesion with other agencies to find solutions for international criminal and terrorist activities
In addition to the above job duties, CIA agents may have to perform additional duties that relate to their exact job title. The CIA divides its employment opportunities into five sections. Applicants are strongly advised to research these jobs in great detail before applying. The five areas of employment with the CIA are as follows:
- Enterprise and Support
- Foreign Language
Job Outlook and Average Salary
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) does not provide salary and job outlook data on its official website. The salary figures can vary somewhere between $50,000 and $95,000, depending on the exact job title, work experience, education level and seniority. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics provides salary information for Detectives and Criminal Investigators, stating that those employed in this category made an annual mean income of $89,300 in May 2020. The job growth for Police and Detectives is expected to be 7%, between the years 2020 and 2030, which is almost as fast as the average for all occupations. This growth rate will add approximately 51,700 new jobs in this field.
Jobs Similar to CIA Agent
If you are interested in joining the Central Intelligence Agency, the following job titles might interest you as well. All of these jobs are directly or indirectly related to the field of law enforcement.
- Detectives and Criminal Investigators
- Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers
- Transit and Railroad Police
- Fish and Game Wardens
- Correctional Officers and Bailiffs
- Fire Inspectors
- Emergency Management Directors
- FBI Agents
- Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
- Resource Analyst
- Protective Agent
- Operations Officer
- Intelligence Collector
- Specialized Skills Officer