The lives and careers of CIA agents are often glamorized in movies and novels, but the reality is that CIA agents must sacrifice a lot for their work. CIA agents, also called officers, are a vital, highly trained and extremely intelligent part of retrieving intelligence for the United States. Agents may work abroad or in the Washington, D.C. area and are not able to reveal the nature of their work to friends, neighbors and even family members. Those who work abroad are known as core collectors, and they are employed by the National Clandestine Service (NCS). Core collectors seek out and cultivate relationships with individuals who can give them information relating to their specific assignments, as dispatched by the NCS. This work can be very dangerous, and core collectors must be constantly aware of their surroundings, relationships, and the security of themselves and their information at all times. This job description involves extensive travel and requires agents to be fluent in at least one foreign language, have infallible street smarts and the flexibility to manage all types of unpredictable situations.
Participants in the Clandestine Service Trainee Program can earn between $54,525 and $75,669 depending on their qualifications. The full-time training program lasts 12 months and is located in the Washington, D.C. area. Overseas assignments typically last 2-3 years, and salary levels and bonuses may be adjusted depending on your geographic location, experience and other factors. Agents at the CIA receive paid time off, including family-friendly leave, holidays and sick leave. Other benefits include paid moving expenses, family support, health insurance, retirement plans, continuing education plans, and more.
A Masters degree in Criminal Justice can increase your chances of becoming a CIA agent, as all employees are expected to be highly intelligent and very well-educated. Depending on your experience and your relationship with the NCS, your higher degree may make it possible for you to get promoted early and to become a Collection Management Officer for overseas assignments. These professionals are responsible for evaluating the information retrieved by the core collector officers and maintaining relationships with individual contacts as well as the NCS office. The minimum educational requirement for overseas agents is a bachelor’s degree, so a higher degree in Criminal Justice will set you apart from the many other applicants in this very competitive field.