10 Simple Tips for Getting Hired by the CIA

For those of you interested in government positions with the CIA, the following are suggestions provided to the Career Center from Stephanie Faris who writes for Criminal Justice Degree Schools, a career site with extensive resources on a wide range of criminal justice careers from CIA agents to computer forensics.

For years, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been portrayed in movies and TV shows with a glamorous mystique but the reality is that the CIA is a serious crime-fighting agency, interested in protecting the citizens of its country. As a college grad school student, you’re already well on your way to impressing the CIA with your educational level. But getting on with the CIA can be tricky, since each open position receives so many applications. To stand out from the others, it’s important to know what the CIA wants. Below are a few things you can do now to improve your chances.

  • Learn a foreign language. America is a land of many languages and, like other law enforcement agencies, the CIA is searching for workers who know how to speak them. If possible, master a foreign language, particularly Spanish, since the number of Spanish-speaking residents is growing by the year. Another good language to consider learning is Arabic, the official language in several Middle Eastern countries.
  • Consider applying for the CIA’s Graduate Studies Program. If you’re in the early years of earning your graduate degree, the CIA offers a Graduate Studies Program. Participants in the CIA’s student programs will be evaluated for future job opportunities with the agency upon graduation. The CIA encourages interested students to discuss the opportunity with student advisors, but the application process is outlined on the CIA’s careers page.
  • Keep your record clean. This is imperative for anyone considering a career with the CIA. When you apply to the CIA for employment, you submit to a thorough background check. Any criminal activity, including DUIs or arrests for illegal drug possession could stop you from being hired. In addition to background check, applicants also are given a polygraph examination, as well as a medical check to ensure the applicant is in sufficient physical and emotional health to perform required job duties.
  • Be discreet. If you do choose to pursue a career as a CIA agent, the agency urges applicants to be discreet during the application process. While it may be tempting to tell friends and family about your application, the CIA urges against this, stating that, “their interest may not be benign or in your best interest.” The agency advises you keep news of your application under wraps.
  • Be prepared to work long hours. The CIA is not necessarily a 9-to-5 operation. Depending on your position with the agency, you might be required to work long hours and weekends, which can make having a personal life challenging. A career with the CIA is definitely a commitment, so it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into before you apply for the position.
  • Be prepared to relocate. The CIA’s headquarters are in Washington, D.C., so at the very least, you’ll be spending time there during training. Once you’ve been sufficiently trained, if you’re an agent you’ll need to be flexible in where you live to be eligible for the best assignments.
  • You may be working under a contract. Some positions with the CIA require the employee to sign a multi-year contract before taking the job. These positions are not full-time employees but offer many of the same benefits as the CIA’s full-time workers. At the end of a worker’s contract, the CIA is not obligated to hire that employee and the contract can be terminated at any time.
  • Consider getting experience in law enforcement or homeland security. The CIA also gives high marks for military service, especially if you were stationed overseas during wartime.
  • Be a U.S. citizen. Prior to placing your application, you’ll be expected to be a U.S. citizen.

The CIA receives more than 10,000 résumés per month, so the hiring process is very competitive. To begin, the CIA recommends reviewing each of its positions to find the one that’s best for you. You will be allowed to apply for up to four positions, but you only have to apply for the positions that meet your career goals.

The application process is completely online, but the CIA repeatedly warns visitors that the application process is lengthy and involved. The CIA warns that because it receives so many applications, the wait time for hearing back can be as much as 45 days. If you still haven’t heard anything after the 45 days have passed, you are not being considered for a position at this time.

Most importantly, think outside the box. The CIA has many positions available aside from special agent positions. You may choose to work as a translator, a business analyst, a financial officer, or a computer systems analyst. While these positions may not often be portrayed in the movies, they’re crucial to the infrastructure of the agency. By supporting the other personnel on staff at the CIA, these workers play a role in helping maintain the safety of Americans.

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