What’s the Best Degree Path for Becoming an Intelligence Analyst?

When you make the decision to major in the humanities, you are cultivating the foundation you need to work in any number of career paths, some of them prestigious and lucrative. Intelligence analyst, for example, is the top paying job for humanities majors. Experienced intelligence analysts earn a median salary of $86,100 per year. Earning a degree from a college or university is an important part of an aspiring intelligence analyst’s career preparation.

 An Intelligence Analyst’s Education

In the military and government agencies, intelligence analysis is essential to security. Intelligence analysts find work in agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Security Agency (NSA) as well as in military branches like the Army and the Marines. The work of an intelligence analyst is to gather, research, analyze and evaluate information – sometimes information that is crucial to homeland security or the safety of military troops and civilians.

There is no one degree path that leads to a career as an intelligence analyst, but instead many possible paths that candidates can take. Humanities majors like political science are in demand, according to the federal government’s intelligence website, U.S. Intelligence Careers. The FBI seeks candidates with degrees in subjects like history, geography, criminal justice, international law, international studies, area studies and English. An education in foreign languages, like Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Korean, Russian and Vietnamese, is also desirable.

Many fields of study can prepare students for careers in intelligence, including science, business and engineering. However, studying the humanities helps students develop valuable skills in critical thinking, writing and analysis. These abilities can be instrumental when it comes to researching and analyzing important information.

A bachelor’s degree is a necessity for aspiring intelligence analysts. An advanced degree, like a master’s degree, can sometimes strengthen a candidate’s résumé and give him or her a competitive edge over other candidates for aspiring intelligence jobs.

Gaining Government Experience

Aspiring intelligence analysts need more than work experience to land their dream jobs. They also need a security clearance. Because of this necessity, candidates often enter the military and begin their intelligence careers in the armed forces. They are then able to get the security clearance they need to work in intelligence positions outside of the military, as well. Other aspiring intelligence analysts complete government internships during their college careers to get a foot in the door. Either way, gaining the experience and making the networking connections from military service or government internship opportunities can increase a candidate’s likelihood of getting the desired job.

In addition to being paid well, intelligence analysts have the satisfaction of doing a job that is important to the security of the nation. They often enjoy great benefits and advancement potential later on in the course of their careers. Though intelligence analysts typically work for the government, these professionals can also choose to put their skills to work in the private sector, in positions involving business intelligence.

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