Back to Blog

How To Become an Intelligence Analyst
Data Analytics

How To Become an Intelligence Analyst [Background + Skills]

7 minute read | November 6, 2023
Monica J. White

Written by:
Monica J. White & reviewed by Olayemi Agbeleye

Monica J. White

Reviewed by:
Olayemi Agbeleye


Get expert insights straight to your inbox.

Becoming an intelligence analyst is an intellectually stimulating career choice that demands critical thinking, analytical skills, and a deep interest in national security and global affairs. In a world brimming with complex information, intelligence analysts play a pivotal role in deciphering data, identifying threats, and providing crucial insights to decision-makers.

The role can span various specializations, from cybersecurity to geopolitical analysis and financial intelligence, with a growing demand for skilled professionals. Unlike careers with well-defined academic paths, intelligence analysis often requires a mix of education, specialized training, and practical experience.

In this concise guide, we’ll outline the essential steps to becoming an intelligence analyst. Whether you’re a recent graduate passionate about national security or a professional transitioning into this field, our 8-step roadmap offers guidance and resources to excel in this impactful field.

What Is an Intelligence Analyst?

Intelligence analysts are responsible for collecting, evaluating, and analyzing information and data to provide valuable insights, assessments, and recommendations. Their work can be related to national security, law enforcement, corporate security, or other areas of interest. An intelligence analyst’s primary objective is to help decision-makers understand complex issues, make informed decisions, and mitigate risks. 

What Does an Intelligence Analyst Do Day-to-Day?

While the details of an intelligence analyst’s daily responsibilities vary depending on their specific role, their specializations, and the industry they work in, there are some common tasks and activities. Here are some examples:

  • Information Collection
  • Data Analysis
  • Report Writing
  • Briefings and Presentations
  • Threat Assessment
  • Collaboration
  • Reviewing Intelligence Sources
  • Security Protocols
  • Risk Mitigation
  • Language Analysis 

How To Become an Intelligence Analyst: An 8-Step Guide

Here’s our 8-step guide on how to become an intelligence analyst.

  1. Get Educated

  2. Identify Your Niche

  3. Build Your Skillset

  4. Acquire Practical, Real-World Experience

  5. Your Network Is Your Net Worth

  6. Find a Mentor

  7. Pursue a Certification

  8. Work Toward Landing an Intelligence Analyst Role

Get Educated

Many intelligence analyst roles will require a bachelor’s degree, with common subjects including intelligence studies, criminal justice, international relations, computer science, economics, and foreign languages. To boost your employability, you can also earn certifications, take an online cybersecurity course, or earn practical experience. 

Identify Your Niche

There are all sorts of niches in the field of intelligence, and the sooner you identify yours, the sooner you can become valuable as a potential employee. Here are some examples:

  • Energy Intelligence
  • Space Intelligence
  • Aviation Intelligence
  • Maritime Intelligence
  • Healthcare Intelligence
  • Environmental Intelligence
  • Corporate Intelligence
  • Law Enforcement Intelligence
  • Tactical Intelligence
  • Threat Intelligence
  • Intelligence Research

Build Your Skillset

Here are the kinds of skills you need to acquire before you can land an entry-level role. 

Technical Skills

  • Data Analysis Tools
  • Geospatial Analysis
  • Programming and Scripting
  • Statistical Analysis
  • Cybersecurity Tools
  • Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) Tools
  • Social Media Monitoring Tools
  • Encryption and Decryption Tools
  • Data Mining and Web Scraping
  • Communication and Collaboration Tools
  • Document and Report Writing
  • Threat Intelligence Platforms
  • Visualization Tools
  • Secure Communication
  • Database Management
  • Information Security
  • Network Analysis Tools
  • Machine Learning and AI
  • Digital Forensics Tools
  • Intelligence Community Tools

Soft Skills

  • Critical Thinking
  • Problem-Solving
  • Attention to Detail
  • Communication Skills
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Adaptability
  • Ethical Judgment
  • Time Management
  • Cultural Awareness
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Flexibility
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Risk Assessment
  • Innovative Thinking
  • Resilience
  • Teamwork

Acquire Practical, Real-World Experience

As well as an education, it’s highly beneficial to get practical experience in intelligence or a related field. Building this kind of experience will help you both land your first role and thrive in it. 

Pursue an Internship or Apprenticeship

Internships provide a range of benefits, including real-world experience, networking opportunities, skill development, exposure to specializations, resume enhancement, references, and mentorship. Depending on the internship, you might even get help with beginning your security clearance process. 

Apply for a Related Junior Role

If you don’t find an internship during your studies, it could be difficult to jump straight into an intelligence analyst role. To build experience, consider a related role as a research analyst, data analyst, cybersecurity analyst, geospatial analyst, risk analyst, or IT security analyst. 

Your Network Is Your Net Worth

One of the most important things to keep in mind as you progress through your studies is networking. It’s never too early to start getting to know people in the industry and make connections that could help you later on. 


Use LinkedIn to create permanent connections with the people you meet during your studies and participation in industry events. It’s standard practice to add the people you meet on LinkedIn because it benefits everyone to have a larger network. 


Join communities like associations or online forums to meet new people within the industry. You can join online communities regardless of your level or experience, so it’s a great way for beginners to get started in networking. 

