How To Get A Job In Intelligence Kristan J. Wheaton

How To Get A Job In Intelligence
by Kristan J. Wheaton
About Kristan J. Wheaton
Kristan J. Wheaton is an Associate Professor of intelligence studies at Mercyhurst College. Some of his writings — including the source to this book —
can be found at his blog, sources and methods.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons:
You are free:
to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the work
Under the following conditions:
Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or
your use of the work).
Noncommercial — You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
No Derivative Works — You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.
With the understanding that:
Waiver — Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.
Public Domain — Where the work or any of its elements is in the public domain under applicable law, that status is in no way affected by the license.
Other Rights — In no way are any of the following rights affected by the license:
Your fair dealing or fair use rights, or other applicable copyright exceptions and limitations
The author's moral rights
Rights other persons may have either in the work itself or in how the work is used, such as publicity or privacy rights.
Notice — For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do this is with a link to this web
Original work by Kristan J. Wheaton, 2009.
Cover and EPUB adoption by Benjamin Wittorf, 2011.
Table Of Contents
The Intelligence Job Market From 20,000 Feet
The Good News!
Even Better News!
Beyond The Big Three: Jobs In Commercial Intelligence Agencies, Think-tanks And NGO's
Beyond Borders
Beyond Borders: Europe, India And South Africa
Going It On Your Own
The 5 Things You Must Have
Advice From The Trenches
Advice From Veterans
Intelligence Job Links
Special Report: Where The Jobs Are, 2009
Annex 1: “Plan B” Careers
I wrote this book to help entry-level job seekers understand the broader market for intelligence professionals and, particularly, intelligence analysts. I start
by taking a look at not only national security but also business and law enforcement employment prospects for intelligence professionals and continue
with detailed advice along with a number of places to look for employment. This book contains multiple links for job hunters as well as a substantial
amount of background information on everything from resumes to interview skills to appropriate dress.
— Kristan J. Wheaton, October 12, 2009.
Getting a job in intelligence is not easy. Some of the reasons why have to do with predictable things like security clearances. Some of the reasons are
much less obvious.
The purpose of this book is to explore the job market for intelligence analysts and to offer some advice based on years of talking to recruiters and
watching students try to get jobs.
I will try to be as complete as possible. I intend to write about not only the national security but also the law enforcement, business and international
intelligence job markets. I know, however, that I don't know everything so I invite anyone reading this to please post your comments to this book if you have
something useful or insightful to say.
I intend to focus on the entry–level, intel analyst positions as that is what I know best. Some of what I say will obviously apply to other jobs in the intel
communities but I can't guarantee that it will. As they say, "Some local restrictions may apply."
OK, that is probably enough caveats; let's get started!
The First Problem
Take a second and go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Search for “chemical engineers”. Pretty soon you will wind up with a page with some very
detailed statistics on it. With almost no effort you can learn that chemical engineers make an average of about $88,000 a year, that more of these
engineers are employed in Texas (specifically Beaumont–Port Arthur, Texas) than anywhere else but that the chemical engineers making top dollar have
jobs in San Jose, CA.
Now do a search for “intelligence”. You will get a page that looks like this:
Sure, there are tons of good jokes we can make here (e.g. "Finally! We have proof! There is no intelligence at the Bureau of Labor Statistics…"), but that
would be cruel and what I am really trying to do is demonstrate one of the fundamental problems of trying to get a job — any job — in intelligence: It is not
a recognized labor category.
Because there is not a consistent set of terms describing intelligence jobs, finding where these jobs are listed is a matter of hunting and pecking around
until you bump into them. Some places are better than others for finding intel jobs (and I will list as many of these places as I can find later in this book), but
no one place has all or even a majority of the jobs available in the various intelligence communities.
In addition, because no one organization is charged with tracking intelligence jobs (writ large) no one knows how many jobs there are out there, whether
the field is growing or shrinking, what skill set is in demand now, what skill set will be in demand four years from now, etc. Sure, individual recruiters may
have a good feel for their part of the market and everyone has an opinion but because there is no consistent labeling of jobs there are no consistent
numbers for jobs offerings. Because there are no numbers, it is very difficult to get a feel for the market overall.
The Intelligence Job Market From 20,000 Feet
A high altitude survey of the intelligence job market yields some pretty interesting observations. The first is that the intelligence job market is finite. There
are some pretty distinct boundaries and limits to the size of it and knowing these limits and boundaries helps you understand the potential for jobs in this
Let's start with the basics. How many intelligence jobs are there in the US and the world? How many people are actually employed in intelligence? We will
start with the most famous of the job markets — the US Intelligence Community.
Jobs In The US Intelligence Community (IC)
According to a late 2006 US News and World Report article, there are about 100,000 people working in the US intelligence community of which about
17,000 are analysts. This number was more or less confirmed in mid–2008. While it is unclear what exactly has been counted and what has not, these
numbers provide a good starting place for some back of the envelope analysis useful to job seekers.
For example, how many analysts does the US IC need each year? Well, if you imagine a 25 year career for an analyst and all of them stay until retirement,
then you are looking at about 700 a year (17,000/25 = 680).
It is virtually certain that only a few of these analysts stay all the way until retirement, however. More importantly, the number of analysts in each year group
is not equal. In fact, one of the common comments about the intel community is that there are a number of “old” analysts soon to reach retirement and an
even larger number of young analysts who have been hired since 9/11. This creates what has been called a “bathtub curve” (where the surge of new
analysts is at one end of the time line and the large number of soon–to–be retirees is at the other end. In the middle is a smaller number of people who
were hired between the end of the Cold War and 9/11).
All this makes it even more difficult to estimate how many entry–level jobs (including analyst jobs) there are in a given year. I would guess (and it is only a
guess) that the “normal” number of analyst positions that need to be filled each year in the US government falls somewhere between half this idealized
replacement rate to twice that rate or from about 350 to 1400.
These replacement rate numbers are particularly important as the halcyon days of the hiring boom in intelligence over the last 8 years are likely over.
Budget strains are virtually certain to put a damper on significant levels of hiring beyond the replacement rate although the importance of the intelligence
mission and the continued emergence of new threats (we are hearing that there will continue to be a growth market in cyber threat analysts into the next
year and beyond, for example) will likely ensure that replacements get hired for those analysts and others who retire or quit.
The situation gets even worse, though, when you look at some of the agencies. The CIA is reporting a record number of applications this year — 180,000
— for the jobs they have open. The CIA has about 20,000 people in it and, if the overall percentage of analysts in the IC holds true for the CIA, then that
means that there are about 3400 (17% of 20,000) analysts housed at Langley. Without any growth and if 5% of them are leaving or retiring this year then
there are roughly (very roughly) 170 analyst positions available.
Furthermore, if 17% of the 180,000 applicants are trying to fill analyst positions then getting an analyst job at the CIA is about 18 times harder than getting
accepted to Harvard as an undergrad (Harvard's acceptance rate in 2007 was 9.2%. 17% × 180,000 = 30,600. 170/30,600 = .6%).
All of these are just logical guesses but even if I am wrong by half (in other words, the number of jobs is twice what I estimate it to be) the total number of
jobs and jobs available each year in the US Intelligence Community (and the number of analyst jobs in particular) is by no means enormous.
Including the number of analyst and other jobs available through contractors does not actually improve the picture that much. If recent numbers are
accurate, then there are only about 37,000 contract employees in the US IC. Again, how many of these are analyst positions is unknown but if the 17%
rule holds true here as well, it means an increase of a little more than 6000 analysts positions available through various contractors.
While not insubstantial, the number of entry–level positions through contractors is probably even more limited as we go into 2010 than through the
government directly. In the first place, a significant number of intelligence professionals take jobs through contractors when they retire. In the second
place, the days of large contracts for intelligence services seems to be coming to an end. I suspect that many of these contract jobs may get “converted”
to government positions rather than go away (the government is going to still need the analysts regardless of who the analysts work for) over the next
several years but the absolute number of positions that will need to be filled each year is probably in lower half of the 75—450 range.
In short, if you add up everything and round it all off to make it easy to wrap your head around it, there are likely about 1000 analyst jobs a year in the
combined government and contractor worlds supporting the US IC. The number could be as low as around 400 or as high as about 2000 but given limited
prospects for growth and some guess–timates for replacement rates, 1000 seems about right.
A couple of other things come out of this analysis. First, the competition for these jobs is fierce. I strongly suspect that the CIA gets the lion's share of
attention when it comes to job applications but I would also guess that, in this economy, all 16 members of the intel community and the contractors that
support them have seen an increase in the number of applications.
Likewise, not all of these 1000 or so positions are truly “entry–level”. It is inevitable that some, perhaps many, of these positions are limited to people with
significant levels of experience or who speak Farsi fluently or whatever.
