Intelligence & Security

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Roles and Work Environment

Work within the intelligence community focuses on a wide range of issues, from terrorist financing to drug trafficking, from climate change to foreign technology threats. Positions related to intelligence and national security might involve intelligence analysis, intelligence collection, computer science and cyber security, foreign language translation, communication, and more. Below is a sampling of roles you might find:

Examples of Intelligence & Security Jobs:

Opportunities in intelligence and national security can be found across the 17 intelligence community (IC) agencies and within a number of NGO and private sector organizations. Here are few examples of organizations where you might find opportunities:

Examples of Intelligence & Security Organizations:


Skills and Training

Employees in the intelligence and security community represent a wide variety of disciplines from an even broader mix of academic backgrounds and experience. Therefore, we don't recommend one academic track over another in general. Overall, organizations advise that you do your best in all your academic pursuits.

The following combination of education and skills, however, will likely be helpful for you as you explore opportunities in this field, but may not be necessary for every role. Be sure to familiarize yourself with specific requirements and timelines for specific agencies and positions.

Examples of coursework relevant to a career in intelligence and security:

  • Computer Science
  • Religious Studies
  • Foreign Languages
  • Foreign Affairs/Global Studies
  • Writing/Communication courses
  • History/Government
  • Politics and Policy
  • Data Science

Examples of skills/education required for intelligence & security jobs:

  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Foreign language fluency
  • Analytical skills
  • Strong oral and written communication skills
  • Good judgment and decision-making skills
  • Experience with international work and/or travel
  • Strong critical thinking and quantitative skills

**Age Requirement: Note that some roles require candidates to have previous professional experience and be at least 23-25 years of age before applying, while many require that candidates also be U.S. citizens.


Industry Timeline

Hiring timelines for this industry are largely determined by the time it takes for organizations to complete security clearances and background checks. While not all positions require this process, it is common for opportunities to require at least a basic level clearance. This process can sometimes take up to a full year to complete, so many agencies recommend that students begin their application process early.

In general, you can expect this industry to open applications 8 - 10 months in advance and generally have summer internship application deadlines for the following year range from August - November. For more information about the timeline for a particular agency, reference this resource from intelligencecareers.gov.

Background Checks & Security Clearances

Background checks and security clearances are required for most careers within the intelligence and security community. Making yourself aware of the specifics that go into clearing these checks, and the various levels of clearance required, is important to help you as you progress through your educational career. Below are resources to help you navigate this process:


Find Opportunities

On-Grounds

One of the best ways to gain experience related to these industries is through diversified coursework, involvement with student organizations, and development of more specialized analytical skills. Below are a few examples of experiences to explore:

Off-Grounds


Applying and Interviewing

Resumes and Cover Letters

Agencies and organizations within the intelligence community may have their own preferences and requirements for information to include within your application materials, so be sure that you research requirements for each position you apply to.

Federal Resumes

The Federal Resume is required for many positions in this industry. Many government agencies utilize the platform usajobs.gov to post their opportunities, specifically military organizations.  This website will allow you to create an account and within your account you can utilize their resume building tool to create your federal resume. For specific information on how to write federal resumes, check out the resources below.

Pro tip: Additionally, use the resume building tool within your usajobs.gov account to create a resume.  Then print a copy of this resume and bring it into PSG drop-in hours for review by a counselor.

Special Note: In contrast to the above, intelligence agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) do not post to usajobs.gov and ask for different information than a federal resume.

The following are tips to make sure you’re including the right information for these organizations:

  • Specific objective (while we don’t recommend this for most resumes, this is a preference for the CIA and FBI)
  • Your education, GPA, major, and specific coursework
  • Study abroad
  • Foreign Languages and proficiency level
  • Experience: relevant work, community service, internships, skill building opportunities that date back no farther than 5 years
  • Demonstrated leadership experience
  • List countries you’ve visited or lived in
  • Interests/Hobbies

These organizations want to evaluate candidates holistically and don’t just consider the types of experiences you’ve held, but how well you performed in your previous roles, if you were respected by peers and supervisors, if you were a loyal member of various groups/organizations, etc. Honesty and integrity are strongly valued.

Interviewing

The interviewing process for this industry tends to be fairly intensive may involve the use of a polygraph test for some agencies. To learn more about specific agency interviewing processes, make sure you review their application requirements and reference our additional industry resources listed below.

If you have never interviewed before, make sure to check out the Interviewing section of our website. You can also conduct a mock interview with a career counselor for practice. Most interviews will contain some mixture of questions about your past experiences (resume-based) and your ability to handle typical workplace situations (behavioral).  For full-time positions, depending on the size of the organization, you should expect to start with a 20-30 minute phone or virtual (e.g., Skype, Google Hangout) screening interview, then a longer virtual or in-person final interview. A thank you letter should be written after every interview with an employer. Send the note by email within 24 hours after the interview.


Additional Industry Resources

Blogs and Industry Research

Professional Associations

More to Explore

Drop-In Hours: Thursday 1-5p, Newcomb 170

Counselors: Dreama Johnson & Hannah Guffey

Jobs, internships, and volunteer positions in non-profit and government agencies. Includes guides on how to conduct a non-profit job search.

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