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Job Description for a Spy

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In the United States, perhaps the most notable government body that employs spies is the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). However, the official term for this position is a clandestine service agent, not “spy.” These individuals work for the CIA National Clandestine Service.

National Clandestine Service

The National Clandestine Service (NCS) employs people who work as spies. According to the CIA website, the service’s mission is to strengthen national security and foreign policy objectives through the collection of human intelligence and covert action. Clandestine service agents are the men and women sent to collect and handle this information.


There are two types of spies, or clandestine operatives, also known as “core collectors.” Operations officers use a mix of street smarts, cultural knowledge, language proficiency and subject matter expertise in order to spot, assess, develop, recruit and handle individuals they believe have access to vital information. Collection management officers oversee operations and deliver information to whoever has requested it, from the president to policymakers and the military.

Education & Training

There are two training programs, one of which a clandestine agent must complete before employment. The first is the Professional Trainee (PT) Program, which accepts candidates between 21 and 25 with a bachelor's degree and little or no working experience. The Clandestine Service Training (CST) Program, on the other hand, is a 12-month affair for individuals under 35 who have a bachelor's degree and significant business work or military experience. Requirements for all service agents include a strong academic record, knowledge of a foreign language, prior foreign residency, and the passing of a physical exam and two entrance interviews.

Photo Credits

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images