What Does an Intelligence Analyst Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shows a man in military uniform sitting at a desk with three monitors displaying ground radar. Text reads:

Image by Jo Zixuan Zhou © The Balance 2019 

Intelligence analysts take information gathered by intelligence agents and use it to figure out what the enemy is up to, what they might do or where they might go next, and what resources they have available to them. Intelligence analysts handle highly sensitive information and make decisions and recommendations used to determine combat, undercover, and other missions. 

Intelligence analysts work for the armed forces, the federal government, and even for private enterprises.

Intelligence Analyst Duties & Responsibilities

These professionals have a long list of responsibilities that can sometimes vary depending upon their sector of employment, whether it's military, governmental, or private enterprise. Duties commonly include:

  • Preparing intelligence reports and maintaining and establishing intelligence records and files.
  • Determining how reliable and significant incoming intelligence information might be, because sources of information are not always accurate or reliable and must be critically analyzed for importance.
  • Identifying national threats and ensuring that critical information gets to superiors and decision-makers.
  • Putting new data in context with existing intelligence so that commanders and agents have the most up-to-date information possible. 
  • Preparing battlefield reports and analyzing and evaluating any changes in enemy positions or capabilities.

In the context of the armed forces, an intelligence analyst might determine how strong an enemy is and identifying any gaps in existing intelligence. She might consider enemy Order of Battle records and help prepare reports on captured enemy material. 

Intelligence Analyst Salary

Salaries can vary considerably by organization, but some examples include:

Central Intelligence Agency

  • Median Annual Salary: $75,080 ($36.09/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $99,296 ($47.74/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $50,864 ($24.45/hour)

Nongovernment positions

  • Median Annual Salary: $50,675 ($24.36/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $66,688 ($32.06/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $34,662 ($16.66/hour)

Office of the Director of National Intelligence

  • Median Annual Salary: $96,665 ($46.47/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $118,069 ($56.76/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $75,261 ($36.18/hour)

Education, Training, & Certification

Some requirements are unique to certain sectors, but most intelligence analyst positions require some combination of the following training and testing:

  • Education: There are few specific educational requirements for these positions, but it's rare that an intelligence analyst in any sector does not have at least a bachelor's degree, if not a graduate degree. Bachelor's degree majors might include political science, computer science, or economics. Graduate studies might focus on international affairs and relations, terrorism, psychology, national security, and intelligence.
  • Testing: Positions within the FBI require passing Phase I and Phase II testing. You'll be automatically registered for Phase II upon successful completion of Phase I. Phase II involves written simulations of a variety of circumstances.
  • Interview: FBI positions also require a structured interview known as Phase III testing after successful completion of Phase II testing.
  • Background Check: Virtually all positions within the government require successfully passing a comprehensive background check.
  • Security Clearance: Many of these jobs also require a top secret security clearance from the Department of Defense. This involves a rigorous background investigation into your finances and any criminal records. Prior drug or alcohol abuse can be disqualifying factors. You can't have any record of conviction by court-martial, or any record of conviction by a civil court other than minor traffic violations.
  • Field Training: The FBI requires completion of a 13-week Basic Field Training Course, followed by the New Intelligence Analysts Trainees Course at Quantico, Virginia.

You can't enlist in this MOS with the armed forces if you've been a member of the Peace Corps. The government wants to preserve the integrity of both the military and the Peace Corps. If a foreign entity believed that Peace Corps members could later serve as intelligence agents, it could potentially endanger the organization and its personnel, not to mention its humanitarian mission.

This MOS is also off-limits if you or your immediate family have lived in or are from a country where physical and mental coercion is common practice. You also can't have any commercial or vested interest in such a place, and neither can your spouse. 

Intelligence Analyst Skills & Competencies

Certain traits and soft skills can be particularly valuable in this profession.

  • Ability to speak several languages: Information is only information when it's understood. Key languages include Russian, Hebrew, Korean, Arabic, Spanish, and Chinese.
  • Knowledge of cultures and different regions: Awareness of other cultures can be important in determining underlying causes and factors leading to a person or a people's behavior.
  • Communication skills: An ability to communicate quickly, articulately, and precisely—verbally and in writing—is extremely important in getting your message across efficiently at critical times.

Job Outlook

The world is ever-changing, and governments and businesses are pressed to remain on the cusp of events to defend themselves. These jobs are most likely not going anywhere soon, although competition for these positions can be rigorous, depending on the sector.

Work Environment

Most intelligence analysts work for the FBI, CIA, or NSA. Some are also employed by private multinational corporations, and still others serve in the armed forces, particularly the U.S. Army.

Work Schedule

Works schedules can vary considerably depending upon the type of employment an intelligence analyst chooses. Other than in conditions of uncertainty or crisis, military and government jobs are typically more regimented and predictable than positions in the private sector.

How to Get the Job

GET EDUCATED

Options for education include the American University School of International Service and the Master of Global Business Administration at Tufts University. Both offer an online curriculum.

APPLY FOR THE POSITION

You can apply online for positions within the FBI. You'll also want to ascertain the location of the nearest FBI field office because your application will require multiple follow-up, in-person visits.

Comparing Similar Jobs

Most of what you'll do in this job doesn't have any civilian equivalent, but you'll receive training that could help you find jobs in government agencies and for private security firms.