The CIA, an agency shrouded in mystery, is responsible for monitoring the activities of foreign countries. The agency gathers intelligence related to foreign threats to national security, foreign industries, the political landscape of foreign countries, and terrorist cells. They are also responsible for performing counterintelligence in response to foreign intelligence. The intelligence that’s gathered is then circulated to U.S. heads of national security including the president and is used to control the direction of national security policy. The people working to fulfill all these duties are called CIA agents.
Not everyone can handle the responsibilities that come with being a CIA agent. As a consequence, candidates are rigorously screened during the hiring process to pick out those most suited for the career. One thing is for certain, the process of becoming a CIA agent is a long one and it’s definitely going to put you under the microscope. And that’s because the CIA is looking for candidates with a distinct set of traits who can be trusted to handle sensitive information. So, of course, there’s going to be intense scrutiny.
The agency’s qualifying and disqualifying factors and hiring process just scream, “This job isn’t for everyone”. How so? Well, for one, candidates must not have had a brush with the law. That means no prior felony convictions or misdemeanors. Candidates must also, be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen, and have a 4-year degree from an accredited institution with a GPA of at least 3.0.
The CIA, however, does not require that candidates have a specific degree because the agency is interested in hiring people with different academic backgrounds. Some bachelor’s degrees actually enhance a candidate’s chances of being accepted. These degrees are:
- International Relations
- International Business
- Biological Engineering
- Chemical Engineering
These select degrees can make it easier for a candidate to get one foot through the door. Other life experiences and qualifications can help a candidate as well. These included:
- Experience traveling abroad
- Experience living abroad
- A secondary language like Mandarin or Arabic
Skills and experience like these are also considered equally desirable by the agency.
How To Apply
Candidates can apply online on the official CIA website or at the CIA office that’s responsible for the area they live in. If the CIA expresses interest in hiring a candidate, he will be contacted and informed of the next steps he’ll have to take. At this point, candidates will be interviewed. They will then have to take and pass a drug test, a physical test, psychological evaluation, and a medical examination.
The agency must assess candidates’ honesty and integrity. Both of which are regarded highly by the CIA. This is where the polygraph test and background checks come into play. While running a background check the CIA will interview past and present employers, co-workers, neighbors, and teaching staff to determine a candidate’s character, trustworthiness, and reliability.
If a candidate passes this crucial step, they’ll enter an 18-month training program, which will teach them the skills necessary for operating as a CIA agent. Candidates are placed into one of two programs upon being accepted for training:
The PT program is best suited for candidates who have little to no working experience while the CST program is best suited for candidates who have years of working experience. Most of the training will occur within the Washington, D.C area at the CIA Academy, but a small portion of the training occurs elsewhere at places like Naval War College, the Army War College, and the National War College. According to the official CIA website, the process can take as little as two months or more than a year depending on the circumstances of the candidate.