Industry Events

Industry events, both online and offline, are a great way to get involved in the community, learn new things, and meet like-minded people. Just remember to add everyone you meet on LinkedIn afterward! 

Find a Mentor

Finding a more experienced intelligence analyst to learn from is a great way to make the most of your education. You can learn more about the industry, the job, technical skills, and how to navigate professional relationships. 

Pursue a Certification

Depending on the education path you choose, it could be a good idea to bolster your resume with an extra certification or two. Here are a few examples relevant to intelligence analysts:

Work Toward Landing an Intelligence Analyst Role

Once you’ve got the skills, it’s time to start job searching. Here are some things to think about during the application process.

Create a Strong Keyword-Optimized Resume and Begin Applying

Make your resume clear, professional, and full of metrics that show the practical value you can bring to an organization. With online applications, it’s also important to make sure your resume is keyword-optimized. This means including relevant industry terms and mirroring language from each job post. Here are a few keyword ideas:

  • Intelligence Analysis
  • Threat Assessment
  • Security Clearance
  • Risk Assessment
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data Analysis
  • Geopolitical Analysis
  • Counterterrorism
  • Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)
  • SIGINT (Signals Intelligence)
  • HUMINT (Human Intelligence)
  • All-Source Analysis
  • Data Mining
  • Risk Mitigation
  • Pattern Recognition
  • Critical Thinking
  • Strategic Planning
  • Report Writing
  • Information Security
  • Geospatial Analysis

Know the Hiring Prerequisites

Intelligence analysts can work with a range of high-security facilities and organizations, so there are sometimes prerequisites for being hired. Here are some of the things to look out for:

  • Security Clearance
  • Citizenship
  • Background Check
  • Education
  • Experience
  • Language Skills
  • Drug Testing
  • Polygraph Examination
  • Travel and Relocation
  • Criminal Record
  • Dual Citizenship
  • Age Restrictions
  • Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)
  • Financial History

Prepare for the Interview

When you start landing interviews, make sure to prepare well. Researching the organization, its goals, and its values is essential to understand what kind of answers they want to hear, and you can develop insightful questions to ask. If you’re not confident in your interviewing skills, you can also use services like Pramp to practice and receive feedback.

How Much Does an Intelligence Analyst Earn?

how to become an intelligence analyst, annual salary

The average salary range for intelligence analysts in the United States is between $55,000 and $97,000 per year. For senior analysts at the right companies, salaries can reach highs of $169,000.

Get To Know Other Data Analytics Students

Gilles Ngomeni

Gilles Ngomeni

Sales Analyst at Medline Industries

Read Story

Yogita Nesargi

Yogita Nesargi

Data Engineer at Deloitte

Read Story

Shelly Applegate

Shelly Applegate

Sales BI Analyst at Mars Corporation

Read Story

Where Can You Find Intelligence Analyst Jobs?

Finding jobs is never easy, but there are a lot of places you can look and methods you can try. Here are some resources.

Government and Business Websites

Job Boards


  • Professional Associations
  • Recruitment Agencies
  • Networking
  • LinkedIn Networking
  • Alumni Networks
  • Government Contractors
  • Cold Outreach
  • Freelancing and Consulting
  • Online Forums and Communities
  • Government Contractor Databases

How To Become an Intelligence Analyst FAQs

Here are some of the most common questions people ask when they’re thinking about becoming an intelligence analyst.

Is Being an Intelligence Analyst a Good Career?

Intelligence analysis can be a rewarding career for those with a strong interest in national security and problem-solving. It offers job stability, competitive salaries, and opportunities for advancement. However, it can be mentally demanding and requires attention to detail, critical thinking, and the ability to work under pressure.

Are Intelligence Analysts in Demand?

Yes, intelligence analysts are in demand, particularly in the fields of national security, cybersecurity, and counterterrorism. The increasing complexity of global threats and the reliance on data and technology have heightened the need for skilled analysts. Government agencies, military agencies, law enforcement, and private companies are actively seeking intelligence professionals to help make informed decisions.

Which Degree Is Best for an Intelligence Analyst?

A degree in fields such as international relations, political science, criminal justice, or cybersecurity can provide a strong foundation for aspiring intelligence analysts. Additionally, degrees in languages, computer science, or data analysis can be beneficial. Ultimately, the best degree depends on the specific area of intelligence analysis you wish to pursue.

How Many Years Does It Take To Become an Intelligence Analyst?

Typically, it takes a minimum of 3-4 years to complete a bachelor’s degree and then enter the field as an entry-level intelligence analyst.

Do Intelligence Analysts Code?

Coding skills are not a strict requirement for intelligence analysts, but they can be valuable. Analysts may use coding languages like Python or R for data analysis and automation tasks. In cybersecurity and technical analysis, coding skills are more crucial. It largely depends on the specific role and specialization within intelligence analysis.

Since you’re here…
Interested in a career in data analytics? You will be after scanning this data analytics salary guide. When you’re serious about getting a job, look into our 40-hour Intro to Data Analytics Course for total beginners, or our mentor-led Data Analytics Bootcamp.  

About Monica J. White

Monica is a journalist with a lifelong interest in technology, from PC hardware to software and programming. She first started writing over ten years ago and has made a career out of it. Now, her focus is centered around technology and explaining complex concepts to a broader audience.