- The Washington Times - Monday, June 30, 2003

Think You’re CIA Material?

Working for the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) doesn’t mean a Glock 9mm Pistol holstered to your leg, a bullet-proof vest or a couple of hand-grenades fastened to your waist. But it does mean an opportunity to work with the covert government agency long associated with tracking down spies and uncovering clandestine plots that compromise our national security.

Don’t run out and buy a trench-coat because the CIA is one of the toughest (maybe the toughest) government agencies to land a job. Established in 1947 with the signing of the National Security Act by President Truman, the CIA is responsible for coordinating and evaluating intelligence activities which affects national security. With increased terrorist attacks, computer break-ins, constant security alerts and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, CIA operatives (I love that word. I mean workers) have plenty to keep them busy.

But don’t fall for the CIA’s “Secret Agent Man” (popular single sung by Johnny Rivers, 1965). A friend of mine worked for the CIA as a political analyst specializing in Iran hardly ever left his office. In fact, he said there was a good deal of tedium that went along with the job. Still, he admitted there was a mystique about working for the government’s spy-catching agency.

The requirements for working for the CIA were stringent when my friend worked for the agency in the 1980s and they’re tougher now. In fact, once you hear them, you might abandon fantasies about working for the high-prestige government agency. The CIA job application process is bureaucracy taken to the next level. Applicants must meet stringent security standards, which is largely an extensive background investigation where CIA agents speak to everyone who knows or knew you since you were conceived. If possible they’d check your family’s ancestry dating back centuries. This process could take a few months or a year if information is hard to find. There is also a polygraph interview which is self-explanatory. You’re finished if you’re a nervous wreck who can hardly sit still. Just a few nasty electrodes applied to your temple by bomb-wielding terrorists and you’ll willingly give up the pass code to all of the CIA’s covert databases.

There are plenty jobs and each one has its own requirements. The crme de la crme are Clandestine Services jobs, which are directly tied to technology openings. The clandestine services people, A.K.A. spies, are the “vital element of intelligence collection,” as the agency calls them.

Requirements: bachelors or preferably a masters degree, fluent in foreign languages, military experience, and experience in living abroad. According to the official specs, “the background check is extensive, unforgiving.” Wrack up on all that and you get the job with a starting salary range of $34,000-$52,000.

All the information gathered by Clandestine Services is analyzed by the Agency Technology Service (ATS), a computer installation with the newest technology toys. ATS works with all programming languages. The CIA lists 19 careers in this area which include civil engineer, IT project manager, electrical engineer, network engineer, satellite reconnaissance, software and application development and systems engineer, to name a few.

If you think you can cut it, there are a wide spectrum of open jobs, all of which are listed on the CIA’s Web site (www.cia.gov). A CIA spokesperson assured me that if the jobs are listed on the site, they’re “real and open.”

If you’re thinking about applying for a job with the CIA, resign yourself to the process. I wouldn’t quit my job waiting for a CIA job to materialize. The application process can be long, tedious and frustrating. The elite agency is not going to bend its rules. After undergoing endless background checks you may not get the job. And if you are hired, the salary stinks and you have to relocate to the CIA’s home office in Langley, Va., seven miles from downtown Washington, D.C.

But, a CIA stint can pay off in a big way. To begin, it’s a show-stopper on your resume. It’s an incredible door opener for getting jobs. As soon as the headhunters know you’re fair game, they’ll descend anxious to grab you and sell you to the highest bidder. My advice is before you apply for a CIA job, listen to the Johnny Rivers tune. It will lighten you up and do wonders for your attitude.

If you have any questions contact Bob Weinstein at Weinsteinrv@aol.com

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