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How To Join The CIA: What It Takes To Be A CIA Agent

Updated on August 17, 2011

The Truth About Working For The Intelligence Hub Of America

Most people, at some point in their lives, have wondered what it would be like to be a spy. Jetting to exotic locations around the world, defeating evil terrorist masterminds, and getting the girl/guy. Well, as entertaining as that all sounds, I'm afraid that in reality, the real answer of "how to join the CIA" is a lot less exciting. In this Hub, we'll discuss what it takes to be a CIA agent, what life as a CIA employee is like, and how to apply to work for the Agency.

First: The Truth About The CIA

Since officially becoming the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947, the CIA has been one of the most misunderstood and most secretive agencies in the Federal Government. Most of this confusion about the CIA comes from the secrecy of the agency itself, but a lot of it has to do with Hollywood.

Here are some quick facts about the CIA that will hopefully help give you a better idea of what America's Intelligence Service actually does.

  • The CIA is not a "law enforcement agency" like say the FBI or DEA.
  • The CIA is prohibited from conducting covert activities on US soil
  • The CIA is prohibited (except for extreme circumstances) from gathering intelligence on US Citizens
  • The CIA reports to both Congress and the President, however only the President has the authority to order the CIA to engage in covert or clandestine activities.
  • Yes, the CIA does have "spys" (they're actually called Operations Officers).
  • No, you will more than likely not be one. Only the absolute best of the best, with impeccable qualifications and backgrounds ever make it to Operation Officer.


What It Takes To Be A CIA Agent

First of all, let me clue you in to a reoccurring theme for this Hub: "Don't get your hopes up". The CIA receives over 10,000 applications a month. It's one of the most sought after jobs in the federal government, so "don't get your hopes up".

The first thing you'll need, in order to work for the CIA, is a national security clearance. Depending on your job, this can range from a general security clearance, up to, and including, Top Secret clearance.

In order to obtain a general security clearance, you need to have a pretty clean background. This means no criminal record above a speeding ticket. If you have anything on your record that calls your character into question (drugs, theft, even DUI's) you can pretty much forget it. The Agency won't automatically exclude you, but with the thousands of other applicants you'll be competing against... you do the math.

For anything more than just a general clearance, you will need to pass a more strict background check. For this one, you can expect your friends, family, former coworkers, teachers, etc to be interviewed by the FBI, asking about you. I had to go through this in the Army and believe me, it's no picnic.

For this one, you'll need to have a spotless record, as well as a verifiable history. This means that if you have any periods of unemployment over a week or two, you'll need to explain where you were, what you were doing, and have some sort of corroboration.

If you've ever been out of the country, you'll need to have documentation of that as well (pictures, names of people you traveled with, etc.). Traveling overseas alone is pretty much a deal breaker. Again, it's not that they'll exclude you, it's just that the competition is too strong.

Aside from the security clearance, you'll also need to have had very good grades in school, and be fluent in at least one foreign language (Mandarin, Farsi, and Korean are always good choices. Russian never hurts either). The CIA has a wide variety of needs when it comes to jobs, so there really isn't one field of specialty that's better than the others, however, anything with computers is always a plus.

What Life Is Like Working For The CIA

Working for the CIA can be just like working for any normal job. However you'll always need to be mindful that you need to protect your security clearance. This means keeping your nose clean outside of the office (no criminal activity).

You'll also need to remember that you won't be able to discuss much of what you see or do at work. Even as an assistant or an analyst, you'll be handling sensitive materials, as such, you'll be subject to random security checks, and searches. You'll also need to make sure that you follow company policy on reporting any unusual contact you have with people. For example, people asking you specific questions about where/what you work with.

CIA Recruitment Commercial

How To Apply For The CIA

The best way to apply for a job in the CIA is to apply on their website You'll need to have a resume and supporting documents. You'll also be required to pass a medical evaluation (both mental and physical), so make sure to have a list of medications and any special medical information that you think may be relevant.

Working for the CIA is one of the most rewarding jobs you can have when serving your country. As a member of the nations Intelligence Community, your job is to provide our nations leaders with the vital Intelligence they need to protect our nation, and decide on and implement America's foreign policy.


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    • profile image

      zombie 4 years ago

      RDo you have spy's in China or Korea or other places

    • profile image

      zombie 4 years ago

      What dose the CIA really do why do you need spys

    • profile image

      Someone 4 years ago

      I am fluent in korean and chinese. now i`m learning japanese and english. just interest in it

    • Billy Hicks profile image

      Billy Hicks 5 years ago

      The N.S.A. is definitely up there in "badass" factor, but you almost have to be born with a 4.0 GPA to get in. Those guys are the "cream of the crop" in communications and analysis.

    • profile image

      Somone 5 years ago

      The C.I.A would be a very interresting feild, but i do believe I'd want to be a part of the N.S.A.

    • profile image

      WasHere 5 years ago

      Learn to spell grammar before saying anything, my friend

    • profile image

      Richard 5 years ago

      How do any of you expect to be an agent if None of you can even spell correctly. No offense. but you have to spell right and use correct grammer to be an agent. and even to get into the operation officer. just thought I'd let you know that.

    • profile image

      Abubakar Juma 5 years ago

      u know first of that the CIA is the security international agency so i hope if i join for international amry i hope to be a good soljer

    • profile image

      Steve wanz 5 years ago

      m nt a skillful person but let my discipline make my way no matter how hard the thing is the more interest lift..consider me

    • profile image

      M.maqsood alam 5 years ago

      I m services pak army.but i want to resign army.because army sallary idont like.i m fight on terorist.alqaeda and taliban.pleas i need a job of c.i.a.kindly

    • profile image

      secret 5 years ago

      that's really cool to learn.But i wanted to be in the CIA

      but never mind cause i don't think all be good enough

      but it was really cool to learn that