Intelligence analyst shares information with his colleague

An Intriguing Career: How to Become an Intelligence Analyst

International Relations

The job title of “intelligence analyst” might conjure images of FBI and CIA agents. While potential career paths for prospective analysts, the intelligence analysis field spans many career opportunities in different government branches, such as the U.S. Army, or information technology companies, such as Booz, Allen, and Hamilton. It requires intense training and educational preparation to pursue this profession.

“This process is like starting a fitness regimen for the brain,” writes Sarah Miller Beebe in the preface to her book, Cases in Intelligence Analysis: Structured Analytic Techniques in Action. “At the beginning, your muscles burn a little. But over time and with repetition, you become stronger, and the improvements you see in yourself can be remarkable. Becoming a better thinker, just like becoming a better athlete, requires practice.”

For students interested in how to become an intelligence analyst, this article serves as a guide to what the role entails, steps to pursue this job, and the career outlook.

What Does an Intelligence Analyst Do?

Intelligence analysts evaluate information and data to identify and mitigate security threats. Sources of information include internal and external statistics, databases, and field reports. These analysts must have strong research, comprehension and analytic skills to synthesize information and create action plans.

When asked to describe her role, FBI intelligence analyst Ashley Evans said: “My typical day-to-day job as an analyst involves a lot of research and reading. I spend a lot of my time reading the information that the special agents on my squad have collected and then doing more research about it if there are any gaps or any information we’re missing. I try and fill that in with information from other intelligence community sources or government agencies or the public sector.”

Intelligence analysts play a key role in international relations and national security. They work with a network of local, state, and international organizations in the law enforcement and intelligence communities to share information and collaborate on strategies that mitigate threats. As such, they should have a firm understanding of the history and structure of the intelligence community, as well as the relationship between intelligence agencies and senior policymakers in government.

Intelligence analysts must be self-starters who work well under pressure as tasks might include making real-time decisions that involve international crises and crimes. They should also have strong communication and problem-solving skills as well as a firm understanding of international relations, politics, and economics. Not just the basis for building career success; these skills may save lives and contribute to global strategy-making.

As it states on the FBI Jobs website, “From assessing, collecting, and disseminating raw intelligence to making real-time analytic judgments regarding specific and emerging threats, to conducting studies to identify threats and trends, intelligence analysts are critical to the FBI's ability to act proactively against evolving threats.”

At an information technology or consulting firm, an intelligence analyst is responsible for assessing risks to the organization’s safety, such as travel risks and cyber attacks. They use data from various sources, such as internal databases and even social media sites, to identify threats to the company and propose strategies for addressing those threats.

What Are the Steps for Becoming an Intelligence Analyst?

Key steps for students who are interested in how to become an intelligence analyst include:

Educational Requirements              

Intelligence analysts are typically required to have a bachelor’s degree in a related field. They may also hold an advanced degree to pursue higher-level job opportunities.

Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) program, for example, can help prospective intelligence analysts complete this advanced educational requirement. The program offers a range of relevant concentrations, such as International Security and International Development. With the MAIR degree, students can develop the skills to thoroughly understand various socioeconomic, cultural, and diplomacy issues around the globe.

On-the-Job Experience              

In addition to education, current and prospective intelligence analysts must have related work experience. For example, they might hold jobs in related government agencies or information technology companies. They also may acquire field training to complement their education and experience as an intelligence analyst.

What Is the Salary and Projected Growth of the Position?

The average salary of an intelligence analyst is $68,403, according to PayScale. At the higher end of the pay range, salaries can exceed $100,000. These salaries are attained with increased experience, education, and skills in areas such as signals intelligence (SIGINT), human intelligence (HUMINT), geospatial intelligence (GEOINT), and geographic information systems (GIS).

The employment outlook is positive for intelligence analyst careers. Forbes listed “intelligence relations” as one of the college majors with the highest salaries and best career prospects in 2019. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that military careers—such as that of the intelligence analyst—should increase job opportunities through 2026.

An Intelligence Analyst Career Starts Here

Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in International Relations program helps students refine the skills necessary for success as an intelligence analyst. The program comprehensively studies the internal workings of international players, examines the role of state and non-state actors on the global stage, and explores different world views. Students can further refine their knowledge through one of five concentrations: International Security, National Security, International Development, Cyber Diplomacy, or Regions of the World.

As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that empower students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities. Learn more today about the online Master of Arts in International Relations program at Norwich University. 

Recommended Readings

Essential Skills for a Career in International Relations
Becoming a Global Leader: 6 International Relations Careers
What is International Relations in the Digital Age?


Cases in Intelligence Analysis: Structured Analytic Techniques in Action, Google Books
There's more than the CIA and FBI: The 17 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community, Los Angeles Times
Intelligence Analysts, FBI Jobs
Intelligence Analyst,
Master of Arts in International Relations, Norwich University
Average Intelligence Analyst Salary, PayScale
The College Majors With The Highest Salaries--And The Best Prospects, Forbes
Military Careers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Services