Finally, I may well be off by a significant amount here. In addition to being terrible at math, the numbers I am basing this analysis on may be gross under–
or over–estimates (it is the intelligence community after all…). I am hoping that some of the readers of my blog will post a comment or two pointing us all
to some major hiring binge that I have missed.
Even if I am wrong, however, I think the first thing that job seekers need to fully understand is that the US national security market is both limited and
The Good News!
The US National Security Community, while the best known, is not, however, the only place to get a job as an intelligence analyst. There are many jobs
available in law enforcement, business, and with non–governmental organizations. While not all of these jobs label themselves “intelligence” positions
(and more on that later), they all require what is essentially the intelligence analyst skill set.
Intel Analyst Jobs In Law Enforcement
Law enforcement agencies employ a significant number of intelligence and crime analysts. The FBI alone employs more than 2000 analysts (with plans to
hire 321 in 2010). While many of these positions are in Washington, the FBI also stations analysts around the country in Field Intelligence Groups, making
this an attractive hiring option for people who can't or don't want to move from home.
Beyond the FBI, however, there are a number of other Federal agencies and organizations that use analysts. The Department of Homeland Security
employs a very large number of intelligence analysts while the Drug Enforcement Administration and the US Department Of Treasury (through its
Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) both employ intelligence analysts. One of the best places to work, I think, is the US Coast Guard. We have
placed a number of interns with the “coasties” and they all come back pretty positive about their experience.
All of these agencies are part of what is formally called the US Intelligence Community and the total number of jobs available should have been included in
the analysis I did yesterday. I am mentioning these positions here primarily because students have a tendency to focus on the CIA when thinking about
intelligence jobs and they ignore these other places with intelligence functions that are every bit as interesting and as challenging as the ones in the
Beyond The Feds
If these other federal agencies are often overlooked, an even more ignored source of intelligence jobs is state and local law enforcement. There are few
good estimates out there regarding the total number of jobs in law enforcement intelligence/crime analysis but my best guess is about 9000.
I get this number by looking at the total number of state and law enforcement agencies in the US (17,876) and dividing it, roughly, in half. I know that most
of the agencies in the US have less than 50 officers and that agencies with less than 50 officers are unlikely to have anyone in intel. I also know, however,
that some big cities (like New York) have large and very well developed intelligence units. So, I am ball–parking it here again but 9000 sounds about right.
If the numbers I came up with yesterday make any sense at all, then this should translate into about 500 entry level intelligence analyst/crime analyst
positions per year opening up in law enforcement around the US.
Unlike the numbers for the big federal agencies, however, there are several reasons why this number could be low. For one reason, California alone
estimated that it would need 160 analysts in 2005 for law enforcement and they also estimated, at the time, that the demand would continue to grow.
Another good reason for growth in this field is the increasing popularity of a concept, born in the UK, called “intelligence–led policing”. To the extent that
this catches on in the US (and it appears to have some traction here), it cannot help but to increase the number of intelligence billets in state and local law
enforcement agencies.
Finally, there appears to be a growing interest in law enforcement and intelligence analysis at the career level. The International Association Of Crime
Analysts boasts some 1500 members and, while the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts doesn't advertise its numbers,
insiders tell me that it probably has 2—3000 members. Both of these organizations are international but the largest body of members reside in the US.
Why Not Law Enforcement?
There are three reasons why these types of jobs often get overlooked or sidelined. In the first place they are not easy to find. If you want a job in local law
enforcement, you have to be looking at state and local government job boards. Some agencies advertise broadly but most do not. Finding these jobs can
be a pain.
The second reason that they may not seem appropriate is that some require an applicant to be “sworn” or a full–fledged member of the police force.
While my impression is that this is changing, I am virtually certain that a number of these jobs require the analyst to be a cop first and an analyst second.
Finally, these jobs don't pay particularly well. The pay is not awful in most places and in some places it is not bad at all, but, by and large, it does not equal
the pay (even when adjusted for cost of living) of an analyst in the Federal government or in business (which I will discuss next).
Even Better News!
The skills that the intelligence professional possesses are in high demand throughout the business world. In fact, the President's Council Of Economic
Advisers recently issued a report that stated, "Employers value workers who can think critically and solve problems". Many highly–paid
occupations require workers with good analytic and interactive skills." Sounds like an intel analyst to me (except for maybe the “highly paid” part…).
In fact, the largest and the fastest growing job market for intelligence and, in particular, intelligence analysts, is likely to be companies who need the skills
that the typical intelligence analyst possesses in order to understand the broad range of largely unstructured data that confronts the corporate
Our own conservative estimate is that there are close to half a million jobs currently in this market and more than 50,000 (yes, 50,000) jobs will be added
over the next 5—10 years. These numbers are based on a variety of statistics but before I get into those, I need to outline some of the challenges in this
The Challenges
The first problem is definitional. The same Council Of Economic Advisers report I cited above also says, "In 2003, for example, a quarter of American
workers were in jobs that were not even listed among the Census Bureau’s Occupation codes in 1967, and technological change has only accelerated
since then". Needless to say, “intelligence analyst” wasn't (and still isn't) one of them.
What do we call intelligence professionals working in the business world? When you want to do a job search, what key terms do you use?
Well, one you shouldn't use is “business intelligence”. This term has been appropriated by a wide variety of software companies who produce
applications that allow companies to examine in greater detail the structured information that they already have. This information is mostly about the
internal workings of the organization and the output of these programs is designed to support recommendations for improving the efficiency or profitability
of a company's operations.
These software packages typically do not focus on analyzing the unstructured data that swirls around the outside of the organization. In short, it is not the
kind of “intelligence” we are talking about here. Our kind of intelligence focuses on events and organizations that are outside the control of but still relevant
to the business we are tasked to support. This data — which can include blog posts and tweets and random emails — is largely unstructured and
requires a vastly different skill set and methods to understand.
So, if not business intelligence, then what? I have done dozens of studies for businesses of all sizes. In almost all cases, the CEOs and managers I have
worked with are interested in two things: Where is my market and what are my competitors doing? It is no surprise then that the terms “competitive
intelligence” and “market intelligence” are worth using to find jobs.
Check out the growth rates in the two charts below for jobs bearing these terms (found by my colleague, Prof. Shelly Freyn on one of the better job search
engines out there,
The problem is that these terms are not industry standards. You could just as easily search for jobs as a “market analyst” or a “research analyst” or a
“marketing specialist in competitive research” or many others. The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses the term “market research analysts” but it is unclear
precisely which kinds of jobs this definition includes. The wide variety of terms (coupled with the red herring of “business intelligence”) makes hunting for
the right kind of intelligence job in the business world a bit of a pain.
The second challenge is getting employers to recognize the need for intelligence. We know, for example, of a number of companies who refuse to call the
positions “intelligence” positions because they think it implies that they practice industrial espionage. You can usually get past this objection with some
discussion (the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professional's and the American Marketing Association's positions on the ethics of their professions
go a long way towards alleviating some of these concerns).
Even if you can get past the spook factor, though, there is still a perception by many businesses that they do not need intelligence. My technique in these
cases is to ask the managers and executives I deal with, "Who in your company has it as a fundamental part of their job — as part of their job description
— to systematically examine all the factors relevant to your company's success but outside your company's control, integrate those factors as necessary
and provide estimates of how those factors will change over time in order to support your planning processes?"
The answers vary, of course. Some companies have market analysts but they are not tasked to look at the competition. Others have competitive
intelligence and market analysts but clearly have other intelligence needs that aren't being met (like the company with a global presence that needs to
understand if its employees are likely to get kidnapped or the company who transports critical raw materials in ships that travel off the coast of
Even if all the various needs are covered, no one is integrating the reports, coordinating the activities or providing meaningful estimates about how
conditions are likely to change. Some places have even told me that performing this function is “everyone's job” but I just laugh (I can do that because I am
a professor and not a consultant).
No matter what the answer, the discussion leads to the follow–on question: "Don't you think it would be useful to have someone who does all this for you?"
The answer is always, "Yes" but it still translates only slowly, if at all, into intelligence jobs.
Even if the company or organization accepts the need for intelligence and even if there is job position available, the final challenge is to get the business
to understand the kind of intelligence qualifications necessary for the job. All too often companies look to particular degree fields which are inappropriate
for their needs. The most common example is looking for a specialist when a generalist would do a better job.
Imagine you are an engineering company and you have lots of engineers who do engineering stuff really well. You need to understand the environment —
political, social, economic, competitive — in which the company will be operating. Who do you hire? Too often, I see this kind of company go after an
engineer to fill this kind of analytic position.
This is an expensive mistake. The engineer that gets hired to do this is likely just waiting to move to a “real” engineering position and costing the company
an arm and a leg in the process. In addition, this new hire will speak the language of engineering but is less well prepared than an intel analyst (who wants
the job and is likely to stay in it) to look at the broader range of issues in which the company is interested.
Back To The Numbers
Despite these challenges, the market potential here for intelligence analysts is enormous, dwarfing the numbers of analysts needed in the Law
Enforcement or National Security realms.
