The Central Intelligence Agency, the nation's premier intelligence gathering and analysis organization, was created in 1947 as a result of the National Security Act. As a large federal agency, the CIA employs thousands of people, with many working in careers including business, information technology and the sciences. Hands down, probably the most interesting career in the CIA is as an agent serving within the organization's National Clandestine Service. CIA agents serve as officers in several vital and distinct roles, including as actual spies.
National Clandestine Service
When people hear the words "CIA agent," visions of cloak-and-dagger operations come to mind, and that image is often correct. The CIA's true agents work within its National Clandestine Service organization. Once called the Directorate of Operations, or DO, the National Clandestine Service deploys its agents in a number of different specialties or roles. The classic CIA agent is what's called an "operations officer," though other CIA agents serve as "collection management officers" or as paramilitary warfighter-type agents.
CIA Agent Roles
No single CIA agent works to carry out every role within the organization's clandestine services. CIA operations officers are the front-line gatherers of "human intelligence," or HUMINT, and clandestinely recruit and handle human sources of foreign intelligence. CIA collection management officers are a crucial link between agency operations officers in the field and the intelligence analysis professionals serving at headquarters and elsewhere. CIA staff operations and specialized duty officers work primarily in the Washington, D.C., area helping to develop complex clandestine missions and operations.
Paramilitary and Languages
The CIA employs a number of paramilitary operations officers who are sometimes given the bland title of "specialized skills officer." CIA paramilitary professionals frequently work in hazardous and very austere overseas environments. Most CIA paramilitary operations officers come to the agency with backgrounds in U.S. military special operations and special warfare, such as Special Forces, Ranger and Navy SEAL service. The CIA also has a strong need for specialized language skills and uses language officers possessing extensive knowledge of overseas environments.
CIA Agent Careers
Depending on your career inclinations and background, the CIA may have a job for you. Not all CIA employees work in clandestine services, but if being an actual spy sounds attractive, the clandestine life can certainly be had. The CIA recruits and trains people with strong academic and professional achievements who also possess good writing skills, problem-solving abilities and highly developed interpersonal skills. CIA agents begin their careers at the organization's Clandestine Service Training Program before moving into foreign-based intelligence collection roles.
Tony Guerra served more than 20 years in the U.S. Navy. He also spent seven years as an airline operations manager. Guerra is a former realtor, real-estate salesperson, associate broker and real-estate education instructor. He holds a master's degree in management and a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies.