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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:
- Intelligence Analyst
- Security Officer
- Technical Counterintelligence Officer
- Special Agent
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:
- Central Intelligence Agency
- Defense Intelligence Agency
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- US Department of Homeland Security
- Northrup Grumman (private sector)
- Center for Strategic and International Studies (NGO)
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
- 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.
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:
- Background Checks & Security Clearances for Federal Jobs
- General Security Clearance Facts
- Intelligence Community
- Military and Civilian Positions with Military
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:
- American Constitution Society
- Cyber Security Competitions & Student Projects
- Honor Committee
- International Relations Organization
- Madison House
- Nano and Emerging Technologies Club (NeXT)
- Check out these opportunities to get involved in security and emergency management in the community
- Charlottesville is a hub for many defense and security firms. Check out this list!
- CIA Careers
- Cleared Connections (for those who have security clearances)
- Clearance Jobs
- Defense Intelligence Agency Careers
- Department of Defense Jobs
- Defense Security Service Careers
- FBI Jobs
- Homeland Security Careers
- Intelligence Community Virtual Career Fair
- Office of the Director of National Security Careers
- National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Careers
- National Reconnaissance Office
- National Security Agency Careers
- Daybook: Jobs and internship opportunities in Public Policy, Government Relations, Public Affairs, Political Campaigns, Non-Profit, Law, Communications, and Foreign Affairs. Once registered for a free account, you will be able to view current opportunities and apply directly through the site.
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.
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.
- What should you include in your Federal Resume?
- Make Your Volunteer Experience Count on Your Resume and other Videos!
- Creating Your Federal Resume and Samples
- Federal Resume Guide
- Sample Federal Resume (see pages 32 and 33)
- Tips for Acing the Federal Resume
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
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.
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
- MUST READ: Intelligence Careers – The US Intelligence Community
- Career Fairs and Events in Intelligence
- Careers Opportunities in Intelligence and Security
- High Technology Crime Investigation Association
- Homeland Security Careers
- Intelligence as a Career: Is It Right for You and Are You Right for It?
- Office of Director of National Intelligence
- Security Management
- The Jobs of the Future in National Security and Intelligence