The CIA, or Central Intelligence Agency, is one of the more subtle tools at the disposal of the central government. Looking out rather than in, the goal of the CIA is to collect information on the outside world, particularly on foreign entities that can be a threat to the national security of the United States of America. While a great deal of this information is collected through computers nowadays, there is still some call for the classic spy. If you are interested in working as an agent, particularly an overseas agent, for the CIA, this means a sharp mind and the education to prove it is absolutely essential.
The CIA overseas agent, or field-based clandestine service, as the CIA terms it, can be placed in one of a pair of programs that depend entirely on the age of the individual applying.
The PT, Professional Trainee, Program
If you are under the age of 25 and have a bachelor’s degree at the very minimum, you can qualify as an overseas agent through the CIA’s Professional Trainee Program. Designed to snap up the best of a blooming generation before the CIA has to painstakingly remove things that have been learned in the wrong way, this program exposes you to the way things are done through safer, Headquarters-based assignments.
In essence, it’s the CIA training program for the big leagues, but are you are still doing valuable work for your country and getting paid at least $53,000 a year to do it. Upon successful completion of the Professional Trainee Program, you are sent over to the Clandestine Service Program, also known as CST.
The CST, Clandestine Service Program
The Clandestine Service Program is where it all happens. If you are between the ages of 26 and 35, have at least a bachelor’s degree, and the weight of several years of experience in sectors that the CIA finds of importance, including the hard sciences, computer security and networking, and the military, then you can move directly into the realm that 007 made so fashionable, though explosive pens likely won’t come standard.
Given foreign intelligence is all about outsmarting a possible enemy on his own turf, a bright mind is an absolute necessity. To this end, the CIA requires a bachelor’s degree, preferably a master’s degree, from all applicants. Charisma and personal magnetism are of supreme importance.
As an agent in the field doing things that may or may not cause international incidents if uncovered, the ability to talk your way out of situations or blend in well enough so you never get into that situation in the first place is second to none. The ability to speak a foreign language fluently, and with a good regional accent, is part of this. As of August, 2013, the CIA places high importance on the ability to speak the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, Dari (a dialect of Persian spoken in Afghanistan), Indonesian, Korean, Pashto (spoken in Afghanistan), Persian, Russian, Somali, Turkish, Kurdish (spoken throughout the Middle East, but most notably by those Saddam Hussein repeatedly gassed in his own borders), and Urdu (spoken in Pakistan, India, and Nepal). Similarly, having lived in foreign countries is considered a huge plus by the CIA, as this means you have learned local customs and can blend into the background.
Background Checks and Interviewing
To apply for any position at the CIA, you generally must not have used illegal drugs in the past year. Generally simply means that, like Dr. House, some people are just too good at what they do to have a hard and fast rule keeping them out of a job. Incredibly thorough background checks are made, making a spotless record highly important.
Anything that doesn’t come up likely will when they hook you up to the polygraph should you make it to the second round of interviews. Remember, you want to work for the CIA. As such, they’re going to make sure they know more about you than you do yourself.