What Are the Best Intelligence Analysts Degree Programs?

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Most intelligence analysts look at numbers and data, and make sense of it. They check vital information. Then they use it to make policy changes in private and public organizations. They also work in government agencies. This role is critical to any business.

Organizations strive to make sense of large amounts of information generated:

  • Daily
  • Monthly
  • Yearly

As they accumulate information, it needs to be analyzed. This is where the role of an intelligence analyst comes in. They synthesize data and drive action plans based on what they collect.

When you decide to major in humanities, you build a foundation for different career paths. This includes the role of an intelligence analyst. The first step to become an intelligence analyst is to earn a college degree, such as a criminal justice degree. But you need more than a bachelor’s degree to become an intelligence analyst.

Read on to find out how to become an intelligence analyst. Also find out the best degrees for intelligence careers.

Education: Intelligence Analysts Degree Programs

To become an intelligence analyst, you need education because of the nature of work you do. In military and government agencies, intelligence analysis is essential to security. Intelligence analysts work in agencies like:

  • The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • The National Security Agency (NSA)

They also work in branches of the military like the Army and the Marines. Their work is to gather, research, analyze, and examine information. The information they collect is to keep military troops and civilians safe from specific and emerging threats. It is also important for homeland security.

But there is a big difference between information and intelligence. Knowing the difference helps you understand the role of an intelligence analyst. It also helps you know the education required for this role.

Information is data about a specific issue or circumstance. In business, analysts collect data or information that might impact operations. But intelligence identifies how the business changes based on the findings. Is the business harmed? How is it affected?

Intelligence spots an issue that might arise. It also shows what steps to decrease risks. Intelligence analysts collect information and then interpret it. They draw conclusions needed to make assessments for policy makers. They provide intelligence analysis that helps in future planning for the business.

Best Degrees for Intelligence Analyst Jobs

Intelligence analyst education varies. There is no single degree path that leads to a career as an intelligence analyst. Instead, there are many possible intelligence analysis degrees you can earn. If you don’t declare an intelligence analyst major, there are other options.

Humanities Degrees for an Intelligence Analyst

Humanities majors are in demand for government jobs. The federal government’s intelligence website says the FBI prefers the following degrees:

  • Criminal Justice
  • History
  • International Law
  • International Studies
  • English
  • Political Science

These degrees can qualify you to become an intelligence analyst. They also qualify you for other jobs like FBI intelligence analyst or artificial intelligence work in the cybersecurity industry.

Foreign Language Degrees for an Intelligence Analyst

Also desirable is an education in foreign languages, such as:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Hebrew
  • Korean
  • Russian
  • Vietnamese

You can earn either a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree. Both will help you become an intelligence analyst. But a master’s degree can help you qualify for leadership roles. It also qualifies you for a senior intelligence analyst position.

Other Degrees

You can also study business, engineering, or a science. But the intelligence analyst degree programs you choose should develop your skills in:

  • Analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Writing

These abilities are instrumental in knowing how to research and analyze important information.

New intelligence analysts must hold a bachelor’s degree if they want to work in the intelligence community. They are the best degree for intelligence analyst jobs at the entry level. They are also a requirement for any job in this field. But an advanced degree, such as a master’s degree in criminal justice, strengthens your résumé. It also gives you a competitive edge over other candidates for intelligence jobs.

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Importance of Government Experience

Aspiring intelligence analysts need more than work experience to land their dream jobs. You also need security clearance. Because of this, you can enter the military and get a head start on intelligence careers in the armed forces.
 
What kind of head start do you get? In some military roles, you can get security clearance. You need this to work in intelligence positions.

You can also complete a government internship while in college. This helps you get a foot in the door when you apply for intelligence analyst jobs. In a government internship experience, you network with military personnel. This increases your chances of getting a permanent intelligence analyst position.

Since most intelligence analysts work in government agencies, getting experience early on helps. But even if you decide to put your skills to work in the private sector, you should get experience while in college. You can intern or volunteer in a private organization. Later if you want to work in government, you can show a potential employer the experience you gained.

There are plenty of business intelligence and consulting intern opportunities out there. They lead to good jobs with benefits and advancement opportunities.

Important Qualities You Should Have as an Intelligence Analyst

Critical thinking skills

Strong analytical and critical thinking skills are necessary to become an intelligence analyst. In the intelligence community, you should be able to draw meaningful conclusions from the intelligence you collect. You should also be good at disseminating raw intelligence.

Analysts study many sources. They gather data and check the validity of the source. They conduct a comprehensive analytical assessment of each source they collect. An analyst then draws conclusions based on their findings. They also create actionable plans and see them through.

To carry out these tasks, you should be able to think critically.

Detail-orientated

To carry out the role of an intelligence analyst, you must be detail-oriented. Your research and findings allow you to:

  • Detect problems
  • Execute plans to resolve challenges
  • Find problems

To do these things, you must pay attention to details. You should also have good organization skills, which go hand-in-hand with detail orientation.

Self-awareness

Having the ability to recognize cognitive biases is important. A person who is self-aware is able to remain unbiased. If you recognize biases, you won’t allow them to get in the way when examining information.

Biases interfere with analyses. That’s why it is important to recognize biases in your work and study as you become an intelligence analyst.

Strong research skills

Strong research skills are important for intelligence analysis work. The job requires collecting and evaluating  information. Once collected, analysts ensure insights are well-informed.

You check sources and analyze them for accuracy and reliability. You then draw conclusions based on your findings.

