“How do I get started in an intelligence career?” At some point during his or her career, those who have worked in intelligence have been asked this question. I remember asking it myself when I was still in high school. We had an older family friend who was in the US Secret Service and I was intrigued to know more about his job. As he explained the sorts of things he did on the job, I knew I wanted to be involved in that world in some capacity. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand the difference between intelligence, national security, or federal law enforcement as careers, and I certainly didn’t have a complete grasp on the things I needed to do to become an intel operative or analyst.
What makes an intelligence career a daunting choice is that the paths are ill-defined and often downright confusing. Unlike careers in law enforcement where you attend a training academy, there is no ROTC-like program to bring intelligence professionals into the workforce. After spending almost 30 years in various intelligence positions, I’ve learned that most people working in intelligence did not start their career in the field. While this may be evolving, it’s best to think of intelligence as an accession career; most people have to start from somewhere else. So where do you start? Where does the intelligence profession get its people? Simple: We steal them.
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