What is an Intelligence Analyst?

Intelligence analysts isolate, analyze and report on vital information in a timely manner that is used to direct policy decisions.

Although these intelligence experts have earned a solid reputation for decades for their work with the federal government and the military, their efforts in nongovernmental organizations and private business are just as pertinent, making them crucial to twenty-first century international relations in a variety of sectors.

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International relations seeks to understand three, major issues in our modern world:

  • The changing character of state and non-state actors who participate in international decision-making
  • The nature and exercise of power within the global system
  • The origins of war and the maintenance of peace

Intelligence analysts explore these topics and serve as valuable resources for international relations efforts in the following sectors:

Intelligence Analyst Jobs in International Relations

Government and Military – Agencies within the federal government are some of the main employers of intelligence analysts. The U.S. Intelligence Community, which includes such notable agencies as the FBI, CIA, and the NSA, provide national political and military leaders with intelligence as to allow them to create and manage U.S. foreign and military policy.

The Director of National Intelligence, through the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, works with the intelligence agencies of the Department of Defense. These military agencies include the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, and the intelligence divisions of the four branches of the U.S. military.

Private Business – Multinational corporations often have their own intelligence units headed by a number of intelligence analysts. In addition, there are a number of private corporations, called intelligence vendors, which provide open source intelligence analysis to private companies and government agencies.

Some of the biggest multinational corporations often have a staff of intelligence analysts supplemented by intelligence vendors. Most multinational corporations utilize intelligence analysts for competitive intelligence and in-house research.

Non-Governmental Organizations and Think Tanks – Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund employ intelligence analysts who are responsible for monitoring and analyzing major current events that may have an impact on member states across the globe.

Intelligence analysts also work for such major NGOs as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), where they monitor international trends and events.

Just a few NGOs and think tanks where the work of intelligence analysts is required include:

  • RAND Corporation
  • Brookings Institute
  • Council on Foreign Relations
  • American Enterprise Institute
  • Middle East Institute
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies

What Does an Intelligence Analyst Do?

Intelligence analysts in international relations are skilled subject-matter experts who examine information from a wide array of foreign sources. However, these sources are not always reliable, and available information is often conflicting or incomplete, requiring these professionals to evaluate and assess the quality of the information.

Intelligence analyst jobs involve taking this information, analyzing it, and developing meaningful intelligence assessments used by organizations and agencies engaged in international relations.

Their skillset in a specific subject matter allows them to fill in the pieces of an often-incomplete puzzle and provide comprehensive intelligence of international significance.

For example, the FBI employs intelligence analysts who possess expertise in a variety of areas and regions of the world, such as:

  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology
  • Cyber security
  • History
  • Telecommunications
  • Physics
  • Political science
  • Engineering
  • English
  • Forensic accounting
  • Central Asia
  • Korea
  • Middle East
  • Languages (Russian, Korean, Hebrew, Chinese, Arabic, etc.)

Intelligence analysts must be able to recognize all relevant information and produce objective assessments, free of any bias. Intelligence analysis is more of an art than a science, says the Brookings Institute, as the information and judgments made by intelligence analysts must be pertinent to client needs, yet objective, while supporting a specific outcome.

Intelligence analysts provide their clients with the finished intelligence assessment in the form of a report or oral briefing. Political advisors, business leaders, and other principal decision-makers use the information gleaned from intelligence analyst assessments to shape future actions and activities.

Intelligence analysts, based on their job duties, area of study, or topic of expertise, may go by a number of titles. For example, the CIA recognizes the following types of intelligence analysts:

  • Analytic Methodologists: Study any number of new or established methods of intelligence analysis, including polling, mathematical, statistical and econometric approaches
  • Intelligence Collection Analysts: Drive the flow of intelligence information through expertise in intelligence collection systems capabilities and processes
  • Leadership Analysts: Examine information on foreign leaders and organizations for U.S. policymakers
  • Counterintelligence Threat Analysts: Examine reports related to foreign intelligence operations that threaten the U.S. government or intelligence community
  • Counterterrorism Analysts: Assess the leadership, plans, motivation and intentions of foreign terrorist groups to warn of terrorist threats
  • Economic Analysts: Examine economic trends and developments related to foreign financial activities
  • Crime and Counternarcotics Analysts: Study emerging trends and patterns related to international narcotics trafficking and organized crime groups
  • Medical and Health Analysts: Assess global health issues, such as disease outbreaks
  • Military Analysts: Follow foreign military and technical developments that threaten regional or international stability
  • Foreign Media Analysts: Examine foreign-based websites, social media and other press sources to identify trends and patterns
  • Political Analysts: Examine foreign political, cultural, social, and historical information related to foreign political systems
  • Science and Technology Analysts: Examine weapons proliferation, conventional weapons systems, information warfare, computer systems, etc.
  • Psychological and Psychiatric Analysts: Study the psychological and social health of foreign officials
  • Targeting Analysts: Identify key figures and organizations who may pose a threat to U.S. interests using network analysis techniques and specialized analytical tools

Degree Requirements to Become an Intelligence Analyst

Although there are no specific education requirements for intelligence analysts, it is a given that their expertise is built upon a solid education in areas as diverse as foreign affairs and communications.

Undergraduate degrees in political science, economics, history, and computer science are commonplace.

Graduate degrees are typical in this field, with many professionals possessing master’s degrees in majors such as:

  • International affairs
  • Intelligence
  • International relations
  • National security
  • Terrorism studies
  • International business
  • Political science
  • Psychology
  • Economics

Intelligence analysts must be skilled in both written and oral communications, and they must possess top-notch analytical skills. In addition, many intelligence analysts possess some type of language training, and most possess subject matter expertise or region/country expertise.

Earning Potential for Intelligence Analysts

Salaries for intelligence analysts often vary based on specific skillset, education, and experience. For example, intelligence analysts with the CIA may earn between $50,864 and $99,296, while intelligence analysts with nongovernmental organizations may be hired at anywhere between $34,662 and $66,688.

Intelligence analysts with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence earn an annual salary of between $75,261 and $118,069.

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