Strong communication and writing skills

An intelligence analyst communicates their findings to administration, clients, and stakeholders. They present their findings based on research analysis. They do this through reports and memos, or other forms of writing. As you become an intelligence analyst, you need to have strong writing skills. You also need superior analysis and research skills.

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The Job Outlook for an Intelligence Analyst

Job growth for intelligence analysts in the U.S. is favorable for the next several years. In fact, CareerExplorer reports a 5% growth through 2026. The projected growth is higher than the average for all other occupations.

We expect to see growth because of workers reaching retirement age. Over the next 10 years, the industry will add about 8,500 intelligence analysts.

But you find most jobs for analysts in only a few geographic locations. Texas has the most working intelligence analysts. In Texas, there are about 16,780 workers in this role, which is about 5,000 more than any other U.S. state.

California has the second-highest concentration of intelligence analysts. There are about 11,700 individuals employed with this title.

Best States for Intelligence Analyst Jobs

Other states that rank high for the number of intelligence analysts include:

  • New York
  • Florida
  • Arizona
  • Georgia

States with the lowest number of analysts are Alaska, Wyoming, and West Virginia. Each of these three states have less than 200 individuals employed in this role.

Earnings for Intelligence Analysts

Once you have an intelligence analyst degree and are ready to go to work, you should look at how much money you can make.

According to PayScale, the average salary for intelligence analysts is $71,516/year. Yet earnings can reach as high as $107,000/year for the top 10% of individuals in this occupation. But earnings vary depending on where the individual works. It also varies by education and level of experience.

Entry-level intelligence analysts earn an average salary of $57,556/year. These are workers with less than one year of experience. This number comes from the average of 123 salaries reported by PayScale. But the more experience you have, the more money you can make.

If you have four years of experience, you can expect to earn $64,257/year, on average. With five to nine years of experience, you can earn $73,807/year. Intelligence analysts with 10 to 19 years of experience earn $87,500/year. But with more than 20 years of experience, you can earn over $90,885/year, on average.

Besides experience, your pay can vary by geographic location. Data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows high paying areas for intelligence analysts. Data includes information security analysts.

Top paying states to become an intelligence analyst in

  • California
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • The District of Columbia
  • Virginia

California is the highest-paying state. Intelligence analysts in this state earn $125,990/year.

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Certifications You Might Need as an Intelligence Analyst

Some of the best colleges for intelligence analysts offer degrees and certifications. While not every employer requires a certification to land a job, some do. Certifications help you stand out among competition. But does a certification help you find work as an intelligence analyst?

Fewer jobs mean competition. Candidates need more than degrees from intelligence analyst schools. A certification helps you show your dedication to the profession. It conveys the knowledge and depth of understanding you have of the intelligence analyst role.

Below are different certifications you can earn with your intelligence analysts degree. 

Certified Business Intelligence Professional (CBIP)

The CBIP certification is for those who work in data management. It is the field’s most meaningful certification. Why? Because when you earn it, you let employers know you’re serious about business intelligence.

But to qualify, you need a bachelor’s degree in a related field like criminal justice. But you need more than a criminal justice degree. You also need at least two years of experience. If you have this, you qualify for the exam.

There are three separate examinations you must take and pass. Test scores determine whether you earn a practitioner- or mastery-level certification. The higher the score, the higher the mastery earned.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

The CISSP certification is available through the International Information System Security Certification Consortium. It is a sought-after certification for intelligence analysts working in a cybersecurity industry.

You can only qualify for this certification after five years of experience. Two of those five years must be hands-on experience. A passing score is also required on the CISSP certification exam.

But once you earn it, you stand out among your competition.

Criminal Intelligence Certified Analyst (CICA)

You earn the CICA certification through the IALEIA. This is the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts. It is for intelligence analysts who work in the criminal justice industry.

The certification adheres to the concepts of professionalism set forth by the SCCA. It also follows NCISP recommendations. Recommendations come from the Law Enforcement Analyst Certification Standards for certification organizations.

Applicants for certification must have work experience. They must also have professional training required to become a professional analyst. You must be an IALEIA member and receive a passing score on the required exam.

Intelligence Fundamentals Professional Certification (IFPC)

The Department of Defense offers the IFPC certification. To qualify for the exam, you must be a U.S. citizen. To get certified, you have to pass the exam.

There are 90 questions. They focus on core expectations of what defense intelligence professionals should know. If you pass, the certification lasts three years. You renew it by retaking and passing the test. You can also earn a higher-level certification from a program endorsed by the USD(I&S).

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Work Environment of Intelligence Analysts

Busy days analyzing large volumes of data are part of the job as an intelligence analyst. But the work setting can vary by role.

Where do you find intelligence analysts?

  • Government or military departments
  • Intelligence agencies
  • International agencies and embassies
  • National security
  • Private intelligence agencies

Who do intelligence analyst works with?

  • Investment companies
  • Large corporations
  • Small businesses

Where Does an Intelligence Analyst Work?

Intelligence analysts also work in many different fields like:

  • Business
  • Criminal justice
  • Cybersecurity
  • Engineering
  • Finance
  • Telecommunications

In every setting, they spend long hours analyzing data and issuing security warnings. They also travel and complete field work as needed. These are all things to consider if you want to become an intelligence analyst.

Related:

BDP Staff
May 2022

This concludes our article on the best degree path for becoming an intelligence analyst.

Brenda Rufener
Author

Julie McCaulley
Expert

Carrie Sealey-Morris
Editor-in-Chief