Have you ever received a notice from the bank or a business warning you of a data breach in their system? Often, it delivers the unfortunate news that some of your private data may have been compromised. However, they also promise their team is hard at work to make sure it never happens again. That team, among other roles, is comprised of intelligence analysts.

An intelligence analyst’s main duty is identifying possible cybersecurity threats and devising plans to protect people from them. If you’re thinking about becoming an intelligence analyst, there are a few key details you should think about before exploring this as a career path.

What is an intelligence analyst?
An intelligence analyst is a cybersecurity specialist who seeks out and prevents possible digital crimes. This role requires a high level of tech competency, including fluency in programming platforms like Python, Sequel, and R. In addition, there are a number of day-to-day tasks they typically perform, including:

  • Data collection: Perhaps the most important task for an Intelligence analyst involves data collection and analysis. You must be able to gather information from a variety of sources, including classified documents, and comb through them for any potential threats.
  • Risk assessment: In addition to identifying possible threats, they must be able to determine the level of risk involved. Are the sources credible? To what degree might this threat impact individuals, institutions, or even national security?
  • Reporting: Key to any data analysis role is reporting on findings. An intelligence analyst needs to be able to condense their findings into a summary or report for decision-makers to pursue a solution.
  • Strategy and planning: While an intelligence analyst may not be the decision maker in the solution to a cyber security threat, their input and tactical planning is key in identifying that solution. It’s important that they provide support and input into the strategy for a data breach or threat.

What skills are needed to be an intelligence analyst?
There are a number of key skills  to being a successful intelligence analyst. While tech fluency is obviously chief among them, below are just a few of the other skills involved in the role:

  • Problem-solving: Perhaps the most important skill for an intelligence analyst after technology skills is your ability to identify problems and strategize solutions for them. These problems are not for the faint of heart, either. Often, they involve access to private financial data or even confidential government information. Having a solutions-oriented mindset and the ability to strategize resolutions is equally important.
  • Communication: Being an intelligence analyst involves written and verbal communication. A large part of the job is composing reports based on data findings, which requires excellent writing skills. Additionally, the job often involves working on a team to strategize solutions, and therefore,  the ability to communicate effectively with other members is crucial.
  • Discretion: Because intelligence analysts often handle confidential data on a day-to-day basis, discretion is a very important part of the job. Potentially revealing classified data could jeopardize a project or put others further at risk.
  • Collaboration: While tech-driven jobs can operate in a silo, an intelligence analyst must be able to work with others. They may need to report their findings to others and will often strategize with a team for a resolution.

What is the education needed to become an Intelligence Analyst?
The path to becoming an intelligence analyst may differ as there are a variety of different sectors in which one might land. However, from business and military to legal and finance, there are still important steps to take for those who wish to consider a career as an intelligence analyst.

Oftentimes, a relevant bachelor’s degree in programming or computer since is a first step in the potential of becoming an intelligence analyst. There are also master’s degree options in those fields for those seeking a higher level of expertise. From there, employers may seek a certain level of background knowledge in the sector you wish to pursue. Having some experience in the field you are hoping to work in can be beneficial. For example, if you wish to become a legal intelligence analyst, a background in legal work can be helpful. That said, sometimes intelligence analysts bring very specific background knowledge to their role, such as:

  • History
  • Biology
  • Engineering
  • Languages
  • Literature

How do I Become an Intelligence Analyst?
Beyond a relevant educational background, there are a number of certifications you can pursue when seeking a role as an intelligence analyst. Some of them include:

Is the job of an intelligence analyst right for you?
It’s important to assess how good of a fit any job is for you. Do you like to work with computers? Do you like to research and dig into data? Do you like to solve problems and help others? If you answered yes to these questions, a career as an intelligence analyst may be the right fit for you. It’s also important to consider career growth and salary expectations when selecting any job, however. For more information on careers in this occupational field, please visit the Department of Labor site.

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