According to data Shelly found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics site, the number of “market research analysts” alone is set to rise from 234,000 in 2006
to 281,000 (+47,000) by 2016. Other analyst positions within the business community are almost certainly at least partially intelligence analyst positions
by another name. How many of the 236,000 “financial analysts”, for example, are actually looking that the risk posed by political factors in foreign
countries in much the same way as a CIA Desk Officer? If it is anything close to 10%, then the number of jobs in this sector alone exceeds the total
number of analysts (17,000) in the US national security intelligence community. Under these circumstances, I feel more than comfortable with a 50,000
increase estimate.
Resolving the challenges inherent in getting a job in the corporate world as an intel analyst are going to take some time. Intelligence has to grow up as a
discipline and realize that is more than James Bond or George Smiley. Until this happens, it is unlikely that the world of corporate intelligence will become
easier to move around in. In the meantime, see the job hunt as a test of your analytic skills with the full knowledge that these woods are full of game.
Beyond The Big Three: Jobs In Commercial Intelligence Agencies,
Think-tanks And NGO's
When most people think of jobs in intelligence, they immediately think of the CIA or other national agencies. A few think about law enforcement positions
and even fewer think about the place, oddly enough, where most of the jobs actually reside — in business.
This breakdown is mirrored in a survey I have been running on another of my websites (more on that later) for the last couple of years. You can see the
current results below:
Only about 3% are looking for jobs beyond these three categories. My theory is that most people just don't know about all of the opportunities in
intelligence analysis or intelligence analysis-like jobs in commercial intelligence agencies, think-tanks and non-governmental organizations.
Commercial Intelligence Agencies
The “commercial intelligence agency” is my neologism for all those entities out there who are essentially doing what intelligence agencies do but they do it
for profit. The granddaddy of this type of organization is, of course, Jane's. Jane's has been around since 1865 and produces some of the best
information and analysis on defense and defense industry matters for business and national security clients.
Jane's is also on almost every desktop in the national security community (which is one of the reasons we offer an nearly complete subscription to their
service to our students here at Mercyhurst). A quick search of IHS, Jane's parent site, shows 22 jobs with the word “analyst” in the title.
There are others, of course. STRATFOR and IJet are two more “cia's” that are extremely well respected. Other firms are more specialized, such as the
Economist Intelligence Unit and Cyveillance (which focuses on cybercrime). All periodically offer jobs through their sites.
Beyond the growing number of cia's, there are also the large consulting firms such as PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and Accenture. Most of the jobs
in these fields require specialized business backgrounds, so entry-level opportunities might be limited for pure intel analysts but not impossible. For
example, Mercyhurst intel studies graduates work or have worked at two of the three companies listed above. All of these companies have robust
internship programs which, in turn, could lead to what would be a very good job.
There are a ton of think–tanks, such as The Carnegie Endowment For International Peace, The Cato Institute, the RAND Corporation and The Heritage
Foundation, that do analysis. The truth is, however, that there are often some high barriers to entry into these types of positions and not all of them will be
a good fit for a generic analyst.
If you do not have the special skills required of these high profile positions, an internship might be the best way to get a job with one of these institutions.
Most of these organizations offer robust internship possibilities (although many of them are unpaid).
Likewise, while the ones mentioned above are among the most high profile institutions in the country, there are a number of other think tanks — often at a
state or local level — that would be an easier “fit” for an entry level analyst.
Non-Governmental Organizations
This category overlaps, to a certain extent, with the think-tank category but is often characterized by an explicit advocacy position. Analysis is often a core
product of these organizations but it is articulated from a particular point of view.
This does not necessarily mean it is biased, but it is focused, and if the job seeker does not share that focus, the fit is unlikely to be very good. For
example, the Sierra Club produces analysis but if you don't accept climate change as fact, I would predict that any job involving analysis you might get with
the organization would be pretty unsatisfying.
Even more so than with think–tanks, the jobs here are not as plentiful and internships are more likely to be unpaid. The work can be enormously
rewarding, however. Two good examples of organizations that examine topics that would be fascinating to many analysts are the Federation Of American
Scientists and Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project.
Just A Few More Thoughts…
These three broad categories are really just that: Categories. There are obviously many more opportunities in these fields than I can catalog in these few
Furthermore, virtually any job from any of the organizations listed above will require a deep search of their job listings (jobs in these categories, if
available, are unlikely to be titled “intelligence analyst”, for example. A more nuanced and time consuming search strategy will almost certainly be
necessary to find a job that is a good fit for a particular set of analytic skills).
My primary purpose is to encourage job seekers in “intelligence” (and, particularly, “intelligence analysis”) to think more broadly about their field and
where they might fit into it.
Beyond Borders
So far, I have really only talked about intelligence and intelligence analysis positions within the US. There are actually quite a few ways to find good jobs
outside the US as well. There are many reasons to take a job outside the US — travel, cultural exposure, learning a language, etc. Some of these jobs
pay quite well, many are very rewarding and almost all of them are good resume builders.
The first, and probably the easiest, way to get an overseas job is through a US agency or company. Almost all of the US national security intelligence
agencies have slots for intelligence professionals overseas and I am not just speaking about covert operatives. Any number of locations (such as the
Joint Analysis Center in Molesworth, England) have both civilian and military analysts. Most of these kinds of jobs can best be found through a careful
search of
Companies — and not just US companies — also sponsor any number of jobs overseas. You can find these jobs by searching various employers'
websites and some of them will get listed on the major job boards such as or A keyword to know, however, is “expatriate”
(sometimes abbreviated as “expat”). The community of people who are living and working outside their home countries is quite large and the internet has
helped this community become better organized. It has been some time since I left this community so I am not sure of the reputable sites out there
anymore. If any reader has a lead for the rest of us, please pass it on.
One quick tip: Before you take any job in a foreign country with a company or organization you do not know well, touch base with your home
country's embassy before you accept the offer. Not everyone is a fly–by–night operator but they do exist. I can't speak for every country's embassy
employees but I know the hard working consular officers who manage US citizen services in US embassys would prefer to talk to you before you go
rather than after you are in trouble.
Another oft–overlooked place for employment is the International Civil Service Commission. This is the place to look if you want a job in the United
Nations system. Though not as well organized as USAjobs, this website gives links to all of the UN agencies and, yes, you have to search each site for
jobs within each member agency. Remember as well that the UN doesn't do “intelligence” so what you are really looking for are intelligence–like jobs.
Also remember that the UN works on a quota system. It has an obligation to hire people from around the world so it will not allow certain jobs to get filled
up with Americans and Europeans. For non–westerners, this gives you a bit of an edge if you are otherwise qualified but come from a developing country.
Other international organizations are often looking for people with analytic skills if not for “intelligence analysts” per se. Many of them have special hiring
restrictions. For example, EUROPOL requires its candidates to be from the EU while INTERPOL is mostly looking for police and other officials who have
been seconded by a hosting country to the organization. One good place to look for jobs with international organizations is (as already mentioned in the
comments to the aricles this book is based on) on
Beyond Borders: Europe, India And South Africa
It has been my pleasure over the last several years to get to know a number of intelligence professionals in other countries. I recently reached out to some
of them to ask them what the job market was like for intelligence professionals in their neck of the woods. I received some good replies that I thought were
worth sharing.
Chris Pallaris, Head of Open Source Intelligence at the International Relations and Security Network, Zurich, Switzerland:
For my part, jobs are certainly to be had in Europe, both in the public or private sector. One caveat: the economic crisis has meant more people
staying in university longer. The research positions in a great many university–affiliated think tanks are tough to land and are likely to remain so for a
little while longer.
The problem, however — and this has been echoed by a number of people I have spoken to — is not attracting applicants but rather finding those
with the qualities and skills that are really in demand. The problem here is as much one for the employer as it is for the employees.
Students may leave university with good subject or region specific knowledge. But they lack the IT and information literacy skills that will allow them to
jump in at the deep end. More notably, many lack the tact to deal with the sensitive issues that invariably cross their desks (a consequence of letting it
all out on Facebook as a matter of course perhaps?). It’s a little unfair to expect them to have these skills from the word go, but in the current
climate… My advice as an occasional recruiter: a little old school courtesy would go a long way towards making up for any skills shortages.
Also, it’s important for young graduates to note that intel jobs increasingly come in lots of different flavors: as information officers/knowledge
managers, in policy planning units, as market researchers etc. All make use of intelligence skills. Moreover, there is a growing call for people who
can think about the future (scenarios, foresight, etc.) without having smoke pour from their ears.
In the “competitive intelligence” domain, my (albeit limited) experience suggests that the best “spooks” and strategists have served a long(ish)
apprenticeship in one or more departments (research, planning, marketing etc.) before graduating to a competitive intelligence role. Knowing the
business or industry you’re in is part and parcel of being able to survey the market, identify trends, anticipate threats, etc. That may be something
worth passing on.
