The Degree Needed to Be a CIA Analyst

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CIA analysts interpret intelligence data to assist in policy development.

The Central Intelligence Agency, part of the federal government, hires analysts officially known in the agency as "officers" to assist in data collection, covert and overt operations, and language translation and interpretation. The CIA also hired analysts to work as field agents trained to use specialized skills in analysis assignments classified under the CIA labeling as "targeting." This group of special agents works in special assignments given a high priority by the agency. The post-secondary degrees required to gain employment as an analyst vary with the professional career field in the agency and the security needs of America in a particular time period as national security threats shift around the world.

  1. Central Intelligence Agency

    • The Central Intelligence Agency began with the appointment of the Coordinator of Information immediately prior to World War II. The federal government opened the Office of Strategic Services in 1942 to collect and use intelligence information, but the office closed immediately after the war. The National Security Act of 1947 formally established a new information-gathering agency, the Central Intelligence Agency. The modern agency uses a variety of analysts and operatives, many with higher-education degrees, to collect and interpret information related to national safety. The CIA regularly recruits analysts from colleges and universities.

    Degrees Required

    • A career as a CIA analyst typically requires higher education degrees in the special operations fields, including bachelors' degrees, masters' certifications and doctorates in political science, history and cultural studies. Clandestine assignments require analysts to work in traditional jobs, including teachers and business professionals, and also to operate as a special operative and analyst stationed in foreign countries. Analysts assigned to these jobs must hold appropriate degrees to operate in the traditional jobs, as well have training and experience to serve as a CIA analyst. Analyst positions in 2011 included recruiting professionals with degrees in nuclear or physical sciences and chemical or biological engineering.

    Exclusive Skills and Expertise

    • CIA analysts typically hold degrees in multiple languages and have advanced coursework in language, culture and literature. Analysts must understand at least one foreign language and speak like a native, including a vast understanding of idioms and current slang, to work with the agency. Analyst positions also require some operatives to hold legal and computer software and hardware degrees to work in overseas clandestine assignments. Some analysts must also take advanced coursework at traditional post-secondary institutions, depending on the agency assignment.

    Combat Experience and Training

    • Specialized analysts working in overseas assignments also hold certification in military coursework, such as combat arms certification, and have significant experience in foreign travel, including "ground, air, or maritime," according to the CIA recruiting Web page. The CIA requires analyst recruits working in the National Clandestine Services to complete a "unique intensive training program" before official CIA certification to work in the field. This program incorporates agency intelligence gathering and military arms training.

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