CIA Agent

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency gathers global intelligence regarding potential threats or disruptions to the security and stability of America. Following the passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the CIA’s duties for handling the intelligence community as a whole and for presenting intelligence briefs to the U.S. Congress and the President have been granted to the newly formed Director of National Intelligence.

This development led to several changes that have reshaped the traditional roles and positions of the CIA. One such change is that the National Clandestine Service responsible for collecting intelligence abroad using agents was renamed to “Directorate of Operations.” Operatives are no longer known as CIA Special Agents but “Directorate of Operations Officers” or a “DO Officer” for short. Their responsibilities of monitoring persons of interest, making contact with human intelligence sources and conducting covert action operations remains largely the same.

What Does a CIA Agent Do?

Most of what the CIA does is conducted in secret. As such, describing the day-to-day activities of a typical Agent/DO Officer can be difficult. Nevertheless, some generalizations can be made. Many DO Officers are stationed abroad. They make regular contact with individuals willing to share intelligence with the American government. Some DO Officers conduct long-term surveillance, monitoring key persons of interest or foreign agencies that can impact American security and stability.

Intelligence Gathering

Since the restructuring of the department, the CIA no longer recommends policy or forms opinions about the intelligence they gather. They merely collect it for other departments of the DNI to process, relay and recommend action as they see fit. DO Officers are still responsible for compiling reports that can be distributed internally throughout the office directorates, so writing and communication skills are crucial.

Covert Action Operations

Sometimes, under direct orders of the President, DO Officers will be required to engage in covert action operations, which can include working undercover, performing surveillance on key individuals, groups or places and relaying sensitive intelligence through risky means. DO Officers have to operate discreetly, avoiding compromising the mission, their cover and the sanctity of U.S. operations abroad as a whole. All DO Officers must receive a security clearance as a result, which means that only the most trustworthy, responsible, accountable and performance-driven individuals can be viable candidates to become a DO Officer.

Where Does a CIA Agent Work?

DO Officers are given assignments abroad all throughout the world. Since many of these assignments are state secrets, there is no way to know whether someone is likely to be given an assignment at one place in particular over the other. However, given levels of turbulent political activity, there may likely be a high concentration in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, Russia and South America.

The majority of CIA employees work in the primary offices located in Washington D.C., serving mostly bureaucratic positions similar to other office settings in business and government.

CIA Agent Salaries & Career Opportunities

DO Officers are paid according to the Federal Government General Schedule between the GS-9 and GS-11 levels. These annual salaries correspond to $54,423 and $82,840, respectively, with a wide range of possible pays in between. GS pay levels are known as “base pay” since most employees are eligible for locality pay in accordance with the relative cost of living. Additionally, CIA operatives are eligible for a robust benefits package as well as allowances, hazard pay and other compensation.

Career Opportunities

Directorate of Operations Officers, what are traditionally thought of as “CIA agents” in the public mind, comprise a small percentage of CIA personnel. Standards and expectations are also incredibly high for field agents, making every open position competitive.

People unsure of their qualifications or who may be interested in a different career still within the CIA have many other opportunities for positions as analysts, cybersecurity experts, data scientists, report writers, engineers and a host of other positions. The CIA also grants “Special Agent” titles to those who work in the Office of the Inspector General’s Investigations Staff, tasked with monitoring internal agency actions for misconduct, waste or mismanagement.

Review the entire list on the CIA’s career opportunities on their CIA careers web page.

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