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What Classes Should You Take if You Want to Be a Member of the CIA?

by Ivan Kenneally, studioD

Many are drawn to a career in the Central intelligence Agency (CIA) out of a sense of adventure or patriotic ardor, but the benefits are attractive, too. In addition to “competitive salaries,” the CIA offers “overtime compensation, holiday pay, night differential, Sunday premium pay, bonuses, and allowances,” according the the "Benefits" page on the CIA's website. And the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an entry-level CIA position commands, on average, between $58,511 and $81,204. Students can take a wide spectrum of appropriate preparatory classwork because of the range of employment opportunities available within the CIA.

Becoming an Analyst

One of the more popular career tracks at the CIA is the one pursued by “analysts,” which turns out to be a very broad term. Some analysts specialize in economics, others in data science, and some more generally in science, technology, engineering and math. This is a very broad interpretation of what counts as analytical work, but some courses in statistical analysis would be helpful in pursuing any of these. A background in economics is in high demand at the CIA as well.

Interpreting Foreign Languages

The CIA is charged with obligations that take its agents well beyond the border of the U.S., and this creates a need for agents with foreign language skills. Fluency in any foreign language is attractive to the agency, but consider what languages are most needed to their work in the near future. Arabic, Farsi, Chinese and Russian are the most prized languages at the CIA, so consider taking courses in one or two of those.

Secret Agent Science

The world of intelligence is increasingly tech-savvy and so, according to the CIA, “it is more important than ever for the CIA to stay ahead of fast-paced global technology developments.” In light of this demand, the CIA is always looking to recruit new agents with a wealth of technological know-how. If you’re interested in a career in at the CIA, consider talking courses in computer science or computer engineering. The more credentialed evidence you can produce of your scientific knowledge, the better candidate for employment you’ll be.

International Affairs

When people think of the CIA, they conjure up images of shadowy espionage and covert missions. Field agents who operate secretly belong to the CIA’s clandestine services. To work in this sector of the agency, you must demonstrate some foreign language skills and a working knowledge of international affairs. If this is the track that interests you, consider taking some course like comparative politics, international politics, international institutions and international law. The more knowledge you have of the global theater, the better positioned you will be to apply for a job in the clandestine services.

About the Author

Based in New York City, Ivan Kenneally has been writing about politics, education and American culture since 2006. His articles have appeared in national publications like the 'Washington Times," "Christian Science Monitor," "Cosmopolitan"and "Esquire." He has an Master of Arts in political theory from the New School for Social Research.

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