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Frequently Asked Questions about the CIA

By Experience

Ever wonder whether James Bond is based on real-life secret agents?

What does the CIA do?

Our primary mission is to collect, analyze, evaluate, and disseminate foreign intelligence to assist the President and senior US Government policymakers in making decisions relating to national security. CIA may also engage in covert action at the President's direction and in accordance with applicable law.

Who is a spy? Are there secret agents like James Bond with secret gadgets?

A spy is someone who provides classified information about his country to another country. To clarify, CIA operations officers recruit foreign agents (you could also call them spies) who pass information to CIA. CIA operations officers do use some nifty "spy gadgets," and, while their jobs do occasionally present risks and challenges equal to the most exciting movies, for the most part, they are not nearly as glamorous or thrilling. Operations officers comprise only a small portion of the whole CIA workforce. Being an operations officer demands a forceful personality, keen intellectual ability, toughness of mind, and a high degree of personal integrity, courage, and love of country.

Who works for the CIA?

The CIA carefully chooses well-qualified people in nearly all fields of study. Scientists, engineers, economists, linguists, analysts, secretaries, accountants, and computer specialists are just a few of the professions continually in demand.

What if I want to eventually work for CIA?

To qualify for a position with the Agency, you must be 18 years of age, a US citizen, and a high school graduate. Our personnel requirements change from month-to-month as positions are filled and others become available. A college degree, preferably an advanced degree, is a standard requirement for overseas officers, intelligence analysts, and other non-clerical positions. Knowledge of a foreign language is also helpful. Because the Agency's personnel needs span such a broad spectrum, we do not recommend any one academic track over another.

Are there student internship programs or scholarships? Where can I find information about student programs?

The Agency has several student programs:

  • The Undergraduate Scholar Program targets high school seniors who plan to major in the technical field. Students must have a minimum 3.0 high school GPA, 1000 SAT, or 21 ACT scores. Students receive tuition assistance and salary for the duration of their undergraduate course of study. Applicants must be US citizens and age 18 by 1 April of their senior year. Deadline is 1 November of students' senior year.?
  • In the Undergraduate Co-Op Program, college students receive paid training relating to their field of academic study. Students are expected to work three alternating semesters that include a summer. Students interested in the CIA Internship Program also receive paid training during at least two summers or a summer and semester.
  • The Graduate Studies Program attracts students preparing to enter their first or second year of full-time graduate study. Graduate students work alongside experts in their field of study and usually work during the summer or on a semester basis. At least half choose CIA careers after graduation. Check out our website ( for more information.

Where do CIA officers work?

Most CIA officers live and work in the Washington, DC area. However, there are many opportunities to live and work overseas.

If I were to work for the CIA, what could I expect to do?

There are many jobs that require a wide variety of specialties. Among them: operations officer working overseas recruiting foreign agents, intelligence analyst writing intelligence reports on Russian strategic nuclear forces or Middle Eastern terrorism, information officer looking for new technologies applicable to the CIA, or a security officer.

What does an analyst do?

An intelligence analyst looks at all the information pertaining to his/her area of expertise and writes, often in collaboration with other analysts, intelligence reports that are disseminated to various policymakers.

What does the CIA know about me?

By law, the CIA is specifically prohibited from collecting foreign intelligence concerning the domestic activities of US citizens.

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