How Difficult it is to get into CIA (and how should I prepare for it)

Steff Holloway

3 March, 2018

The CIA is one of the most reputed intelligence agencies of the United States. It collects, processes and analyzes national security information from all over the world. A career in the CIA is one of the most popular career options in the American culture. And why would it not be? The CIA offers a wide variety of employment opportunities that allow an individual to utilize his/her talents in science, technology, engineering, analysis, foreign intelligence, and more in the service of the nation.

Challenges in Joining the CIA and How to Prepare for Them

There is nothing easy about joining the CIA. If one were to rate the difficulty in joining the CIA, it would be 7-8 on a scale of 10. Yes, that is pretty difficult. But not impossible. It is accomplishable by knowing the challenges involved and preparing for them ahead of time. Well, we took the time to sum up these challenges and preparation tips for them. Let us take a look at them one at a time.

#1. U.S Citizenship

A U.S. citizenship is the first and foremost requirement for joining the CIA. This doesn’t mean only native Americans can be CIA operatives. If you are a CIA fanatic and are not from America, you have no reason to be discouraged. Deserving candidates born outside of the US also get hired by the CIA.

Preparation tip: If you don’t have a U.S. citizenship, you should apply for it. We recommend applying for citizenship as soon as possible because getting a U.S. citizenship will take quite some time.

#2. A Four Year College Degree

To get into the CIA, one must have a college degree (a minimum of four years). Majors in certain areas/fields are preferred depending on the job profile a person seeks.

Preparation tip: To get qualified to apply for the CIA, you must get a four-year college degree. Any degree focusing on political sciences, law, security studies, or international relations will be a bonus. Take you pick considering your interest.

# 3. A Good GPA

Only candidates with a good academic score are hired by CIA. So, it’s crucial for a CIA aspirant to have impeccable grades through high school as well as college.

Preparation tip: Keep pushing yourself to improve academically. Always keep your goal and vision in mind. Be determined to maintain a GPA of at least 3 or higher on a scale of 4.

#4. Physical Fitness

CIA candidates have to be physically fit. Upon recruitment, they are put through various forms of rigorous training. During covert operations, CIA agents/operatives have to deal with challenging physical situations. This is why it is essential for a candidate to test their physical fitness in terms of the CIA standards before applying for the job.

Preparation tip: Maintain your health and physical well-being through engagement in physical exercises daily. Practice yoga regularly. For candidates, who have a natural reluctance to regular work-out, sports activities are a great option. Physically train your body through regularly engaging in football, basketball, cycling, boxing, etc.

#5. Mental Fitness/Toughness

A job in CIA is all about constantly dealing in dangerous and life-threatening situations. Your limits are tested on every step. So, it is crucial to know before signing up how far you can push your mental boundaries, how much emotional stress/pressure you can handle in a particular situation or how tough your mindset is.

Preparation Tip: Participate regularly in activities that boost and test your mental fitness. Solving puzzles and playing strategic games can be immensely helpful. Read or watch content that motivates you to push your mental limits.

#6. Foreign Languages

The knowledge of multiple foreign languages is pivotal to standing out while applying to join CIA. With over 10000 candidates applying every month,  those who prove their proficiency in mission-critical languages like Mandarin, Indonesian, or Farsi are always in high demand.

Preparation Tip: Although CIA has only a few languages on its mission-critical language list, take your pick. Join a language learning program before applying and work towards fluency in that language.

#7. Cultural and Geographical Knowledge

The job of a CIA operative mainly includes being on covert missions in foreign lands. To successfully handle such missions, the knowledge of culture and geographical locations of that country is essential.

Preparation Tip: Frequently read travel blogs, watch travel videos or even better, travel yourself and connect with people from different cultures on social media. Familiarize yourself with the topography of various countries through services like Google Maps.

#8. Flexibility and Social Skills

An ideal candidate for CIA must exercise flexibility in lifestyle, i.e., readiness for frequent international trips and relocation. They must have excellent social skills. They must be able to have interactions with people in a strongly convincing manner. CIA agents require these skills to wheedle information out of suspects or witnesses.

Preparation Tip: Constantly observe how people behave, talk or react in certain situations. Talk to strangers as often as possible.

#9. Background Check

Before hiring a candidate, CIA performs a thorough background check on them. The candidate is checked for any criminal record, financial problems in their past, work history, the strength of character, judgment, and reliability.

Preparation Tip: Avoid participation in any illegal activities. Be financially sound. And take good care of your family and other responsibilities.

#10. No Drug Abuse

CIA requires a candidate to have no drug abuse history; not at least in the past 12 months. CIA’s this requirement is based on the fact that people who have a history of drugs are more likely to develop such habits again in the future.

Preparation Tip: Abstain from any sort of drugs or even alcohol. CIA doesn’t have any policies concerning alcohol, but avoiding it is certainly a bonus.

There you go! We just learned about the difficulties in joining the CIA and how to prepare to conquer them. Etch these challenges into your mind and get preparing. You have a long road ahead. We hope you found the article helpful. If you have any doubts/queries or opinions, do take the time to share them with us. We’d appreciate that. And good luck with your career.