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Intelligence officer


Trench coats, fedoras and cameras that fit on the head of a pin. These are a few of the images that first come to mind when people think of spies, or as they are more correctly referred to, intelligence officers. Although it may seem like something out of a movie it is not. Security, especially the security of a country and its citizens is big business. In the US, intelligence officers are employed by the FBI and CIA, among other agencies. It is the job of intelligence officers to protect the national security of the US.

Intelligence officers are responsible for collecting, analyzing and retaining information on activities that could pose a threat to the security of the US and its citizens. This means investigating terrorism and espionage and other threats against national security. They tend to start out on smaller matters such as investigating potential foreign service officers for the government or on small immigration cases . With experience they will move into more complicated investigative work.

Intelligence officers use covert and intrusive methods, such as electronic surveillance and the recruitment of spies to get the information they want. However, they must have a warrant from a judge to begin electronic surveillance, opening mail or conducting covert searches. Intelligence officers require discretion, focus and the ability to remain calm under pressure. They must be astute observers and focused on getting the job done. They do not generally get to work a 9-to-5 day, as the nature of the job demands they work to protect national security and that can mean anytime of day or night during the week and holidays.
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
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  Interests and Skills  
Intelligence officers are interested in security. They are inquisitive and have strong interpersonal skills and an understanding of the diverse cultures of our nation. They must be motivated and able to take initiative as well as work independently and as part of a team. Intelligence officers must also be adaptable, confident and quick on their feet. Proficiency in a foreign language as well as computer capabilities are assets for those wanting to work as intelligence officers.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Conduct research by phone, Internet, public records and surveillance
  • Conduct investigations
  • Analyze information and findings
  • Conduct undercover investigations themselves or direct undercover operatives
  • Meet with others to discuss and plan security measures
  • Prepare clear, concise reports on security-related matters
  • There is no typical day for an intelligence officer. Although they may go to work for a 9-to-5 day, officers may have to work at any time of day or night, including weekends and holidays. Intelligence officers must be physically fit with excellent vision and hearing. They may spend most of the day in an office conducting research and making plans for investigations. They may do some work alone and then meet with others later to discuss matters of security and make a plan of action. Intelligence officers may be out in the field doing surveillance or investigating by themselves or with others.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Intelligence officers are employed by the US government.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Intelligence officers may have the potential to move into more supervisory positions in the agencies. They may also choose to leave the agency and branch out on their own as private investigators.

  Educational Paths  
The recruitment process for intelligence officers is lengthy and involved. First, to become an intelligence officer all applicants must possess a university degree from an accredited institution. The subject of the degree is up to the individual. There are a few schools where individuals may take related courses if they are interested but there is no pre-requisite training to apply for the position. Those wishing to be considered for this position must be an American citizen with a valid driver's license as well as be willing to relocate anywhere throughout their career.

Potential intelligence officers will then have to submit an application. Those candidates found to have potential will then be invited to an information session focussing on the role of the agency and the duties of an intelligence officer. A limited number of applicants will then be chosen for an interview. Once the applicant has passed a suitability interview they will go on to a psychological assessment by an agency psychologist.

Bilingual applicants will be required to undergo an assessment of their second language. Those who are not bilingual will have an assessment of their ability to learn a second language and successful candidates will later receive language training.

If they pass this section candidates then go on to a national assessment panel where they will be interviewed in-depth on their motivation, knowledge of the agency and their suitability for employment as an intelligence officer.

Applicants will then have to go through a security clearance which includes an extensive background investigation involving reference checks, verification of personal information, criminal record name checks, security interviews, polygraph testing, fingerprinting and the submission of a financial statement.

Once these steps are successfully completed the applicant will undergo an interview by an executive of the agency to evaluate their overall suitability for this career. A final review of the applicant will then be conducted based on the overall recruiting process to determine if they match the requirements needed for an intelligence officer.

It should be noted that only a limited number of applicants will even get past the first interview stage.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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