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CIA Agent Career Path Insight CIA agents have challenging and rewarding careers.

central intelligence agency agent looking at paperwork

The job of a CIA agent is often glamorized on TV and in the movies. While it can have its cushy parts, the career can also be challenging and potentially dangerous.

If you’re a bright, energetic, and dedicated person, you may be a good fit for the CIA.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Career Fields

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recommends that you start by researching one of their many career paths:

  • Investigations
  • Technical and engineering
  • Security
  • Clandestine services
  • Language opportunities
  • Analytical opportunities
  • Support services

Determining what interests you most will help guide you toward the appropriate college degree program.

CIA Agent Degree

The CIA requires a bachelor’s degree for most entry-level positions and an advanced degree for non-clerical careers such as overseas officer or intelligence analyst. Once you’ve reviewed the different career paths and have chosen one that interests you, start researching four-year degrees that are most relevant to what you hope to do. A few to consider:

About the Career

The hiring and screening process for CIA agents is very competitive, lengthy, and thorough. You’ll also be required to take a polygraph test to become a CIA agent. The CIA also keeps an eye out for candidates fluent in a foreign language, particularly Arabic, Farsi, or Urdu, with the potential for a one-time bonus that depends on the rarity, competency, and urgency of the language known.

You must be a U.S. Citizen and be no older than 35 years of age (the age limit may be waived in certain cases). If you are married, your spouse must also be a U.S. Citizen.

CIA Salary and Job Growth

CIA agent salaries vary but are generally based on the government pay levels for agents, depending on the specific job, your work experience, and level of education. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2020 Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics site classifies federal and special agents under police and detectives and reports the median annual wage as $67,290. More specifically, in the federal government industry for police and detectives, the median annual wages was $92,080.

Employment for law enforcement officers is expected to grow 7% through 2030, which should add over 51,700 jobs in that time frame. Do note, though, that not all of those jobs will be with the federal government.

Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience, and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.