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How Do I Become a CIA Agent?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2014
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Becoming a clandestine service operations officer, as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) refers to its agents, is a lengthy and grueling process. Prospective CIA agents should be aware that it can take over a year from the time a resume is submitted to the moment an agent walks through the doors on the first day of work, and that only a small fraction of applicants are accepted for any position at the CIA, let alone a clandestine service position. Someone who wants to become a CIA agent should be prepared to be very patient.

Good preparation for candidates who want to become a CIA agent starts with foreign language education. Candidates may want to take languages which are politically relevant, such as Arabic and Chinese, although fluency in any foreign language will be useful. The CIA also strongly recommends that candidates hold an undergraduate degree, which can be in any field of interest, with a high grade point average. One must also be a United States citizen to become a CIA agent.

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Once someone has fulfilled the basic requirements, he or she can file a resume with the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA allows applicants to file resumes online, encouraging people to file for specific job openings, rather than to send in a generic resume. For someone who wants to become a CIA agent, the resume should be filed for a position in the clandestine service area of the agency. The CIA can take up to 45 days to review the resume and contact the applicant; if an applicant is not contacted after this point, the resume will be held for a year in case the agency thinks it may be useful.

If the Agency approaches an applicant with a request for more information, the applicant can prepare for a round of exhaustive interviews. He or she must also undergo a background check, which includes medical exams, drug testing, and a review of the applicant's past. It is not possible to become a CIA agent with any evidence of potential conflicts of interest, or if an applicant has a past which suggests that he or she may be a security risk. Once accepted for training, a clandestine service operations officer will also undergo clearance, which determine the level of information that the agent will have access to.

There are some shortcuts in the process. The Agency often recruits at American colleges and Universities, looking for bright candidates who could have strong careers in clandestine service, and students should consider attending job information sessions and job fairs to get into contact with CIA representatives. Prior military service can also be an advantage when applying to become a CIA agent, although it isn't an assurance that a candidate will be accepted.

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anon305879
Post 6

I am fully interested in becoming a CIA agent, but I am not a US citizen. I am Indian.

anon152571
Post 4

Well i was interested in becoming a CIA agent but I'm not a US citizen. I come from Holland, should that be any problem?

Alchemy
Post 3

@ Submariner and cougars- I agree with both of you and disagree with both of you. I think that we do face threats, but we have a poor handle on the way that intelligence is gathered and we need to change the way that intelligence decisions are made.

The US intelligence community is far too large to be effective at containing threats, creating a stumbling community that lacks communication. We need nimble agencies that can share information effectively. The biggest problem in my opinion is that the decisions made in the intelligence community are only made to solve a short-term problem or create immediate outcomes. Many of the problems that our intelligence agencies are trying to solve revolve around terrorism, smuggling of people and illicit goods, and many other things that I know nothing about. In my opinion, we need to split our intelligence resources between stopping immediate threats and preventing future threats. Take resources away from some of the overlapping and useless intelligence gathering and funnel them into operations to create favorable future outcomes.

cougars
Post 2

@ Submariner- You will not hear about the successes of the CIA, and that is just how it is. Every intelligence agency deals with scandals. China's MSS has been caught meddling in US elections, Israel's Massoud has been implicated in numerous assassination attempts, MI6 was responsible for much of the intel on Saddam Hussein's imaginary WMDs, and the list goes on.

Secret intelligence agencies often make decisions about matters of national security and these decisions must be made on the fly. It would be great if the world was a safe place, but it is not. There are numerous countries with nuclear and chemical weapons, there are even more unstable governments, and there are also countries that cannot control the terrorist factions within their borders. I believe that we need more people who want to become a CIA field agent and protect our country form the threats it faces.

submariner
Post 1

Sometimes I ask why someone would want to consider becoming a CIA agent. You sometimes have to do things that are un-American to ensure the safety of this country. I know that it is all for a good cause, but sometimes the CIA does things that just hurt us in the end. Many of our conflicts we are facing now are a result of CIA blowback.

The Agency propped up shady characters and war lords during the cold war so that we could fight our proxy wars. When they were of no use to us anymore, we pulled our support. What we were left with is a bunch of radicals who were militarized but had no cause.

I could almost say that many of our foreign policy problems we are facing are a result of the CIA. It seems to me that you only hear bad things about the CIA.

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