I would also proffer the following advice: a good job as an analyst, researcher, desk officer, etc. in a lowly but effective department is far better than a
sexy sounding intelligence job in a dysfunctional agency. The important thing for young graduates is to be around people who can teach them how to
get things done and not just how to navigate the political rapids.
Nimalan Paul, Manager, Infiniti Research, Mysore, India:
Regarding the job market for intelligence analysts in India, I am no expert but here is my take based on what I have seen, read and heard.
National security —
Analyst jobs are possible through positions in R&AW or the IB. Entry into these organizations, like other Indian government organizations is through
the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). The UPSC recruits people for government services ranging from typists to scientists all year round
through written tests and interviews across various cities and towns.
I haven't been tracking this for long but have never come across specific requirements for IB or R&AW. What I understand is that people, once
selected through the UPSC for a certain “grade” of employment, are then moved on to junior level positions in IB or R&AW. So, in effect, what I
understand is that the UPSC recruits for a certain grade of officers who can get drafted into the IB/ R&AW or if luck has it, get into the Indian Postal
Service as well (incidentally an ex director of R&AW was previously head of the Indian Postal Service).
Apart from this, the senior officers of R&AW and IB get deputed from the Indian Police Service (IPS) and to some extent from the IAS (Indian
Administrative Service). The IPS is the point of entry for someone to reach the upper echelons of the Indian police force. An IPS officer, for instance,
starts much higher in the hierarchy and moves ahead faster than a police officer who started as, say, a constable. Entry to the elite IPS / IAS is by
means of a rigorous examination and interview.
Once selected, these officers are trained in an exclusive training school and are considered the crème de la crème of Indian youth and groomed for
top government roles. Having an IPS or an IAS tag to your name is also highly prestigious. The point is, if you have an IPS tag you might serve in a
local police force but then there are very high chances of being deputed either to the R&AW or IB. R&AW and IB have their own training programs for
analysts, operatives, and the like which the IPS officer would undergo.
R&AW is also supposed to have its own cadre system like the IPS / IAS called the RAS (Research and Analysis Services) but I have never seen an
advertisement or heard anything much about it.
Law Enforcement —
Apart from the police force with its various divisions, we also have the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which is something similar to the FBI.
Recruitment to the above is also through the UPSC. They have their own training academy in Gurgaon near New Delhi. In the end since its all
government service, CBI officers can be deputed to IB and R&AW and vice–versa.
Corporate —
This is, by far, the easiest way to get into intelligence analysis and very transparent — unlike the others. However, not many companies have a
competitive intelligence (CI) division and it is only big multinational corporations who have a team of approx. 4—5 people to take care of their intel
needs. Examples that come to mind are Oracle, SAP and so on who have teams of less than 10 people to take care of intel needs.
However, from what I understand, recruitment is essentially internal — mainly from the sales / marketing teams because they would know the
competition better. A CI executive from a big corporation whom I had the chance to speak to said his job mainly involved helping Sales close deals
and since he himself had worked in Sales in the past, it helped.
The other option is to work for market research firms, otherwise referred to as KPO firms (Knowledge Process Outsourcing firms). They need
analysts and India has a lot of these KPOs (the biggest being Evalueserve which, incidentally, exhibited at the SCIP Conference this year). These are
not pure play CI firms (the word CI is relatively unknown here) and do a lot of market research and other activities for European and US clients. So, in
effect, you do not have a specific CI analyst but an analyst who also does CI! Therefore there are very good chances that there are no dedicated CI
processes, tools and techniques in these organizations.
To sum it up, in India, there is no clear field of work called “intelligence analysis” nor is there a clear tribe of people called “intelligence analysts”
except for government service and they never talk about it.
South Africa
Dalene Duvenage, Owner, 4Knowledge Analysis Solutions, Johannesburg, South Africa:
Glad you asked, but as you would expect, we're in a totally different position. We have no academic programs in intel here… I'm starting an African
intel college with Don McDowell in the new year, but it might be only 2011 that we actually present accredited courses. Which means that we're not in
the position that graduates from Mercyhurst would be, looking for jobs in intel per se. Also, our analytic cadre is way smaller in “statutory intel” (i.e.
domestic, foreign, police and defence intel). I would say it is not bigger than perhaps 400 (most probably nearer to 300).
What is growing is the private sector's investigation or “intel” units. They would normally have investigators with support personnel at the beginning,
until they realize or are told about the benefit of having dedicated analysts. Sometimes people from statutory intel will be appointed as managers in
these units and they have experience with the benefits of dedicated analysts.
Those in the private sector having the job description of analyst can be found in the banking sector or competitive intel market, with all the variants of
names for what they are actually doing. The biggest growth is in the counter–corruption, crime investigation and risk management units of our local,
provincial or national government departments or even the private security sector, because our police capacity is so dismal.
These units are separate from the police and have the mandate to secure and prevent crime/corruption in their department or company. Most of
these units at this stage do not have dedicated analysts, only investigators, but I'm busy penetrating this market (it sounds a bit self–serving, but it will
benefit the profession in the end).
So, if you put the previous number of about 400 in statutory intel and these quasi analysts together it might run up to 1000? Serious thumb sucking
The typical scenario at such a private or government investigation unit will be: A manager who has heard about intelligence, is not sure what it means
and what it can do for the unit, investigators and support personnel. But it sounds sexy enough, or they have intel background and want someone
from the outside to come and convince their employees that this new approach is the best. When I give intel awareness workshops to such a
combined group, we go through the intelligence process, they realize what intel can do, how they can work better together to create knowledge and
impact on the decision–making level. This bird's eye view course provides everyone a sense of what intel is.
Thereafter, we coach and mentor throughout the career progression of the analyst or manager. (The learning pathway is on my website
4Knowledge.) Those identified to be analysts or do analysis type of work will then do a proper intel analysis course. There are investigators who also
attend this course, which helps a lot with the dynamics and post–course inculcation.
As they progress as analysts (and I stress the professionalization of intel analysis), they would come for further courses according to their needs and
the learning roadmap. Now the idea with the college is that they could 1) do the diploma or certificate or whatever or 2) they attend these short
courses which will then be accredited towards that qualification.
More about the analysts in the statutory environment: Due to our history of amalgamation of all the different intel services after 1994, you will have
people with a Masters degrees in anything from social sciences to physical science to people who have no qualifications. Of course, it has an impact
on the quality of analysis and all sorts of other ramifications. We also have the same problems re: the long vetting process. I have heard of excellent
candidates who just could not wait for a year to be approved and took a job at a private company.
Also, the poor state and stigma of our intel services is definitely something that the connected and inquisitive new generation keep in mind. As with
the US, we're also bleeding 45—60 year old veterans as well as some of the new generation that just could not fit into the paranoid, stove pipe,
restrictive culture of our intel. This for me, is the saddest. Which just reinforces that intel has to change, and FAST!
Hope this helped. I'm just starting to scratch the African market, and it seems as though there are only a few analysts and that the same process
needs to be followed to let the people realize firstly the benefit of intel–led policing/security/business/risk/intel;) and then see the benefit of dedicated
Going It On Your Own
Before I move on to all of the tips, tricks and advice I have collected (and others have given me), I felt I would be remiss if I did not at least mention the
possibility of going it on your own — starting your own business in intelligence.
For many people this probably sounds about as dumb as a barrel of hair but for others, with an entrepreneurial personality, it can be the best possible
choice. There are lots of resources available to help you get started. If you want to see what aspect of the business you might be interested in, this article
should be helpful.
Two sources that I think might be particularly useful would be Entrepreneur magazine. While there is a tendency in that magazine to focus on franchises
(not really an option for intel entrepreneurs (though, who knows? Estimates R'Us anyone?)), there are also a number of good articles on the
entrepreneurial life in general.
The second and often overlooked source is the Small Business Administration. This could conceivably be a gold mine for some entrepreneurs. My own
impression is that the degree of helpfulness very much depends on the actual office you are dealing with but it, along with any state/local equivalents, can
be very helpful.
Beyond my very superficial thoughts, I wanted to get some insider input, so I went out to a number of people who have gone the entrepreneurial pathway
themselves. I was going to just use snippets but both of the people who were kind enough to respond, put some time and effort into what they wanted to
say. Here, then, with just a little light editing, are their thoughts on the intelligence entrepreneur:
Mike Himley, President and CEO of Eagle Intelligence:
My intelligence perspective comes primarily from a business background but I have worked around law enforcement intelligence and intelligence
fusion centers and I have found the differences in definition and understanding striking, oftentimes even within the same organization. Could it be
they’re all wrong? Or maybe they’re all partly correct. I think it’s more of the latter.
