I get asked this question a lot actually –
What university or college degree should someone study if they want a job in intelligence or working as an intelligence analyst?
My answer is it doesn’t matter.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter.
Any degree will help you because there are a number of reasons intelligence agencies and organizations set the requirement to have a college degree as the minimum standard.
A College Degree is Often Required Because It Shows A Basic Level of Intellect
Firstly a college shows a level of intellect to get into in the first place.
Obtaining a degree shows intelligence agencies that you’ve got the commitment to your studies, an ability to conduct research and critically analyze problems.
So whether you’re a chemistry, maths, criminology or a law student you’re asked to research, analyse and find solutions just to get the grade.
Obviously, the more dedicated you are to your studies the better your grades will be – which is important for intelligence analysts.
A College Degree Shows Intelligence Organisations a Level of Commitment
Secondly, obtaining a college degree shows to intelligence agencies you can stick it out.
College degrees take anywhere from three, four, five, up to six years to complete.
Obviously, a Master’s and a PhD shows the deeper level of intellect as well.
College Degrees shows intelligence agencies you can achieve a minimum standard. It’s not something you can do for just 12 months.
“Is there a particular type of degree I should get for a job in intelligence?”
If you’re interested in working in the criminal space, or as a criminal intelligence analyst, working on something such as law obviously, criminal justice, criminology, policing, social sciences all help because they support that particular type of work.
However, if you’re interested in a job in intelligence analysis you shouldn’t be restricted by a particular type of degree.
Clearly, if you’re interested in dentistry or podiatry that’s perhaps not consistent with a job in intelligence, so obviously you want a degree that gives you a little bit more focus.
However, I know that when intelligence agencies advertise they don’t discriminate between the types of degrees.
But, I do have an opinion on the type of degrees that will be or are preferable…
When I say ‘preferable’ I mean, I think these degrees are better than others. Again, not necessary but preferable.
Ranking them I would say a law degree ranks quite highly because it usually is harder to get into and shows a good level of intellect, but also it requires research and analytical ability.
After that, I would say degrees such as criminology, criminal science, psychology and even teaching are good degrees to get and to have as qualifications.
There are also other degrees good for intelligence analysts such as political science, international affairs, international relations.
What about those intelligence specific degrees or Counter-Terrorism degrees? Should I do this if I want a job in intelligence?
Question: Should you do one of that intelligence analysis or terrorism specific degrees if I want a job in intelligence?
Personally, I think they’re gimmicky, and a little too niche.
I think you should get a qualification that could provide opportunities in other areas.
International relations, political science or strategic studies are good examples.
Are Some Universities Better Than Others?
Look, gone are the days of CIA recruiters scouring the halls of prestigious colleges for the best students.
In reality, intelligence agencies receive THOUSANDS of applications a month. So they’ve got a bevvy of decent applicants to choose from.
But a degree from a better university is always likely to be viewed higher than a backwater technical college.
But don’t let this dissuade you. Grades also matter – a student with straight A’s at a second-rate university is still going to be viewed more favourably by intelligence organisations than an average student at a better institution. In the end it how you apply yourself.
Entry Requirements Differ
Of course, depending on your state or chosen intelligence agency – the entry requirements will differ.
I recommend you find out what area of intelligence you’re interested in (domestic, international, political, criminal etc), then choosing your intelligence agency/organisation to apply to.