When the Cold War was over, the world seemed to heave a collective
sigh of relief. Could it finally be time for peace? Had the need for countries
to spy on each other actually ended?
History shows that for as long as there have been civilizations, there
have been those who would like to topple them. Keeping an eye on those people
and countries who want to create unrest is a big industry.
Today's governments hire people who spend their working days watching,
listening and actively investigating people and events both around the world
and in their own countries. They gather information and determine if a security
risk is present.
In the U.S., many of these people work for the Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA). The CIA was established in 1947 by President Truman to be a centralized
A few decades ago, intelligence agencies in North America focused a lot
on the Soviet Union. But the collapse of that superpower at the end of the
1980s ended the Cold War. Now, different world conditions are causing agencies
to actively recruit new employees.
"Since 9/11, we have experienced a surge in our recruitment efforts," says
Betsy Davis. She is chief of the CIA's Recruiting and Retention Center. "We
have focused more on recruiting applicants who are proficient in our mission-critical
She further explains that these languages include Arabic, Chinese, Dari,
Indonesian, Korean, Pashto, Farsi, Russian and Turkish. "In addition, we
are looking for applicants with extensive area and cultural expertise in the
Middle East and Asia."
Clearly, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and terrorism in general are having
a great impact on the role of intelligence agencies.
"The global war on terror continues to be one of the biggest challenges
the United States faces," confirms Davis. "We at the CIA and our colleagues
across the U.S. intelligence community are focused on that effort."
Intelligence officers may find themselves working in an office during a
routine 9-to-5 workday. Or they may be on the streets at home or abroad at
any time. The CIA has agents all over the world.
But intelligence agencies employ more than just intelligence officers.
For those who meet the requirements, there are many different roles to fill.
"The CIA offers exciting career opportunities for people with a variety
of skill sets," explains Davis. "While the majority of CIA positions require
a minimum of a college degree, there are some which do not."
Davis lists several support positions that require specific skills. These
include mission support administrators, finance assistants, human resource
administrators, security protective officers, press operators and paralegals.
The CIA requires applicants to be American citizens. Potential recruits
must obtain a top secret clearance. This involves a polygraph test, medical
examination and background investigation.
The process begins once a conditional offer of employment is extended.
It can take anywhere from nine to 12 months to complete.
"We do not recommend one academic track over another," Davis says. "In
general, to be competitive for agency employment, we are looking for people
who have strong academic backgrounds, demonstrated interpersonal and teamwork
skills, and the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities."
Furthermore, the CIA looks for integrity, character and patriotism in its
applicants, she adds. And foreign language abilities and overseas experience
are definite pluses.
Those with special needs are also encouraged to apply.
"Most of our career opportunities do not have physical requirements and
every applicant is evaluated based on the knowledge, skills and abilities
they bring to the job," says Davis.
"The Reasonable Accommodations Staff (RAS) at the CIA purchases and deploys
services and technologies for individuals who require accommodations in the
workplace to perform their job functions. These accommodations allow employees
with disabilities equal access and opportunity at the CIA."
Whatever the role, those working for the CIA can expect many rewards. One
of those is a positive job outlook.
Career postings at the CIA website feature a wide range of salaries. Salaries
will depend on things like position, education and experience. The agency
also offers comprehensive benefit plans and other perks such as the possibility
of flexible work schedules.
The CIA has a university internship program as well as its own university
offering job-specific and general skill-enhancing courses.
If this seems like a route you want to take, you need to be aware of both
the negative and positive aspects of such a career.
"I think the most difficult part of our job is the significance of our
mission and ensuring that we are living up to our oath of office and the trust
the American people put in us," says Davis. "Our successes are celebrated
in silence due to the nature of our mission, but our setbacks often are publicized
"But if you would ask any CIA employee what the most satisfying part of
the job is, I am convinced the majority would say serving the nation."
CIA: Central Intelligence Agency
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Defense Intelligence Agency
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