So you want to become an Intelligence Analyst..?
Perhaps you’ve been thinking about applying for an intelligence job for a while, or maybe you’re just exploring your options…either way, it’s important to know what’s involved in an intelligence job before you even apply.
I received my intelligence training in the Army right after I finished university. I served as Military Intelligence Analyst for six years before moving over to criminal Intelligence. During my career I have worked in different intelligence disciplines and with multiple intelligence agencies. This is based on my own experience, and is purely my thoughts / opinion.
What do intelligence analysts actually do?
Intelligence Analysts is all about information & research. So let’s be clear from the outset, Intelligence Analysis involves the collection, analysis and assessment of information to provide advice and recommendations to decision makers.
What this means is, as an Intelligence Analyst, you will gather and analyze information related to a specific trend or issue, and provide value by making assessments about what it means.
Day to day Intelligence Analysts will receive and read new information from a variety of information and collection sources – it’s up to you to determine what information is important, and how it affects your understanding of your operational environment.
Typically intelligence analysts will be working on a brief or intelligence assessment which will contribute to a better understanding of a problem or issue – Analysts will receive their direction from their managers and decision makers which inform their collection priorities and intelligence assessments.
Day-to-day analysts work from at our desks with our computer – whilst there’s likely to be various systems, multiple log-ins and different databases of information, ultimately intelligence analysis involves a lot of computer based research.
Analysts are expected to engage with collection partners as well as provide both verbal and written advice to our customers.
For more information about what Intelligence Analysts does see – ‘A day in the life of a typical intelligence analyst’.
What is the job like?
“Intelligence Analysis can be Exciting… but, it can also be boring”.
Intelligence Analysis ebbs and flows, and it depends on the interest of the analyst also.
If you’re someone with a deep sense of curiosity, someone who enjoys detail, and is good at piecing information together, Intelligence Analysis may just be for you. If on the other hand, you’re more interested in kicking-in doors, or following suspects into dark alleys, you might be sadly disappointed.
Some of the ‘best bits’ of being an Intelligence Analyst include the ability to know things before they happen – and to influence the actions of your organization.
A good intelligence analyst will spend their time identifying trends and issues for their operational environment. They’ll become experts in ‘their space’ and use detailed and inside knowledge to accurately predict the future.
Before you’re able to make accurate assessments however, there’s usually a requirement to undertake a lot of research to build your knowledge of the operational environment. This will usually require detailed analysis of information…lots of information.
What Do I Need To Do To Become an Intelligence Analyst?
Education. Most intelligence agencies will prefer applicants who have completed a university degree (bachelors equivalent) as a minimum.
This isn’t just because intelligence agencies want ‘educated’ people to apply. Having a degree demonstrates the applicant has the ability to meet certain standards for learning – standards for research, analysis, and delivery information in the form of assessments and within set timeframes.
There’s no set requirement for the type of degree you need, (I’ve known Intelligence Analysts who were previously accountants and geologists). I do believe however, there are some courses that are beneficial for becoming an Intelligence Analyst. Degrees such as Politics, International Relations, Journalism, Law and Criminology all provide a good foundation of research, analysis and writing which can benefit aspiring intelligence analysts.
Criminal History. It should go without saying; having a criminal past is seen unfavourably in your application to become an Intelligence Analyst.
While a having criminal history doesn’t totally preclude you from becoming an intelligence analyst, it may affect your ability to get required security clearances. Just remember, to openly declare everything to recruiters, and account for any / all criminal history.
Interests/hobbies. While I recommend you develop an interest in reading the news, and learning about world affairs, politics and history – each person is unique and enjoys different things.
Personally I feel my hobbies are well suited for Intelligence, I enjoy strategy games, poker, training in the gym, reading, writing, and personal development – but the important thing is that you have your own life and interests.
Do you need to speak another language to be an Intelligence Analyst?
No, not at all. While the ability to speak another language is favourable, there’s often no set requirement to be able to speak another language. My advice is to be open to learning another language, and if given the opportunity to do it.
Applying For An Intelligence Job
When you apply, you will usually need to include you’re resume (or CV) as part of the application, along with answering set questions designed to see if you have the base level attributes to work in Intelligence.
CV / Resume. Make your CV / Resume unique. Clearly highlight your experience and your education by identifying your key roles, knowledge and experience (this should all go without saying really).
Most importantly, don’t lie! Intelligence agencies keep your information on file, and are likely to do their own background and personal history checks to determine your experience and qualifications. Keep your resume sharp and succinct, I prefer no more than 1-2 pages.
If you’re a student, and you don’t feel like you have any ‘experience’, I recommend you joining clubs, committees and institutes to bulk up your resume, and build some experience. Social clubs like; Young politicians, international relations / international affairs, debating societies, and / or security forums will broaden your knowledge – and your network. Tip: I know from experience also, intelligence agencies actively recruit through these forums also.
Demonstrate knowledge. When it comes to your application, or even an interview with an intelligence agency, demonstrate your knowledge by speaking frankly and succinctly. Give your opinions using references and examples and whatever you do…don’t make stuff up! If you don’t know something, it’s far wiser you simply say, ‘I’m not sure about that’ than try to fudge your way through.
I suggest you choose a key issues (1-2) that you believe might be focus areas for your preferred organisation and commit your time to learning more about the issues, key players and building your own knowledge. You don’t have to be a subject matter expert, but you should demonstrate a willingness to learn.
Commitment and Enthusiasm. Just the fact you’re reading this demonstrates your commitment to applying for an intelligence job. The best way you demonstrate this to an intelligence agency or recruiter is to show consistent effort. What appeals to a recruiter is to present a story or path that has brought you to the point of applying for a job in intelligence. If it feels like a spur of the moment decision, or a ‘this looks like it might be interesting’ then recruiters are unlikely to recommend you for a position.
Experience. Does experience matter? Yes. It should be no secret that an individual with a background in the Defence Force, Police or any Emergency Services will have certain characteristics considered favourable for a job in intelligence. As these professions often require discipline, team-work, dedication, changing working environments and problem-solving, the experience is considered favourable to an application for an intelligence job.
Basic knowledge of Intelligence. It’s important to have at least a basic knowledge of intelligence. You should learn about the intelligence cycle, and how intelligence collection works as well the various agencies and disciplines which make up the intelligence community. This is where Intelligence101 can help you to build your knowledge.
Intelligence Application Questions
Most (if not all) intelligence agencies will have set criteria for the type of applicant they’re looking for. Usually somewhere in the application you will be required to complete assessment questions designed to address specific criteria – such as your ability to work under pressure, demonstrate your ability to convince someone of something – or test your analytical ability.
There’s no secret to getting ‘around’ these questions / responses – so here’s my recommendation. Take the time to write your responses. Read the questions carefully and choose examples that are relevant and highlight your skills, knowledge and attributes. Draft your answers before, and make sure you check for accuracy, and that it addresses the questions before submitting.
What Resources Are Available For People Interested In Intelligence?
Well firstly (not to sound too self-serving), our mission at Intelligence101 is to help you become a better Intelligence Analyst. So whether you’re a seasoned professional or just learning the basics of intelligence, use this site as a resource to develop your skills and understanding.
Second, I recommend you educate yourself by reading books on the subject and practice of intelligence, especially on topics on the intelligence cycle and intelligence collection.
If you’ve got any further helpful hints or tips for becoming an Intelligence Analyst – or want to give your perspective on the job, and the requirements – then we want to hear from you in the comments below.