An intelligence analyst is an official skilled in understanding and interpreting intelligence reports received from field agents. By being able to place specific reports in a broader context, an intelligence agent can help evaluate the importance of reports. Intelligence analysts most often work with government agencies, although some positions in the private sector do exist as well.
Becoming an intelligence analyst is a lengthy process beginning with an appropriate college degree. History, international relations, government, and politics are all common areas of study for aspiring intelligence workers. Most analyst jobs require at least a bachelor's degree, but many also need master's degrees as well. After graduation, many websites offer listings of jobs available in the intelligence community. Becoming an intelligence agent usually requires background checks and several interviews before a person can be granted the security clearance necessary to handle intelligence information.
In the United States (US) government, analysts can work with a variety of different agencies that handle intelligence. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA,) Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI,) National Security Agency (NSA,) and US Military make extensive use of intelligence analysis. Most military intelligence careers require job applicants to have completed officer training in order to be considered for work in intelligence.
Sitting around reading reports all day may sound dull as dishwater, but an intelligence analyst must be able to employ creative thinking to do good work. Placing reports in context and hypothesizing their meaning requires a great ability to integrate events using logic and prior knowledge. In some ways, intelligence agents are the Sherlock Holmes of the intelligence community, looking at all the gathered pieces in the hopes of reaching some conclusion.
The work of an intelligence analyst can be vital to the security, both national and foreign, of citizens and military personnel. Army analysts, for instance, may prepare reports for combat commanders that can influence troop movement or strategy. They may also be in charge of interpreting enemy movements, actions, and intercepted communications. Good intelligence analysis can save lives, while a mistake in gathering or analyzing can lead to serious consequences.
Private sector intelligence analysts tend to work with defense contractors or large corporations that spy or use intelligence-gathering techniques to predict the behavior of their rivals. Working with defense contractors often involves some contact with government material and may require government security clearance. For those who do not wish to work in a military-based setting, defense contracting intelligence may be a good option.
Salary for an intelligence analyst will vary depending on the specifics of the job and the employer. Jobs with better pay may be available to those with special skills, such as fluency in certain foreign languages or experience in a relevant field.