Want to pursue a career in the intelligence industry? In addition to your education, having real-world experience is integral to successfully landing an intelligence position. Whether it's through the military, civilian employment or an internship, having direct experience will help you stand out from the crowd. This guide can help you explore options and learn how to prepare for a career in this field.
Exploring Your Options
There are several career options for you to consider in the intelligence field. The following options are only a sampling of the varying career directions you can consider. Keep in mind the path you choose may require additional experience or qualifications beyond obtaining a degree in intelligence studies.
- Access Analyst
- Border Patrol Agent
- Business & Competitive Intelligence Analyst
- Political Scientist
- Counterterrorism Analyst
- Criminal Investigator
- Cyber Security Intelligence Analyst
- Fleet Security Operations Analyst
- Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Analyst
- Insider Threat Detection Analyst
- Immigration Officer
- Intelligence Officer
- Intelligence Collection Specialist
- Linguist or Translator
- Police Detective
- Program Analyst
- Resource Analyst
- Security Analyst
- Special Agent
Your ideal career path may or may not appear in the list above. Continue exploring until you find a path that aligns with your individual interests and professional goals. In addition, make it a priority to learn as much as possible about your desired path before making a final decision about your career choice or degree program. The more you know, the better you can plan and prepare for success. The following government-sponsored websites can help you continue your career research:
Being eligible to hold a security clearance is important when trying to enter the intelligence field. While not all positions require applicants to already have a clearance in place, most intelligence employers do require applicants to be eligible to obtain one. It is important to understand what is required to obtain a clearance, the limitations, and how one is obtained before pursuing a career in this field.
There are three basic clearance classifications: Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret. Within each category, there are different levels of clearance.
- Security clearances can be issued by several U.S. government agencies, such as the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
- To acquire a clearance, individuals MUST be sponsored by an employer AND be in a position for which a clearance is required.
- Individuals who are naturalized U.S. citizens may acquire a clearance in the same way that a natural-born U.S. citizen might.
- Although non-U.S. citizens are prohibited from obtaining a clearance, they may be granted Limited Access Authorization (LAA) in circumstances where they possess critical skills or qualifications.
One key piece of information to keep in mind: only a federal agency can grant a security clearance. You should never trust a company who offers “pre-approval” for the security clearance process.
For more information on security clearances, please read “Background Checks and Security Clearances” by GoGovernment.org or “Security Clearance FAQs” by ClearanceJobs.com.
Did you know there are several specialty fields within the intelligence community? While intelligence analysis and intelligence collection may be the most well-known, there are many diverse career tracks within the industry that aspiring professionals can pursue, including cybersecurity, law enforcement, language translation, and more!
Learn more about the various specialty areas and discover where your individual skills, education, and experiences best align on the IntelligenceCareers.gov: Careers website.
Planning for an Intelligence Career
Employers gravitate toward hiring candidates who possess relevant, real-world experiences that complement their education. If you have limited experience in your target functional area, there are ways you can gain relevant new skills and experiences. To brainstorm additional ideas, schedule an appointment with your career coach.
Internship opportunities can be found at a variety of government agencies. Below are a few ideas on where you can start your search:
- Intelligence Community: Student Programs
- FBI Honors Internship Program
- CIA Internships
- Office of Intelligence and Analysis Internship Program
- Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS)
*Please note that while Career Services can help you prepare for the internship application process, the university does not coordinate internships or provide placement services.
Consider serving in an intelligence-related role in the military (Active Duty, Reserve, or National Guard) to gain experience that can help you when applying for opportunities in the intelligence industry.
Building meaningful connections with employers, recruiters, mentors, and industry professionals can help you learn more about a position, field, or specialty area. Connections can also aid you during a future job search. Below are ways you can begin establishing new professional relationships.
Virtual Career Fairs:
Career Services offers industry-specific virtual career fairs throughout the year, providing students and alumni with opportunities to connect with employers and recruiters. View our Virtual Career Fairs page in your ecampus and discover upcoming events.
Past participating VCF employers have included*:
- Booz Allen Hamilton
- National Security Agency (NSA)
- Patriot Group International
- PAE, Inc.
- RPI Group
*Please note that past employer participation does not guarantee future employer VCF participation. Please visit our ecampus Virtual Careers Fair page for upcoming event information.
Building your professional network can occur right in your classroom! Our programs in intelligence studies are taught by highly credentialed and experienced instructors, many of whom hold key positions in government agencies or other intelligence organizations. Throughout your degree program, start building a positive rapport with your instructors and don’t be afraid to ask them about their career story or for general career advice.
APUS Mentoring Program:
Receive coaching, motivation, and guidance from a university mentor. Visit the university's mentoring page to learn more!
Joining a professional organization offers a variety of career and professional development benefits, such as the opportunity to network at conferences and other events. There are several organizations within the intelligence field, so be sure to explore all your options to find the best fit for you. Examples of relevant organizations include:
- Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA)
- Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO)
- Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP)
- International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts (IALEIA)
- Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA)
- Military Intelligence Corps Association (MICA)
- Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP)
- National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA)
- Women in Defense (WID)
- Women in International Security (WIIS)
Build your network, connect with employers, and join LinkedIn groups to engage in professional discussions. Examples of relevant LinkedIn groups include:
There are several intelligence certifications available to intelligence professionals within the intelligence marketspace. Most prominent are those created and managed by Defense Intelligence Training and Education Board (DITEB) within the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence or USD(I). These certifications are intended to enable an agile and responsive mission-ready workforce and promote an integrated intelligence and security learning and development enterprise.
There are over 20 DoD Intelligence and Security Certifications currently available within the relevant DoD Intelligence Agencies with several additional certifications currently under development. Of these, the Intelligence Fundamentals Professional Certification or IFPC is immediately available to APUS students to register and take at a nearby testing facility run by Pearson VUE. To register to take the IFPC exam, please visit https://ifpc-gsx.learningbuilder.com.
More information regarding DoD Intelligence and Security Certifications can be found at the following link: https://dodcertpmo.defense.gov/