If you asked for the definition of intelligence from someone in national security intelligence, law enforcement intelligence, business intelligence, or the
field of competitive intelligence, you would end up with widely different answers. I’ve noticed that, even now, the Society of Competitive Intelligence
Professionals seems to be struggling to redefine what they do because few outside the organization understand it. Some are even questioning if
Librarians are in the business of intelligence.
If you’re a student of Intelligence analysis and you’re sure you want to work in one of the three-letter Government Intel agencies, then I’m not the best
person to offer advice on how to get in. But I can suggest a few ways to make yourself more valuable so jobs find you. To start with, think of
intelligence analysis as a skill set instead of a job title, and think about the number of organizations that could benefit from making better decisions.
(Reread that last sentence.) Every one of those organizations could benefit from sound intelligence analysis but they might not call it intelligence.
I had a business graduate school class in Financial Statement Analysis years ago. Besides teaching, the professor was frequently hired by
companies to advise how to make themselves more attractive to investors. Clients were willing to pay (a lot) for specific recommendations that would
lead to a gain in investment activity in their companies.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that class could well have been a class in intelligence training. Of course it wasn’t called that and still wouldn’t be today,
but it was. We pulled a minimum 10 years’ worth of financials and studied trends, looking for differentials, and finding reasons for changes. We used
10 years of history so that short term aberrations didn’t skew our analysis. I was struggling to keep up with the numerical analysis when we were
instructed to read and analyze the footnotes in all the reports. Why? Because that’s where the most important information was located—in the place
where most people wouldn’t read it.
Then he taught us to pay attention to photos published by the company. I still remember what he said regarding one unnamed company whose
financials were trending downward. He said, "The CEO of this company is about 60 years old. Do you see the pictures of him in the previous annual
reports? He’s all alone in them. But not this year. He’s standing next to the Vice President in every photo this year. And see how he’s smiling and
putting his hand on the VP’s shoulder? He’s showing that he has confidence in him and that he’s trustworthy. He trusts him and so should you. I am
predicting that this CEO is going to be announcing his retirement very soon. You are looking at the next CEO of this company and if you own stock in
this company, you’ll do what I’m going to do and you’ll sell it immediately because this VP has no experience or background to run this company."
Sure enough, 6 months later the stock crashed when the “surprise” retirement was announced. In this case, 10 years of financials, along with text and
photos were used to develop historical context and project into the future. It was a story about the future with specific recommendations, and backed
up with plenty of data and analysis. It was a lot more than a financial statement review. It sounds like intelligence doesn’t it?
But it doesn’t have to be finance. Add value to information. Think bigger. Think more broadly. Add value to anything that you’re passionate about.
Tell a story about the future and offer recommendations on how it will help someone. Back it up with facts and logic. That’s intelligence.
You need only a few ingredients and you can make up your own career in intelligence:
1. You need to provide context within a specific field or subject matter. You need to work on being a specialist in something. Anything. Pick
something your passionate about and begin to study it. Some examples:
1. Financials or flow of money. Applicable to businesses, law enforcement, intelligence agencies, mergers and acquisitions firms, money
laundering, terrorism financing, etc. Money is everywhere and will be there tomorrow. Who needs intel on this? CIA, FBI, Law
Enforcement, Businesses, FDIC, SEC, Law firms, etc.
2. People. Anything regarding people. Demographics, Immigration/Emigration, social customs, communications, languages, etc.
Applicable to health agencies, businesses planning on opening new locations or offering new services, communications planning,
infrastructure planning (roads/bridges/housing), political analysis and polling, etc.
3. Building Construction. Applicable for all industries in business, critical infrastructure threat analysis, environmental impact analysis,
insurance underwriting, etc.
4. Medical and Pharmaceutical knowledge. Applicable to medical related industries and drug companies, DEA, law enforcement, etc.
5. Water. (Think about all the possibilities)
2. You need training in analysis so you can sort through increasing amounts of data, analyze it, and prepare and present logical arguments or
recommendations. This is a legitimate set of skills. Add your specialized knowledge and context to it, and you’re onto something big.
3. You need imagination in order to add value to the first two, and to possibly change the definition of what intelligence is to suit your own
In summary, first pick something you’re passionate about and add value to it. Then think about who might benefit the most from that intelligence. Post
your work somewhere people will see it, keep learning, and jobs will begin to find you.
So you still want to work in a Government Intel agency? Terrific. Despite the poor job market, I suspect there are exceptions on occasion for those
with specialized knowledge and sound analytical skills. Good luck in your interview.
Mark C. Blair, Founder and CEO of DAGIRCO:
Is the job going to produce a good and distinguished career? Or will it find you stuck in an unexceptional position producing unremarkable analysis;
waiting for the long line of analysts above you to retire?
Such analysts may find their analysis being shoved through a bureaucratically/institutionally shaped hole like a Play–Doh fun factory. By the time they
have a chance to “innovate,” their dreams will be the prattle of historians.
The problem with going it on your own, is the reputational paradox: If a well respected company spends millions of dollars to build a substandard
analytic solution, it is a saint. If you create a truly exceptional and accurate analytic solution on a shoestring budget and no reputation, you are a witch!
Will they believe you can do what you do?
The way out of this paradox is the advice of many veteran analysts: think tactical… produce actionable intelligence. Forget ideas (vaporware). Find
someone with a problem… Fix it and show them the solution. Focus on your client/decisionmaker and ignore all others, take no other advice. …And
learn as much as you can about databases!
The 5 Things You Must Have
So far, this book has been about perspective and opportunity and a little short on tactical advice for job seekers. I hope to rectify that in (what I think will
be) the last three chapters in this book.
Specifically, I want to lay out in this post the five key things I think a job seeker needs to have in order to get a job in intelligence. These five things assume
that the job seeker has at least the minimum qualifications for the job to which they are applying. In short, I am trying to identify those things that set some
job seekers apart, that give certain job seekers an edge. These observations are based primarily on watching 500 or so seniors and second year
graduate students go through the process over the last 6 years here at Mercyhurst.
I recognize that the Mercyhurst experience may not be typical for all job seekers. Because of the nature of our program, lots of employers come to us to
find entry-level analysts. For example, our Career Services Department logged over 400 intel interviews on campus last year before Christmas. Not all of
these were for jobs, of course; some were for internships but it gives a sense of the level of opportunity the college provides.
Likewise, the faculty here maintains good contacts with a number of agencies, businesses and professional organizations focused on intel. As a result,
we get a lot of "Hey, we are looking for someone who can…" kind of job openings.
Finally, our alumni are increasingly becoming our best asset when it comes to finding jobs, internships and new students. I don't think a week goes by that
I don't get a note from an alum about a job or internship somewhere that one of our students might be able to fill.
The point of all this is that the Mercyhurst experience is something of a special case and I recognize that. I realize that what I have noticed in terms of jobs
may be a result of that unique experience and that my observations may not apply more generally.
That said, I am going to try to generalize here. What I have listed below are the five things that, from my observations, when they are done well tend to
result in a greater chance of getting a job and when they are not done well or not present at all, tend to reduce the chances for getting a job. I think that they
will apply to anyone seeking an entry-level job (and, particularly, an entry-level analyst job) in the intel communities outlined in the previous chapter in this
Enough caveats and disclaimers! Here is the list:
The Right Attitude
This job search is not going to be “typical” and it may be difficult. The job seeker needs to take responsibility for the search and do so early in the
process. This means two things: First, no one is exactly like you. No one has exactly your skills and abilities. No matter how difficult it gets, you have to
remain positive about your search and your opportunities. You don't care if everyone wants you — you only need one person, agency or organization to
appreciate what you bring to the table.
Second, and as important (maybe more so), is that no matter how “special” you are, no one owes you a job. If you think jobs will fall on you because you
are so brilliant or educated or experienced — think again. The sooner you take charge of your job search and start working all the angles, the faster and
easier you will find a job.
Finally, and also related to attitude, is to not bother looking for the "perfect" job. I hear students say stuff like "I was offered a job in counter-proliferation but
I really want to work counter–terrorism" and it drives me crazy. Where an entry–level person in intel actually winds up is something that is virtually certain to
evolve over the early years of that person's career. The one thing I know about jobs in intel is that they change and sometimes very rapidly (I am certain,
for example, that about a year ago there were a whole lot of analysts who suddenly became Georgia–Russia analysts who were working other jobs just a
few weeks previously…). No matter what you think you are qualified to do and no matter what you employer thinks they are hiring you to do, it will likely
change (sometimes before you even walk in the door).
A Portfolio Of Resumes
A one–size–fits–all approach to resumes will not work in intel (and may not work anywhere). At the first level, I have had a number of recruiters tell me that
students should have both a polished, finished resume and a text–only version. The text–only version is for use on job boards (such as Monster or Indeed).
A text–only resume that contains an exhaustive list of a person's capabilities and credentials but little in the way of formatting is one that is most likely to
show up in a keyword search (the way most job boards operate) but is least likely to choke that same system due to a format conflict (like a system that
can't interpret all the fancy fonts you used…).
