Become an Intelligence Analyst: Degree Requirements & Career Path

Read to learn more about pursuing a career as an intelligence analyst. Get the facts about education requirements, salary potential, and career outlook. Schools offering Criminal Justice & Security degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Intelligence Analyst at a Glance

Intelligence analysts are investigators who research and gather data with the purpose of predicting threats from adversaries such as foreign governments, organized crime, or terrorists. They are normally employed by government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the National Security Agency (NSA). Read the table below for a general overview of the position.

Education Required Bachelor's degree preferred
Fields of Study Data science, international relations, operations research, computer programming and related
Skills Required Analytical thinking, interpersonal skills, written and verbal communication
Median Annual Income (2019) $67,066*
Career Outlook (2016-2026) 5% (for all detectives and criminal investigators)**

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Education Requirements?

Though education requirements vary depending on the role and grade of a specific position, a bachelor's degree is generally preferred. Examples of areas of majors related to intelligence analysis include data science, intelligence, international relations, operations research and computer programming. Proficiency in one or more languages aside from English is not required but is generally considered helpful in the application process.

What Certifications or Specialized Training Are Available?

Because agencies typically handle industry-specific training and skill development internally, professional certifications are not required. Some professional certifications are available, however, through professional associations, such as the Criminal Intelligence Certified Analyst (CICA) and Basic Analyst Classification (BAC) programs available through the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts.

Each agency handles recruitment separately, training the accepted applicants through internal schools such as the Intelligence Analyst Training at the FBI, or the The Sherman Kent School for Intelligence Analysis at the CIA. Current employees of federal agencies can also be nominated to apply for and attend the National Intelligence University, which offers certificate programs, bachelor's and advanced degrees in intelligence-related education.

How Do I Begin the Recruitment Process for One of the Main Agencies?

For more information on recruiting through the FBI, CIA, or NSA, visit the agency website recruitment platforms for the relevant instructions. All agencies require that recruits are U.S. citizens and have no criminal convictions or records. The process may involve several phases and tests that could extend over several months. Other requirements may apply.

What Are the Skills Expected of Intelligence Analysts?

Intelligence gathering methods include surveillance, data analysis, and the writing and dissemination of reports such as criminal profiles. Because the position involves the gathering and organizing of disconnected pieces of information with the goal of making useful inferences, a high degree of analytical skills is required. Intelligence analysts should also have excellent interpersonal and communication skills, as they must gain and cultivate trust from witnesses, potential criminals, and even staff across departments and agencies. Due to the obligation to frequently write and disseminate reports, it is also important to have excellent writing skills.

What Could I Expect to Earn and What Is the Outlook for This Career?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes intelligence analysts under the category of detectives and criminal investigators. For those careers, the BLS estimates a growth in job opportunities of 5% between 2016 and 2026. According to PayScale.com, the median annual income for intelligence analysts in 2019 is $67,066.

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