Skills Needed for an Intelligence Community Job

Working as an intelligence analyst is an exciting and challenging job that many people have dreamed of since their childhood. However, it takes an enormous amount of dedication and expertise to even go through the lengthy application process. If you’re interested in defending your country’s national security as part of the US Intelligence Community (IC), you’ll need to be highly skilled and reliable and find a way to showcase your qualities, skills and experiences in the best possible light.

In a competitive, highly qualified pool of applicants, certain traits and experiences stand out to hiring managers. You’ll need to emphasize these characteristics during the application process to secure your dream IC job.

Agencies Within the Intelligence Community

The US Intelligence Community — a body of many government organizations and other public and private agencies — is responsible for gathering, analyzing and reporting intelligence information that relates to the security of the nation or world. Seventeen organizations make up the IC, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Security Agency (NSA) as well as departments within each military branch.

Numerous careers are available within each organization — from education, business and human resources to intelligence analysis and law enforcement. Some skills and experiences remain the same in nearly all fields within the IC, while others are specific to the job position or individual agency.

Common Qualities and Skills Needed for a Career in National Security

Believe it or not, previous experience isn’t the only thing that sets apart a great IC candidate. Hiring managers look for a range of qualities that set the ideal applicant apart from their peers. Highlight the following attributes in yourself using specific examples to stand out during the application process for an IC position:

  • Reliability
  • Strength of character
  • Trustworthiness
  • Honesty
  • Discretion
  • Soundness of judgment

Of course, personal qualities aren’t the only thing hiring managers look for on a resume. Intelligence analysts also need to possess the following hard skills:

  • Solid education: Having a strong educational background is one of the most important things you can do to prepare for a career in IC. Applicants are encouraged to get a graduate degree — particularly a law degree — to enhance their competitiveness.
  • High competency in your field: Experts are more in demand now than ever, making high competency a vital skill to showcase. As you position yourself as a subject-matter expert, you’ll increase your chances of securing an IC job in your field of expertise.
  • Computer science knowledge: Across every agency and position, one of the most universally sought-after skills is computer science expertise. A computer science degree will make you much more coveted among IC agencies.
  • Agency- and position-based skills: While many skills are transferable between agencies and positions, others are specific to the type of job you’re applying for. The IC website offers an excellent list of desired skills in the description of each career category.

Necessary Experience for an Intelligence Analyst Position

Along with these qualities and skills, you’ll also need to prove your competency in your field through past experience. Highlight the following in your resume, and be prepared to discuss them at greater length:

  • Early or mid experience: As with most positions available today, jobs in the intelligence community require a certain amount of previous experience in the field. You may need only two or more years of experience for some careers, while mid-level and senior positions require five or more.
  • Position-related experience: Each career field has unique education and experience requirements. You can find an extensive list of preferred experience for each position on the IC website.

What to Expect During the Application Process

When you apply for a position in IC, you’ll need to prepare yourself for a long application process, including:

  • Obtaining a security clearance: You must be granted a security clearance before the end of the hiring process. U.S. citizenship, personal conduct and drug use will be considered before you can obtain a security clearance, and most agencies will require a polygraph check.
  • Citizenship: All applicants must be a citizen of the United States. You must have no conflicting allegiances in other countries. However, having dual citizenship will not automatically disqualify you.
  • Drug use: IC is a drug-free workplace, and frequent or recent use of illegal drugs could disqualify you. The list includes marijuana use even in states permitting recreational or medical marijuana.
  • Personal integrity and conduct: After performing a background check, security officials will look at both favorable and unfavorable past and present behavior.
  • Medical fitness: You may undergo an examination during the hiring process to determine your mental and physical fitness.

The specific application process varies between agencies. You can find the application timeline for several specific IC organizations on the IC website.

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