How to Become an
Intelligence Analyst

Group of people looking at computer screens with data visualizations

Researching a career path takes time. Fortunately, if you’re seeking information on how to become an Intelligence Analyst, you’ve come to the right place. Learn everything you need to know about Intelligence Analysts, including what they do and how to become one.

What Does an Intelligence Analyst Do?

An Intelligence Analyst gathers and analyzes information from various sources to assess threats. An Intelligence Analyst works in the field and in the office with sensitive information from law enforcement data, field observation, intelligence networks and geographic information systems. The scope of the work depends on if the Intelligence Analyst is working in the government or private sector. An Intelligence Analyst’s ultimate goal is to report helpful information that will aid in preventing attacks on data or citizens from those who participate in organized criminal activities.

Some common Intelligence Analyst duties and responsibilities include:

  • Prepare comprehensive reports based on information gathered during research

  • Validate information with other intelligence sources

  • Study the assets of criminal suspects to determine the cash flow to or from targeted groups

  • Study foreign languages or communication codes to translate possible intelligence

Intelligence Analyst Skills

The ability to obtain, process and provide information are three of the most important skills an Intelligence Analyst will be expected to do. Being an Intelligence Analyst involves observing and receiving data from relevant sources, working with the data to break it down into separate parts and compiling reports that allow to understand the risks associated with various groups and individuals. Intelligence Analysts should be to think, speak and write clearly and succinctly. They should be able to desegregate significant data from large bodies of data they obtain and create and maintain a systematic recording and filing system that allows for cross-referencing of intelligence data obtained.

Other key Intelligence Analyst skills include:

  • Written communication

  • Inductive reasoning

  • Deductive reasoning

  • Interviewing skills

How Do You Become an Intelligence Analyst?

Education and Training

According to our analysis of online job postings, employers are looking for Intelligence Analyst candidates who have at least a bachelor’s degree. Degree programs for those interested in becoming an Intelligence Analyst include political science, international studies and national security. Previous experience in law enforcement, the military, computer science or accounting is often helpful. The candidate’s ability to speak more than one language is also considered favorable by employers. Government agencies that employ Intelligence Analysts may require candidates to participate in additional, specialized training. In addition, internships that provide a learning experience on how intelligence is gathered and processed can be helpful.

Finding a job

Demand for Intelligence Analysts is developing at a slower-than-average rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 4-percent growth for the position through 2024, amounting to a total of 33,100 job openings for Intelligence Analysts during that period. The projected job openings in the government sector will be more suited for those who are at least bilingual and have military or law enforcement experience.

Every well-planned Intelligence Analyst’s job search starts with crafting a high-quality resume that highlights your skills and experience. For help creating a resume, take a look at our library of Intelligence Analyst resume samples.

Once your resume is ready, search online for Intelligence Analyst job opportunities. As you search for openings, be sure to leverage your professional network, including people you worked with in the military or law enforcement fields.

When applying for Intelligence Analyst positions, create a cover letter that expresses your interest in the position and highlights your qualifications and what you can bring to the role. Need some inspiration for your cover letter? Check out our collection of cover letter samples.

Insights About Intelligence Analyst

In order to get an inside look at how to become an Intelligence Analyst, we talked to Dmitri Oster, who has an extensive background in international affairs and associated disciplines. Here’s what he had to tell us.

What Is the Common Career Path for Intelligence Analysts?

There are many paths available for a person to qualify as an intelligence analyst. Any given applicant must be very well-read, intelligent and with a deep knowledge base for all types of civil and worldly affairs. Any such applicant should also not have anything resembling a criminal record as background is thoroughly examined and judged according to various national security guidelines. Some people in this industry would say that a typical intelligence analyst would come from an academic background in political science or international affairs or something associated with such fields of study. And, many who enter this field do come from such an academic background. However, it is important to know that other backgrounds are considered when one is attempting to enter this professional domain.

What Career Advancement Opportunities Are Available to Intelligence Analysts?

There are options available to ascend to higher levels of managerial oversight or supervisory status within both the governmental and even private sectors of industry. The abilities required to collect, analyze, and think through complex sets of data while rendering an intelligible product in a timely and efficient manner to consumers is a skill-set that is highly regarded in upper levels of practice in both the intelligence and private sector domains. There are some intelligence analysts that even choose to enter the political domain with their gained understanding of the intricacies embedded in political phenomena. Although, that is always only a personal career choice with a very different set of priorities and orientation. It is fair to say that an intelligence analyst would most likely have a different set of eyes to be able to interpret and help inform their viewpoints on political and even business matters, should the need arise.  I refer to this simply as the creative impulse, and harnessed in a productive manner it can lead to success in various fields of operations.  Good intelligence analysts often emerge from this backdrop of functioning.

Who Makes a Good Intelligence Analyst?

People who excel in this type of job are those that have a penchant for detail and can follow various protocols, but also have a developed sense of critical inquiry. Any type of intelligence analyst without a critical consciousness is simply following regulations. The best analysts are those that can work within complex guidelines but also are not afraid to think and question beyond the standard parameters of inquiry. 

What Should Someone Consider Before Becoming an Intelligence Analyst?

First and foremost is the question of emotional and behavioral stability. It is important to consider this domain and dynamic of human functioning because most intelligence analysts must have the refined abilities to multi-task with a keen sense of focused attention and detail-orientation while at the same time having the capacity to see the bigger picture of any particular project.  This is the ability to see and perceive on different levels at the same time, while not being burdened by distraction and other forms of stimuli that are always present. I firmly believe that only those analysts and other operators that have spent a good amount of time on their emotional development have the capacity to carry out these functions in the most efficient and mature manner.

How Much Do Intelligence Analysts Get Paid?

Intelligence Analysts earn a median hourly wage in the United States of over $37.00. The lowest-paid Intelligence Analysts make around $20 hourly, while the highest-paid can earn more than $60 per hour.

Top 10 States for Intelligence Analyst’s Salary

Intelligence Analysts in the following states make the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.:

    District Of Columbia

    $57.35

    Alaska

    $53.85

    New Jersey

    $47.57

    California

    $46.64

    Hawaii

    $46.37

    New York

    $41.34

    Florida

    $36.23

    New Mexico

    $36.14

    Arizona

    $35.98

    Texas

    $35.41

    Intelligence Analyst Resources

    Need more information? We put together this list of extra resources to assist you as you continue exploring a career as an Intelligence Analyst.

    On the Web

    CIA
    Office of Intelligence and Analysis

    FBI Careers
    Official site for FBI careers

    On LinkedIn

    Kenneth Costine
    Intelligence Analyst at Office of the Director of National Intelligence

    Martin Petersen
    Former career intelligence officer for the CIA

    Industry Groups

    IALEIA
    International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts

    IACA
    The International Association of Crime Analysts