Becoming an Intelligence Analyst: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of an intelligence analyst's career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming an intelligence analyst is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as an Intelligence Analyst

Intelligence analysts use data to predict the activities of criminals, terrorists and organized crimes. Following are some pros and cons of the profession.

Pros of Being an Intelligence Analyst
Extensive travel (possibly around the world)*
Able to work in different analytic areas (strategic, tactical and collection/reporting)**
Information can help save lives**
Opportunity to work with different people (lawyers, scientists, international experts)**

Cons of Being an Intelligence Analyst
Unable to tell people about their work*
Often work with too much or too little information*
Long hours sometimes required (necessary when there is a crisis)*
Possibility of stress*

Sources: *Dartmouth College's Dickey Center for International Understanding, **FBI

Job Description and Duties

Intelligence analysts study both classified and unclassified information in order to construct written and oral assessments. While on the job, analysts may also use their interest in history, geography, world economics and both political and social factors that play a part in the events shaping the world. Intelligence analysts work with multiple government agencies, such as the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and NSA (National Security Agency). Analyst experts operate in certain parts of the world, working in conjunction with other criminal activity investigators and government agencies. They help to develop proactive courses of action to help law enforcement agents, policy makers and military leaders combat criminal behavior. Sometimes their information and analysis can be used by the highest levels of government.

Salary

According to PayScale.com in January 2016, most intelligence analysts earned between $40,000 and $102,000 annually. Of those with 0-5 years of experience, most reported earning a median annual salary of about $58,000. However, the value of experience in the profession was reflected in the salary for those who had 10-20 years of experience: most intelligence analysts with that amount of experience reported earning a median annual salary of around $82,000.

What Are the Requirements?

Some schools offer degrees specifically targeted to this profession, such as a Bachelor of Science in Intelligence Analysis. The instruction for that degree will teach you about counter-factual reasoning, strategy assessment, knowledge discovery, interpersonal skills and dynamic systems modeling. Some programs offer students the opportunity to focus on either global competitive intelligence or national security intelligence. Schools may have internships with intelligence communities or companies to offer students hands-on experience. Other majors that could help you become an intelligence analyst include political science, social sciences and social studies.

Training apart from school can take various forms. The FBI, for instance, trains analysts at Quantico for nine weeks. While training, individuals learn how to work inside of the FBI, how to gather intelligence and think analytically, how to write reports. Trainees learn to understand FBI briefing styles and the Bureau's specialized applications.

What Employers Are Looking For

Once candidates have completed the training they may be asked to relocate to a field office away from home. Applicants should be able to obtain 'Top Security' clearance and successfully pass certain assessments as well as an intelligence course. Following are examples of job postings open during April 2012.

  • The FBI advertised for intelligence analysts to collect operational intelligence reports from various agencies, recommend approval/disapproval regarding the dissemination of operational intelligence information, analyze raw, primary and secondary data from various sources such as databases, intelligence reports, communications, case files and other sources.
  • The Department of the Army advertised for a military intelligence analyst to serve as the organizational expert for various disciplines including threat analysis and projection of land-warfare forces and operations within assigned geographical and functional areas. This individual would conduct research and analysis of counterintelligence, counter-terrorism or foreign military forces, operations, capabilities and trends to support all source intelligence and threat production.
  • A government agency advertised for a supervisory intelligence specialist. This person would be responsible for planning, directing, reviewing and evaluating analysis in order to produce finished intelligence on the capabilities of foreign irregular warfare forces.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Earning a master's degree in economics, international relations or a particular part of the world can aid analysts in securing a job. Certain agencies may request that applicants have experience in a certain area, such as intelligence gathering, military intelligence or intelligence production. Individuals who are able to travel extensively, be on call 24/7 and be willing to stay in their position for a certain amount of time may be favored over other applicants. Knowledge of areas such as Africa, the Middle East and China, as well as knowledge of sciences such as biochemistry, biology and geospatial science, may be other qualities that employers look for. Other favored areas of expertise may include communications, English, engineering, forensic accounting and bio-terrorism. Individuals who bring good writing and critical thinking skills and overseas experience may be given special consideration.

Other Career Paths

The intelligence analyst field can require extensive travel, and jobs in that field might require you to keep your work secret from your friends and family. If you want to fight crime but those qualities don't appeal to you, the following alternate careers might be worth considering.

Crime Analyst

Like intelligence analysts, crime analysts study local crimes in order to predict the time, place and even the location where future crimes are most likely to occur. Crime analysts pursue the same education as intelligence analysts as well, since bachelor's degrees in such subjects as criminal justice, political science or computer sciences are fitting for this career. The International Association of Crime Analysts offers certification for crime analysts. In order to become certified, applicants must have proper experience, be current members of the International Association of Crime Analysts and pass an exam. In 2012, Payscale.com reported that crime analysts earned an annual salary of $27,000-$65,000.

Cryptologic Linguist

Cryptologic linguists use their knowledge of foreign languages to analyze, translate and record foreign communiques. Linguists also carry out search missions and consult with analysts. Both the U.S. Army and the Air Force offer training for cryptologic linguists, which covers basic combat, the handling of sensitive information, communications technology and how to identify a foreign communication. Salaries for cryptologic linguists vary, depending on branch of the military and experience.

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Featured Schools

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Criminal Justice
  • B.A. - Homeland Security
  • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Homeland Security

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Homeland Security: Leadership & Policy
  • PhD in Business Admin - Homeland Security: Leadership & Policy
  • MBA - Homeland Security
  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

University of the Southwest

  • MBA - Law Enforcement & Corrections

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Project Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
  • MS in Leadership: Disaster Preparedness & Executive Fire Leadership
  • Bachelor: Public Safety and Emergency Management

What is your highest level of education?