Having two resumes (polished and text–only) is the minimum you should do, however. Different jobs require different skill sets. While you should never lie
about your skills, if a particular job needs a particular skill that you do have, why not put it up front? I have seen a student who was fluent in Arabic apply for
a job that required fluency in Arabic but bury that piece of information at the bottom of his resume because "that's where I thought languages went".
If you are serious about applying for a job, then you should take the time to carefully look at the requirements for that position. You should do some
background research on the company or agency to fill in any gaps that the position description does not address. Finally, you should organize your skills,
experiences, education and abilities on your resume in such a way that you match what they want to what you have (again, without lying or exaggerating).
Blasting generic resumes at every position you can find may work, but is generally not very effective.
If you start customizing your resume for each position and saving each version, you will soon find yourself with a portfolio of resumes so that when you do
see a job that looks good, you will be able to pull out a resume that is close, tweak it a bit, and send it in.
Two more thoughts about resumes: First, just because you did something doesn't mean you have to put it in your resume. In other words, unless you are
looking for a job as a fry cook at Wendy's, why would you take up valuable resume real estate with that particular nugget? I am not saying that these types
of jobs should never be included in a resume but, if you do include them, you ought to have a reason (For example: The job calls for leadership experience
and you were the day manager for Wendy's with X number of employees, Y amount of equipment and inventory and Z dollars in sales. It still might not be
what they are looking for, but at least you have made it relevant).
Second, recruiters see lots of resumes. Many of these resumes are very well done; not just neat and clean but snappy looking, too. Appearances matter. If
you would not wear a suit that was too tight to an interview, why would you hand over anything but a good–looking resume to a recruiter? Resume styles
come and go and you want to come across as professional and competent, not cluttered, unorganized or dated. In my last chapters, I will highlight some
of the resume sites I have found but you should do your own research.
A Portfolio Of Your Work
If you are looking for a job as an analyst in any of the intelligence communities, having a portfolio of your work is particularly important. To begin with, you
should scour your academic or internship work products (assuming they are unclassified) for good examples of analytic writing. Specifically, you should
find a short piece (1—2 pages — that's an SFAR if you are a Mercyhurst Student) and a longer, more detailed piece (an LFAR for you Mercyhurst
types…). If you don't have such a writing sample (or you don't like any that you do have), you should create some.
Likewise, if you have ever had a chance to publish anything — from an academic paper to an article in a newspaper — be sure to include it in your
portfolio. Actually having something published (particularly if you were paid for it) is like a gold star in your portfolio. It really gives the interviewer/employer
confidence that you can write.
Being able to communicate in writing is still the most important skill for analysts but, increasingly, it is not the only skill employers are looking for. Your
ability to brief or to design effective presentations is incredibly important and having some good examples of your work in your portfolio may well set you
apart from other candidates.
Other communication skills are also becoming increasingly important. I recently had a former student tell me about the importance of our Wikipedia
project to her career. Intellipedia uses the same basic technology as Wikipedia and the skills she learned in class have already helped her. Likewise,
virtually any quality visualization of intelligence — from an ARCGIS or Google Map product to an Analyst's Notebook chart — should be part of the serious
job seeker's portfolio. Concrete examples of other skills (a facility with pivot tables or an ability to make podcasts or short movies, for example) ought to
make it into a portfolio as well. Depending on the situation, you may not use all (or any) of these, but you want to have them compiled and in one place.
Interview Skills
All job seekers should work on their interview skills. I have seen many students set themselves apart from the crowd by being good in an interview. I have
also seen a number of otherwise highly qualified students falter at the finish line because their interview skills were sub-par.
The first thing to examine is your wardrobe. Anyone who has ever seen me in person knows that I am the last person to listen to for fashion advice. That
said, it doesn't take a genius to know that wearing an ill fitting, wrinkled suit with filthy shoes is not the way to walk into an interview. Furthermore, the
intelligence community typically is not looking for people who visually stand out (intellectually, yes; visually, not so much…). In short, I would save the nose
ring for later and stick with something that was professional and comfortable.
The second thing to examine is the way you speak. You are not usually speaking with a peer when in an interview so your speech should be professional,
not casual. Avoid slang and colloquialisms (no “you guys” or “y'all”).
The single best thing you can do to prepare for interviews is to practice. Ideally, you want to have as realistic a situation as possible. You should be
dressed and you should be facing off against someone who has done or does interviews in real life and who will brutally critique your performance
afterward. If at all possible, you should record your interview so that you can look at yourself and hear how you speak. If you can't find someone
experienced to practice with, then find a fellow job searcher to work with. As painful as this is (and as much of a hassle as it sounds…), nothing else you
do will prepare you as well for an interview.
A Network
Just because I mention the “network” last does not mean that it is the least important. Frankly, many people get jobs because they have good networks
and they know how to use them.
Friends and family are the obvious first places to ask. They may not be terribly helpful in getting a job in one of the intel communities (unless they are in
one of the communities themselves) but it is an easy, low cost way to get things started.
Another relatively easy avenue may be to approach alumni from your institution that are already in one of the intel communities. Sometimes you can do
this through your college career service department and sometimes (particularly with classmates) you can do this directly. Another possibility related to
your college or university are the faculty.
One note of caution: As you move away from family and friends, you want to make sure that whatever relationship you have with these other networks is a
positive one. It really doesn't make much sense to approach a faculty member, for example, when you did very poorly in their class. Likewise, alumni that
you know personally and think well of you are probably going to help you more than alums that have never met you. The obvious corollary to this note of
caution is that it is in your interest to get to know some students in the year groups ahead of yours and to get to know the faculty in your field and the
career services people handling your discipline before starting your job search.
If you see intel as your profession then you should also get involved with the various intelligence-oriented professional organizations. If you are into
business, then you probably want to join SCIP, if law enforcement is your thing, then IACA or IALEIA. If you are more interested in national security then
there are a good number of options ranging from the military associations to organizations focused on very narrow areas (such as nuclear materials
management) to academic organizations focused on intel.
The key piece of advice here is to actually get involved. Merely becoming a member does not really count. You want to plan events, go to conferences and
conventions — meet people. Obviously, getting involved with these organizations early is better than trying to make up for lost time but getting involved at
any time is better than not being involved at all.
Students today should also not overlook their strong online social networking skills (years of fiddling with Facebook has to be worth something, right?).
The competitive intelligence community seems to be out in front right now on this with active social networks on Ning and within LinkedIn. There are even
a number of CI specialists who are worth following on Twitter.
A Final Comment On Grades
One of the things I have not mentioned is grades. In general, all things being equal, grades are important. I rarely see someone get a job in intelligence
with less than a 3.0 and I try to tell students who have a 3.5 or better to keep it above a 3.5 because, in my experience, there is a cognitive leap from a
3.49 to a 3.51 that is sharper, perhaps, than it should be among recruiters.
The real point, however, is that all things are never equal. I can pretty much guarantee that a fluent Dari speaker with a 3.0 in intelligence studies and a US
passport is going to have an easier time getting a job than an otherwise average 3.7 political science major and that a student with an active Top Secret
clearance is going to beat them both regardless of grades. The intelligence communities are pretty much looking for a wide variety of people all of the
time. Grades are the lowest common denominator — focusing on those skills that are in demand yields a much higher payoff.
Advice From The Trenches
A few weeks ago, while I was in the middle of writing this book, I sent a note out to my contacts on LinkedIn looking for some advice on how to get a job in
intelligence. I received a number of replies, all of which were very helpful.
In this book, I intend to share many of their insights. In some cases, I have deleted names or generalized positions. In virtually all cases, I have had to edit,
unfortunately, for length.
One final note: Some (many, in fact) of the ideas in these responses track closely with my own but some do not. I felt, however, that it was important to
include as wide a variety of responses from as many people “actually in the arena” (as Teddy Roosevelt would say) as I could.
Without further ado:
Z. (Government Analyst):
Apply to everything, always. You don’t know what you’ll like or dislike until you’ve done it for a year (or more), so don’t pigeonhole yourself by only
applying to contractors, or only applying to government agencies. Take every interview. More importantly, just because you have an offer and are
undergoing the adjudication process does not guarantee employment. Apply to jobs while you’re looking for jobs. Apply to jobs while you have offers
for jobs.
Move to DC. I know, I know. "They are plenty of intelligence jobs outside of DC!" I get that. I argue for the big move for two reasons: hiring managers
are more likely to bring in a local for an interview than an “outsider” if the qualifications are similar; and, for the most part, the decisionmakers who
decide the location where people work usually reside in DC.
When I was looking for a job in the (national security) Intelligence Community (IC) after graduating, I had two options: move back (home), work in an
office job while applying for IC jobs and hope someone thought highly enough of me to fly me to DC, put me up in a hotel and maybe rent me a car.
