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How to Join the CIA

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CIA Career Opportunities

If you have a deep sense of patriotism and a desire to serve your country, consider taking a job with the CIA. The Central Intelligence Agency offers a wide variety of career opportunities in many different fields. You can expect a selective and rigorous application process, but once hired, you can enjoy a fascinating job that can offer you and your family financial stability as well as the possible option of living and working overseas.

The Purpose of the CIA

The CIA is a federal agency that gathers and analyzes foreign intelligence. While the agency does not create policy or make recommendations, the intelligence that it gathers is used by other government agencies to make decisions that protect national security.

CIA Career Opportunities

The CIA obtains its intelligence in a variety of ways, including through publicly accessible media and photographs and covert operations. It relies on a large team of employees to gather, intercept, translate and analyze this information. Many of these employees are doing kinds of work also needed in the private sector:

Accountant: All federal agencies are responsible for sound budget management. The CIA uses accountants to ensure integrity in its finances. As of February 2018, starting salaries for CIA accountants ranged from $56,929 to $104,275.

Software engineer: The CIA relies on sophisticated programs in its operations. As of February 2018, CIA software engineers can earn anywhere from $58,638 to $145,629.

Editor: Editors/publications officers produce written materials for the CIA, and as of February 2018 earned from $56,233 to $81,548 per year.

Paralegal: Paralegals assist with case management and legal research. As of February 2018, salaries ranged from $56,233 to $81,548.


The CIA's website has an extensive career section, including a listing of jobs, application requirements and salary ranges. If you think a CIA career is for you, review the site and compare your credentials to those required in open positions.

Preparing for a CIA Career

Because there are so many different job roles within the CIA, the required preparation for a career depends on the field you want to work in. There are, however, a few things that you can do to make yourself a more attractive candidate:

  • Learn a foreign language: Fluency in a foreign language can help you land a job at the CIA. In fact, you may be entitled to a hiring bonus.
  • Make good life choices: Working for the CIA requires a security clearance, which means that every aspect of your life will be investigated. Drug use, criminal activity or financial issues may block your chances of receiving necessary clearances.
  • Earn a degree: While a college degree isn't an absolute requirement for working with the CIA, candidates for most positions will have one.


If you are currently in school, consider applying for one of the CIA's student internship or cooperative education opportunities. These programs allow you to work for the CIA and gain real-world experience while still earning your degree.

The Application Process

After identifying a job with the CIA that interests you, submit your resume and application online. If the CIA is interested in you, prepare for a lengthy and sometimes complicated hiring process. According to the CIA, the time it takes to hire someone can range from a few months to a year. Expect a thorough background check, physical and psychological testing and even a polygraph test to measure how truthfully you answer questions.