Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a part of the government that has been a hit in Hollywood for years. Even many of the top selling novels are related to intelligence. But, how much is a CIA agent’s life really like that of the famed Jack Ryan or Jason Bourne? Due to the very hush hush nature of the CIA, producers and writers have to take some steps to sauce up more routine, or even mundane situations. So, what are some of the realities of working for the CIA? There is so much to sift through on Google results or the government websites (which are not benefiting from saucy writers). We’ve compiled the most common questions asked and took the time to get the answers for you. 

    Is the CIA part of the State Department?

    Not directly, no. The US Department of State is designed to promote democratic values and advance a free, peaceful world. The State Department leads foreign policy through advocating diplomacy and offering assistance that may advance the interests of the American people.

    Is the CIA a Federal Agency?

    Yes. The CIA was formed by the National Security Act signed by President Harry S. Truman. The National Security Act also created a Director of Central Intelligence, DCI, but the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 reassigned many of those duties to a Director of National Intelligence with a separate director over the CIA.

    CIA career seal

    What Branch of Government is the CIA Under?

    To ensure proper checks and balances, they are designed to report to the executive and legislative branches. Even still, they report to sub-agencies.

    On the executive branch, the CIA reports to the National Security Council (NSC), the Intelligence Oversight Board, and the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. 

    The NSC consists of the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Defense. The Intelligence Oversight Board is specific to ensuring that protocols and relevant laws are followed so that intelligence collected may be used. The Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board is made of private-sector individuals who study the efficiency of the CIA’s performance and structure. 

    On the legislative branch, the CIA works with the House Permanent Select and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence. These agencies, along with the occasional involvement of the Foreign Relations, Armed Services, and Foreign Affairs committees, oversee and authorize all of the CIA’s programs.

    How do Intelligence Agencies Work?

    Well, the United States’ CIA serves to assist the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in carrying out:

    • Collect intelligence through appropriate sources and means but with no law enforcement powers;
    • Correlate and evaluate intelligence relevant to matters of national security and ensure that particular information gets distributed through the appropriate channels;
    • Coordinate the collection of national intelligence from outside of the US in coordination with other agencies, departments, or bureaus of the US government with the appropriate authorizations; and
    • Any such other duties related to national security intelligence as directed by the President or the Director of National Intelligence.

    How Does the CIA Operate?

    A part of the CIA’s operation includes research and development of advanced technology used for acquiring intelligence, its primary function. The CIA does not make any national policy. The CIA is only a source of gathering information and intelligence for policy-makers.

    The offices of the CIA are broken into:

    • Analysis - Incomplete and contradictory information is reviewed for accuracy and objectivity.
    • Operations - The arm of the CIA responsible for coordinating and evaluating operations.
    • Science & Technology - The CIA employees responsible for using science and tech during operations.
    • Support - Ensures all mission elements are provided for or otherwise covered.
    • Digital Innovation - The newest Directorate focused on advancing digital and cyber tradecraft.
    • Mission Centers - Consolidate the services of these departments to select locations.
    • Office of the Director - In addition to being in charge of the CIA, this office is responsible for additional issues including public affairs, human resources, internal oversight, etc.
    cia headquarters

    How Many People Work for the CIA?

    At the present time, the CIA is not free to disclose the number of employees working for the agency (or even the size of the budget).

    How to Get the CIA to Recruit You

    how to get recruited by the CIA isn’t much of an issue as they are an agency to which people apply. As positions range from developing technology to collecting information on the field, it is largely a matter of majoring in the appropriate field of study and reviewing the minimum requirements for the job you are interested in pursuing.

    All positions are open application on their website. A part of the application process is passing a security clearance. The most common hurdles that hold people from obtaining this is lacking the honesty of things that are discovered. In many instances, what was discovered was a forgivable offense while lying while trying to obtain a security clearance is not.

    Being involved in drug use (still banned on the federal level) or other criminal activity within the past year can also disqualify you.

    How Much Does a CIA Agent Get Paid?

    This question is too broad, as it depends on the type of agent as well as the level of experience of the agent. An investigative agent with a few years of experience can expect a salary range of about $75,000-$136,000. 

    Being a government agency, the CIA has an excellent benefit package that draws people as much as money might. For the first few years, employees of the CIA are given 13 paid leave days per year. The CIA offers personal and family support, including child care in many offices. In addition to health insurance is access to fitness and recreation programs. In an era of corporations no longer helping with retirement, the CIA still has a pension for retirees. There is even a Student Loan Repayment Assistance Program.

    Many of these benefits may be worth more than the salary.

    How to Become a CIA Operative

    The CIA has a variety of needs. Because the needs change on a regular basis, it is difficult to guarantee a particular path towards becoming a CIA Operative. If you are thinking of working on the technical side of things, a degree in computer science would help give an edge over other applicants. 

    While specialized positions may require a four-year or advanced degree to work them, the specifics of the degree (such as the exact major) are not as important as academic performance, and experience is always given consideration. A general degree and practical experience will beat a focused degree but no experience.

    Do CIA Agents Have Badges?

    Yes - CIA Special Agents do have official badges.

    cia memorial

    Are CIA Agents Trained to Fight?

    Most activities focused around gathering intelligence are much more tame than portrayed on TV. Special Agents may be required to know some combat training, but not all agents.

    How Do You Become a Member of the CIA?

    By visiting the website to see what positions are available, and following the application process for the position you’d like.


    cia kryptos