Or, I could move to DC, find an office job, use the contacts my classmates who did secure employment in DC cultivated, and take an afternoon off of
work to stop in the office and interview in person. In today’s economy, “outsiders” have to be that much more special to earn a flight, room, board,
and transportation for an interview.
Lastly, some vacancies state very clearly, “Locals Only” or “DC Metro Area Only” and never see the bright lights of the information superhighway.
Websites like USA Jobs,, Craigslist, et al. may cover 75% of the job openings, but I would argue another 25% come from
emails within the IC and word of mouth.
Mike (Government Analyst):
I guess the only advice I have for someone looking for work would be to include all the right "buzz words" on their resume. Be sure to include specifics
and detail as well. Probably the most important advice would be to not give up if you don't get your dream job and just apply anywhere and
everywhere that offers a security clearance. I would also say to keep looking even after you receive conditional offers because you never know what's
going to happen.
Jessica Lamb (Government Contractor Analyst)
I think it's important for aspiring intelligence analysts (IA) to be willing to adapt to different environments. Without already holding a clearance, it may
be difficult for an IA to obtain a government or government-contractor job immediately after graduation, so they should be willing to work (in another)
position to gain some experience first. Also, they shouldn't underestimate the importance of internships. They should do as many as they can!
There's nothing like hands-on intelligence experience to help a new analyst gain insight into the community and ultimately build their resume!
Secondly, it's important for the aspiring IA to willingly learn and use new tools. An analyst who insists on performing research/analysis with a few
select tools will likely be overlooked for employees who are more adaptable and learn new techniques more quickly.
Ben (Market Intelligence Analyst):
When you're looking for a job you have to treat the search like your full time job. Keep a record of where you've applied, who the contact person is,
and where you're at in the interview process. Also, every time you apply to a job you should tweak your resume slightly to specifically address the
requirements in the actual job post. Market intel means different things to different organizations so your resume has to reflect the job post to a
certain extent. If you send out one resume for every job you're hurting yourself.
Even if you don't have a lot of experience you still need to link your previous skills and experience directly to the job description. It's important to really
think about that before going into the interview. Don't use canned answers from the internet — draw on whatever experience you have and use the
terms of the art.
Mike (Business And Market Analyst):
I believe a crucial aspect of securing a job as an analyst is diversifying your skill sets and experiences through a variety of internships. Pursuing and
obtaining these internships gave me the experience that employers were looking for in a candidate. I have yet to find an employer whose ideal
candidate is a college grad with no work experience. Employers want experience and they want diversified experience. My advice: Take advantage
of as many opportunities as possible — paid or volunteer, business or national security, internship or co-op — because regardless if you love it or
hate it, it is giving you experience that at the end of the day looks good on your resume and gives you something to talk about in an interview other
than a school-related project.
Luke (Job Seeker)
If I had the chance to give a college senior or young grad student seeking employment as an analyst advice I would tell them to only apply to
organizations where they can stay passionate about what they're researching. I see a lot of students who (want) to fulfill some misguided Intel career
fantasy. These are the students that enroll already set on working for a group like the CIA or FBI. I think these students fail to appreciate the work they
are signing themselves up for by applying to these organizations. There are plenty of Intel jobs outside of the US IC. With a little time, effort and
research I think that some students are likely to realize that they would be happier working for an organization like the Sierra Club or the World Health
Organization rather than a government organization like the CIA or FBI.
A. (Government Contractor Analyst):
For future grads, I would highly recommend that students begin to apply early in the year and apply to as many companies/contracts as possible.
Next, you have got to follow up with the HR contacts and any people you meet at job fairs.
From personal experience, my best shot of getting my job was to ask alumni who I knew while I was an undergrad. My bosses are constantly asking
us for recommendations for potential employees. (I even passed a resume along after only starting work in June). While this may seem difficult, it
never hurts to ask about jobs and people always seem willing to take resumes. Finally, they should try and stay positive. From firsthand experience,
this process can be quite stressful. Students should definitely plan for the unpredictable (especially from the government and contractors).
For younger students, the best thing possible is to begin their job search early. Also, I think it really, really, really helps to have an internship which
provides the student with a clearance. It makes students WAY more marketable and will give them a better chance against others interviewees who
may have more years experience.
Advice From Veterans
As I was doing research for this book, I reached out to a number of my colleagues for advice. I received some very good answers back. There was a
surprising amount of agreement among these public and private sector veterans of intelligence work. Generally, their comments broke down along three
lines, however: Specific areas to look for jobs or specific skills needed to get a job, the importance of internships and, finally, general advice to the job
(Note: All of the people quoted in today's post are intel veterans. They are trying to be helpful by providing the benefits of that experience to young
analysts looking for their first job. These comments should not be construed, however, as the “official position” of their respective agencies,
companies or organizations.)
Deborah Osborne, who writes the popular crime analysis blog, Analyst's Corner and has a consulting business with the same name, provided some very
specific guidance for entry-level analysts interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement intelligence.
"Certain parts of the country," she said, "have many more local level crime intelligence analysts jobs. The most concentrated areas for local level law
enforcement analyst positions in the United States include the following states: Massachusetts, Virginia, Florida, Texas, Kansas, California, Arizona,
Washington, and Colorado. This doesn't mean that other states don't have such positions — just that the concept of crime intelligence analysis is well–
established in the listed states."
Drew Perez, of the Lockheed Martin Center For Security Analysis and the author of the also popular national security focused blog, JIOX, took a slightly
different but no less useful perspective when he outlined the “hot” areas for analysts seeking employment today: "Competitive Intelligence, Information
Operations, Perception Management, Prediction Markets."
Drew goes on to say, "Another area identified in the market research I conducted 2-years ago for Lockheed Martin showed that significant opportunities
exist outside the traditional intelligence community (IC). Secretary Napolitano's recent speech at the Council on Foreign Relations addresses these
opportunities outside the IC. Here are some excerpts: "And so we're constantly looking for ways to better share information up and down the response
ladder I just described, from individuals and communities to local law enforcement, to the federal level and then at the international level. In other words, as
we build the fusion centers, we need to move analytic capacity from the Beltway to the country. In addition to the 70 current fusion center sites, the
department will be collaborating with the Department of Justice and the FBI in more than 100 joint terrorism task forces across the country as well. So you
see how we're creating the network—individuals, private sector, now among fusion centers and the law enforcement community.""
What Drew is highlighting seems to be confirmed in the recent report on where the jobs are going to be in government over the next 3 years. That report
indicated considerable growth in intel analyst positions within federal law enforcement.
Finally, another intel veteran, Cecilia Anastos, highlighted some particular skill sets that she thought would be useful, including mastery of analytic
software (such as Analyst's Notebook), mastery of white hat hacking skills, and language skills (specifically, according to Cecilia, "Arabic, Farsi, Pashtu,
Chinese and Spanish… I would include also Portuguese and Italian.").
Virtually all of the intel veterans indicated that an internship was important. Drew was emphatic: "Get an internship with ODNI, CIA, DIA, NSA. The point is
someone (an agency) has to sponsor your security clearance to get in the door."
Deborah offered some good advice to those more interested in law enforcement careers: "Internships can be arranged by your universities and colleges.
You may also approach police agencies yourself. Do research on the web to see if they have an analytical unit. Contact the unit staff and ask about
opportunities. Some agencies use volunteers to help analysts. Look into these options because developing relationships with analysts and agencies is
your number one best bet to getting a job."
Howard Clarke, of Toddington International, a commercial OSINT firm, in outlining some of the problems with intelligence as theory and intelligence as
practice, also provided what turns out to be a pretty good checklist for interns when examining a company, agency or organization as a place for potential
employment. Specifically, Howard recommends that young analysts, "do their homework on the agencies to which they are applying: as regards
organizational culture, use of analysts, relevance and quality of training, etc. To make my concerns a little more concrete, I would point to issues such as:
Problems with analyst tasking (does this function work well in the prospective hiring organization?)
Is there coherence between the training provided and the actual work in which analysts are engaged?
Is the organization analyst-friendly? Are there clear roles and reasonable expectations and a supportive or hostile organizational environment?
Are systems in place to support the analysts or are the analysts in place to serve the data processing functions?"
Howard's list is a good one in my estimation, even if, in this economy, entry level analysts may not be able to be very picky. At least, they will be able to go
into a job with their eyes open.
General Advice
There was quite a bit of just general good advice from all respondents for entry level analysts. Much of it has already been outlined in other parts of this
book but some of it, at least, bears repeating and some of it is brand new.
For example, I thought Mats Bjore, the Director of Silobreaker made some excellent points when he stated, "Intelligence analysts need to be able to learn
and unlearn at high speed. They also need to have a deep cultural and social understanding for the area or subject they analyze. Furthermore, they need
to be able to do their own collection of data and information embedded in the analytical process. I have seen to many examples of “academic” and “IC”
methods that give the individual a sense of a proven and accepted workflow, but, for the consumers of intelligence, just produce an overflow of words that
they get too late."
