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National Security Advisor Job Description

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The National Security Advisor holds a senior position in the Executive Office of the President and advises the President on national security matters. The NSA is one of the President’s most important officials, sometimes outranking the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense in her influence on national security and foreign policy. Though the President chairs the National Security Council, the NSA oversees the Council’s staff and is responsible “for coordinating the Administration’s foreign policy, intelligence and military efforts," according to the White House.

The Role Changes with the President

National Security Advisors are appointed by the President. According to a study by Princeton University, the role of the NSA can be vague and is often shaped by the President's own inclinations as well as the personalities of those involved. In some cases the NSA plays a major role in shaping policy. For example, the study cites Richard Nixon’s famous NSA, Henry Kissinger, who was far more influential than any other advisor, particularly on foreign policy.

What it Takes to Be NSA

Because the NSA is such an important position, you need impressive credentials to even be considered for the job. The background of one of President Barack Obama’s NSAs, Susan Rice, shows what it takes to be appointed. Rice was an outstanding student at Stanford University, where she majored in history. She was also a Rhodes Scholar, receiving a Master’s in International Relations at Oxford. Concentrating on foreign policy, she worked on the staff of the National Security Council and at the State Department, and was permanent representative to the United Nations for four years.