Landing a job with the Central Intelligence Agency isn’t easy. But now that Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the agency and current employee of the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton quit and is in hiding after spilling secrets, there could be an opening.
The CIA might be earning a bad reputation, but odds are, plenty of people still want to work for the spy agency.
According to their site, the CIA receives more than 10,000 résumés per month, so the hiring process is very competitive. To begin, the CIA recommends reviewing each of its positions to find the one that’s best for you. You will be allowed to apply for up to four positions, but you only have to apply for the positions that meet your career goals.
Allen Barnes of Lakeside worked for the CIA after graduating from SDSU in the 1980’s and put in 20 years with the government organization before retiring.
“I applied and got in because I was working in computers back then,” he said. “I never did cloak-and-dagger stuff, but I had to keep a low profile. It’s a great job with great benefits, and you are helping your country. If you have what it takes I would say it’s one of the best career moves you can make.”
Before you apply, check out your police record. If you have one, don’t bother filling out an application. The CIA wants to hire squeaky clean people to do the nation’s dirty work.
If you’re in high school or college and are thinking of becoming the next Jason Bourne, make sure you have good communication skills, can write well and if you speak a foreign language that’s another big plus. The CIA also takes into consideration your military service, especially if you were involved in combat. And just to be clear, you have to be a U.S. citizen to become a CIA agent.
If you have secrets you want to keep such as a few extra wives, hidden bank accounts or a fake identity, this job is not for you. Not only will the CIA check out your past, but they will give you a polygraph and a medical exam as part of the hiring process. They will quiz your family and friends, so make sure you really, really want to be a spy.
For the most part, working for the CIA is not about wearing a tuxedo and hanging out at fancy parties waiting to slip poison in a bad guy’s cocktail. It’s more about computer work, surveillance, and administration duties. It’s not exactly a glamour job, but you are protecting the country.
According to Glassdoor.com, the average starting salary for a new agent is $45,000 a year, but it goes up to $100,000 and more for experienced agents. Job titles include analysts, business and IT specialists, and Clandestine Services which sounds very cloak-and-dagger and involves travel overseas and undercover work. You won’t see your name in the newspaper when things go right, but you’ll be rewarded with bonuses.
If you decide that the CIA is where you want to work, be prepared to move to Washington D.C., or at least travel there often. Also, if you are thinking about applying, the CIA recommends that you don’t blab your plans to your family and friends. If you can’t even keep that part a secret, again, maybe you should look elsewhere for a career.
If you’re still in school it’s not too early to start looking at the CIA for a job. Sign up for their student work program. You learn from the older spies while earning a paycheck and they offer scholarships for undergrads and graduate students. Hey, it’s better than working at McDonald’s.
You can go online to complete the application but it’s time consuming and very involved so find a hidden spot, put on your x-ray vision glasses and prepare for one of the most invasive job applications you will ever complete.
And remember… don’t tell anyone.