Deborah adds that young analysts should make a point of attending "the International Association of Crime Analysts and International Association of Law
Enforcement Intelligence Analysts conferences if you are able. Besides the quality training you will receive there, networking opportunities abound. Make
an effort to meet people who head analytical units and don't be afraid to market yourself." I would say the same holds true for the Society of Competitive
Intelligence Professional's annual conference as well.
Cecilia recommends picking a specific topic or region of interest as soon as possible, studying as much as one can about it/them and actively writing
papers or other documents to help develop your expertise but also to use in a portfolio. Another of her recommendations that made sense (either from an
internship or a job perspective) was to "apply to organizations like the Council on Foreign Relations, think tanks, etc. This will brand your name with a
region and an expertise, which you can use later to get a job at government agencies."
Intelligence Job Links
(Note: This is the last part of this 12 part marathon (not what I had in mind when I started, I assure you…) on jobs in intelligence. I would like to thank
all those who contributed comments or even whole sections to this book. Your efforts made this book much more valuable to those trying to break into
intelligence. I would also like to thank all of you job hunters who took the time to send me notes telling me how useful this book was to you. I wish you
all the best of luck in your job searches!)
In this final chapter in this book, I intend to include all of those links for which I have not found a spot for in any of the previous chapters. This list is by no
means all–inclusive.
The best single link I know
Intelligence Jobs And Internships On Squidoo — I set up this “lens” on Squidoo a couple of years ago to provide a “one–stop shop” for Mercyhurst
students looking for a job in intel. I had one of our super work studies update it last year and will probably see if I can get another one to update it later this
fall but the site covers may of the basic job sites and even has some dynamic content where new jobs appear as they become available in all three
Other Links of Interest:
(Note: Much of this part of the list comes from LTC Rich Holden's amazing list of intel job sites first published on the US Army's INTELST. I genuinely
appreciate him allowing me to republish it here.)
General Job Help
Washington State Library's Employment and Job Seeking Site (some good info even if you are not a resident of Washington State)
The HR Data Revolution: Your CV Should Be A DB
How To Write A Resume
12 Top Tips To A Successful Interview
Women's Fashion Tips: How To Dress For An Interview
Professional Wardrobe For Men
10 Boilerplate Phrases That Kill Resumes
How To Prepare A Plain Text Resume
Quintessential Careers — Guide to College, Careers, & Jobs
Salaries and Wages
U.S. Department of Labor
Best Places to Launch A Career, 2009 (Thanks, Shannon!)
Best Companies to Work For, 2009
Price Waterhouse Coopers Career Advice
Veterans Business Network — job listings and resumes
Defense Contractor Company sites
BAE Systems
Battelle Science & Technology International
Booz Allen Hamilton
Caliber, an ICF Consulting Company
Covenant Security / Covenant Special Projects
Cubic Applications, Inc.
DESE Research Inc.
Electronic Warfare Associates
Imagery and Intelligence Solutions Inc.
J.L. White & Associates
Lockheed Martin Corporation
MPRI — Taking Expertise Around the World
Northrop Grumman
SAIC Job Opportunities Career Find Your Job
Tapestry Solutions
TEK systems
Titan — L-3 Communications
Thanks again to everyone who read, commented or contributed to this book! Good luck and good hunting!
Special Report: Where The Jobs Are, 2009
Just when I was about to wrap this book up, all of a sudden a new report comes out that contains a number of juicy details about where jobs will be in the
Federal Government over the next three years — including amazingly, specifically, jobs in intel analysis!
The site with all the cool info is called Where The Jobs Are, 2009 and many thanks to my colleague Prof. Dave Grabelski for pointing it out to me. The
specific section of interest to intelligence professionals is the Security and Protection section.
The Partnership For Public Service, a well–funded and well–connected non–profit with the stated mission to "revitalize our federal government by
inspiring a new generation to serve" put the report together based on information provided by the 35 government agencies that participated.
The level of participation by the intel agencies is unclear. The CIA, for example, did not participate. The Department of Defense (DOD) and all of the
services did participate, however, and this is important because nearly all (80% or more) of the intel budget falls under DOD.
Maddeningly, it is unclear what the numbers provided by the services actually represent. For example, I am pretty sure that the numbers on the site are for
DOD civilian jobs and do not include military positions but I am not positive. Likewise, I am pretty sure that the DOD numbers include subordinate
agencies like DIA and NSA but I cannot be sure since the CIA clearly opted out and these other agencies may have done the same.
Beyond the services, I have other questions about what the numbers actually mean. For example, the line item in the report labels the "Professional Field"
as Intelligence Analysis. Does this include anyone associated with the intelligence analysis function? Or just analysts?
One article from the Washington Post does shed some additional light on the hiring picture, however. In its article announcing the publication of this
report, the Post states:
Intelligence agencies expect to hire 5,500 people in the next year and “in the same order of magnitude” over the following two years, according to
Ronald P. Sanders, chief human capital officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Such agencies include the Central Intelligence
Agency and the National Security Agency. "It's a combination of how much turnover we expect and how much growth we expect in our budget,"
Sanders said.
With the data provided by the report and the Post's article, it is possible to go back to the back of the envelope again and do some more analysis:
Any way you add up the numbers you get a reasonably consistent answer to the question of how many intel analysts the federal government needs
each year:
If you add up the numbers for the agencies listed needing professionals in the Intelligence Analysis field in this new report, you get 3676 over
the next three years (or about 1200 a year).
Previous info suggested that about 17% of the intel workforce are analysts. Using Sanders' 5500 total number, this translates to 935 new-hire
analysts (17% of 5500) across the entire national security IC each year for the next three years.
Both these numbers triangulate pretty well with my own, earlier, estimate of about 1000 total (as the median. The range was between 400—
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is undeniably the place to look for jobs as an analyst. More than a third of the total 3676 projected hires in intel
analysis over the next three years are coming from DOJ according to the report.
The factors mentioned by Sanders in the Post article were turnover and budget. Intel budgets are likely to remain flat so my guess is that this is
mainly due to turnover and that much of this is driven by retirement. There is some support for this in the new report (see the Turnover Tab on the
Security And Protection page).
The factor not mentioned was a shift away from contract hires in intel (i.e. closing down contracts and making those workers move to the
government side). Contractors currently add another 30+% to the total intel workforce. It is hard to imagine much widespread growth in the contract
sector but there is no recent evidence to suggest that there will be a decline next year either (For more info on estimates with regard to contract
hires see this post).
Previous info suggests the US national security intelligence community has about 100,000 government employees. 5500 new employees each year
based mostly on voluntary turnover translates to roughly a 5.5% turnover rate. If accurate, this places the US national security intelligence community
in the same general category as other low turnover rate industries such as biotechnology and other high-tech industries.
Annex 1: Plan “B” Careers
I thought I was done with this book… until I received a very interesting email from the Federal Citizen Information Center pointing me to an article on about “Fallback careers” — careers that you can fall back on if something goes wrong in your main profession.
All of the careers on the list had evidence of growing demand and required less than a year of schooling to get certified according to the Bankrate article.
As I looked at the list, I immediately thought of a use beyond the one intended by the authors. These careers could also be a useful way of filling in the time
between graduation and getting a clearance.
Many entry–level analysts get stuck waiting to start work because of a clearance. Predicting when a clearance will be complete is one of the hardest
things to do (we had one student whose clearance took three years — by which time she had married, moved, had a child and changed jobs!). Having a
useful Plan B in this situation might allow one to avoid a “challenging career in the food service industry”.
Obviously, in order to pursue one of these fallback careers, the job seeker would have to have the certification before graduation (which would likely
necessitate summer or night school) and might, therefore, not be an option for everyone. If this is the case, then maybe seeking such a certification
makes sense while waiting for a clearance (time and financing permitting). Likewise, if job offers are not as forthcoming as one would hope and grad
school isn't an option, then pursuing certification in one of these fields might also turn out to be a good option.
What are the eleven “Plan B” careers?
Emergency medical technician
Police officer
HVAC technician
Drafter/CADD operator
Medical assistant
Truck driver
Dental assistant
Massage therapist
Medical records and health information technician
Nuclear medicine technologist
Some of these careers look particularly promising. With the number of analysts currently deployed in war zones, I can imagine that training as an EMT
would be an excellent secondary skill to have.
I also have some concerns about this list, though. Police officer seems overly optimistic, for example. While the facts in the article may be true, the number
of people already seeking jobs in this field make it seem overly competitive for a fallback career. Maybe if you included all security professionals
(including bank guards and mall cops for example), it might make some sense. Otherwise, I would not advise anyone to go this route strictly as a fallback
I was also surprised that more information technology positions weren't on the list. Certified computer repair guys and website administrators always
seem to be in demand. Getting some sort of technical certification in these fields will benefit an analyst in the lean times and when they are working as an
analyst as well.