Careers with the Central Intelligence Agency: Get the Inside Scoop

If you’re looking to make a difference in your career, you might want to consider the global career opportunities at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA is actively recruiting for the important job of keeping America safe. The mission of the CIA is to preempt threats and further U.S. national security objectives by collecting intelligence that matters, producing objective all-source analysis, conducting effective covert action as directed by the President, and safeguarding the secrets that help keep our Nation safe. The agency hires individuals from a wide variety of academic and professional backgrounds to serve in roles both in the U.S. and overseas.

On Thursday, September 6, 2018, UMUC hosted several CIA recruiters at its Academic Center in Largo who were recruiting for a variety of divisions across the Agency. Below are a few insights the CIA officers shared during the event. The CIA team shared details about working with the agency, the application process, and applicant requirements. The applicant requirements include:

  • Must be a U.S. citizen — dual citizens are eligible
  • Willing to relocate to the Washington, DC area
  • Must be able to complete security and medical evaluations including:
    • Position suitability assessment
    • Physical and psychological examination
    • Polygraph interview
    • Background investigation

Other characteristics noted as important were integrity, curiosity, initiative, motivation, teamwork, communication skills, critical thinking, and common sense. All CIA team members are guided by the Agency’s professional ethos and guiding principle to keep secrets. In many roles within the CIA, officers are unable to talk about the work they are doing even to close family members or spouses.

There are several factors that would immediately prevent an applicant from being hired at the CIA. These include:

  • Drug use 12 months prior to application
  • Pending criminal charges
  • Felony convictions
  • Dishonorable discharge from the military
  • Future illegal downloading

The recruiters also advised that applicants be candid with background investigators realizing that many candidates may have past infractions, so “we look at the whole person.”

The application process for the CIA could take up to a year or more, so planning ahead is critical. Here is the process you can expect to complete:

  • Apply onlineat Keep in mind that you only have 72 hours to complete your application on the CIA’s system once it is started, so consider drafting your resume and cover letter (if required) before starting your online application. Check out the job posting on the CIA website to see what documents are required. You can apply for up to four positions per application. The CIA has also begun to advertise some of its positions on USAJobs with LINKS back to gov to complete the application.
  • In the first 45-90 days, the CIA will screen your resume, you may be asked to complete an online test, and you may be invited for an in-person interview.
  • After 91-120 days, you may receive a conditional offer of employment by mail, which would include paperwork to complete for your background investigation (including the SF 86). Be sure to fill out the documentation completely, and write “N/A” in the space if something does not apply to you instead of leaving it blank.
  • Lastly, over the next 12 months, you will complete:
    • Medical and security processing
    • Background investigation to receive the Top Secret clearance with lifestyle polygraph

If you lived overseas, that typically adds time to the process. If you already have a security clearance (including a Top Secret clearance), the process will likely not be any shorter.

For the medical evaluation, you will receive an EKG and urinalysis, and an annual physical. A psychological assessment is also part of the process, so if you are taking any sort of medication, you should disclose that as part of your medical processing, if given a Conditional Offer of Employment. Taking medication for a psychological reason or another physical impairment are not necessarily disqualifiers for working at the CIA.

There are a wide variety of jobs available at the CIA, so the agency developed a Job Fit Tool to help applicants determine which positions might be the best fit. The recruiters noted that you should only apply for those positions that interest you. Just because the Job Fit Tool indicated that you are a fit for a position, does not mean that you should apply if you do not want the job. View all of the careers on the CIA career website, identify your top four jobs (you can only apply to up to four positions), and apply. All opportunities available at the CIA can be found here. For students who have just begun their academic career, be sure to check out the CIA’s paid internship opportunities.

Applicants who are successfully chosen for the CIA can enjoy a variety of benefits including a competitive salary, generous time off, health insurance, and retirement. Their career website includes additional information including top reasons to work for the CIAemployee profiles, and a resource for transitioning service members and veterans.

Although certainly not for everyone, the CIA offers job seekers a unique professional opportunity with a potential to have a major impact on our national security interests.

For more information on career opportunities and resources available to UMUC students and alumni from the Office of Career Services, click here.

Darren Cox serves as the Director of Employer Services at UMUC and primarily works to connect students and alumni to hiring employers. He has over 14 years’ experience in the career and workforce development arena in the non-profit, District of Columbia government and university sectors. Some of his key responsibilities in his current role are to meet with employers to identify their recruitment needs and work to connect UMUC candidates to open positions.