Whether it’s with the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation or even state and local law enforcement agencies, the work of an intelligence analyst is becoming increasingly important and sought after.
Analysts play a key role in ensuring national security and public safety, piecing together bits of information to form a complete view of criminal activity that allows them to predict incidents that threaten the safety of Americans. This involves monitoring both domestic and international threats, and maintaining a network of contacts across the globe within both the law enforcement and intelligence communities.
For many people, the title intelligence analyst invokes thoughts of someone who works in the war on terror, chasing down suspected terrorists and thwarting terror plots before they can unfold. This is a limited view of the position, however, as it may involve targeting organized crime and gangs, as well as working across a wide range of agencies.
An intelligence analyst’s job can be complex. Gathering information often includes combing databases, examining aerial photographs and establishing profiles on criminals and the organizations they belong to. The job involves the ability to operate surveillance equipment and work as part of a team on the ground while serving as an advisor in the boardroom.
Job Outlook and Salary Range for Intelligence Analysts
Employment of intelligence analysts is expected to see an additional 28,000 job openings become available through 2024 as law enforcement agencies around the nation increase their resources for crime prevention, according to O*Net Online. The field for this type of work is competitive with bilingual and college educated candidates with a background in criminal justice finding the best opportunities.
Career paths vary by institution. For example, the FBI breaks down intelligence analysts into three categories: tactical, collection/reporting and strategic. Each has a unique role and is dispersed in different areas of the organization, be it on investigative squads (tactical) or at field offices and headquarters around the country. According to O*Net, intelligence analysts earned a median wage of $78,120 in 2016.
Education and Training for Intelligence Analysts
The vast majority of intelligence analyst jobs require a four-year degree from an accredited college. Degree paths may include psychology or sociology due to their ability to help an analyst understand different types of cultures and people, but the most common degree path for an intelligence analyst falls under criminal justice, as coursework typically involves a substantial amount of education centered on criminal law, research methods, homeland security and ethics.
Through acquiring a bachelor’s degree, aspiring analysts learn to:
- Examine threats that target and attack national security interests
- Categorize threats
- Understand where both international and domestic terrorism come from and how they are evolving
- Counterterrorism strategies employed by the Department of Homeland Security