Jobs at the CIA: Want to be a Spy?

People standing of CIA logo in CIA building
President Bush Tours CIA Headquarters. Getty Images Pool Photo

Right of the bat, most people who work for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) do NOT work as spies. While the CIA does hire some people to train as spies, they also hire people qualified for a wide variety of not-so-risky occupations, like locksmith.

"Regular" Jobs at the CIA

The agency just added some new employment information pages to their web site. The Opportunities page lists current openings in immediate and ongoing "non-spy" job categories.

Okay, They Also Really Do Need Spies

Of course, the word "spy" is not in the CIA vocabulary. The spy jobs are in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations (Formerly known as the Clandestine Service) and if you are 35 years old or under, you can apply. Here's a little of the CIA's spy job description...

"For the extraordinary individual who wants more than a job, this is a way of life that will challenge the deepest resources of your intelligence, self-reliance, and responsibility. It demands an adventurous spirit...a forceful personality...superior intellectual ability...toughness of mind...and the highest degree of integrity. It takes special skills and professional discipline to produce results. You will need to deal with fast-moving, ambiguous, and unstructured situations that will test your resourcefulness to the utmost. This is the Clandestine Service, the vital human element of intelligence collection.

These people are the cutting edge of American intelligence, an elite corps gathering the vital information needed by our policymakers to make critical foreign policy decisions."

Listed under the "Ongoing Requirements" category, I suspect the position's turnover rate may be pretty high.

Applying for CIA Jobs

If you are interested in any type of CIA job, you should proceed directly to their Application Process page and the CIA Job Fit Tool.

You'll find the CIA's application process to be different than that for most other agencies. Here are some highlights:

Do NOT submit a Federal Job Application form -- SF-171 (now discontinued) or OF-612. CIA will only accept a one or two page resume prepared according to the instructions on the Application Instructions page. Applications and resumes can be submitted online.

  • U.S. Citizenship is required for all CIA positions.

The CIA uses an automated system to scan all resumes. It is vital that your resume be prepared exactly according to the instructions.

Of course, you can also expect to undergo a very complete and in-depth background and security check for all jobs. Applicants in the Clandestine Service will also have to take a polygraph interview, and US citizenship is required for both the applicant and their spouse. Which leads in nicely to my spy story.

My Spy Story

When I was 14, the people across the street moved away. The house stayed vacant for a long time. One morning we got up and discovered that somebody had moved into the vacant house during the night. Two cars in the driveway. Elaborate "Jungle Gym" and new clothes line completely set up in back. Lawn mowed and raked. Strangest of all, during the night, the faded pickett fence had been freshly painted!

It looked like this new family (Let's call them the "Bonds".) had lived in the house for years.

That morning, Mrs. Bond and her son paid a visit to every home in the neighborhood. Her introduction had the sound of a speech. "I'm Mrs. Bond. This is my son, James, Jr. (Not really.) He goes to private school. My husband is in the Navy and he's gone most of the time. We both travel a lot. Nice to meet you."

Sure enough, you hardly ever saw them and the cars would be gone for weeks at a time. They didn't ask any of the neighbors to pick up their mail while they were gone. No need to, the mailman never stopped at their house. The lawn stayed trimmed, too. Must have been done at night.

About 18 months later, just as they had moved in, the "Bonds" move out. During the night.

Were they in the CIA? Perhaps a witness relocation program?

From Mars, or just weirdoes? The neighborhood voted for CIA. I guess the truth is still -- out there.