Friday, July 17, 2009

Part 3 -- The Good News! (How To Get A Job In Intelligence)

Part 1 -- Introduction
Part 2 -- The Intelligence Job Market From 20,000 Feet

The US National Security Community, while the best known, is not, however, the only place to get a job as an intelligence analyst. There are many jobs available in law enforcement, business, and with non-governmental organizations. While not all of these jobs label themselves "intelligence" positions (and more on that later), they all require what is essentially the intelligence analyst skill set.

Intel Analyst Jobs In Law Enforcement

Law enforcement agencies employ a significant number of intelligence and crime analysts. The FBI alone employs more than 2000 analysts (with plans to hire 321 in 2010). While many of these positions are in Washington, the FBI also stations analysts around the country in Field Intelligence Groups, making this an attractive hiring option for people who can't or don't want to move from home.

Beyond the FBI, however, there are a number of other Federal agencies and organizations that use analysts. The Department of Homeland Security employs a very large number of intelligence analysts while the Drug Enforcement Administration and the US Department Of Treasury (through its Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) both employ intelligence analysts. One of the best places to work, I think, is the US Coast Guard. We have placed a number of interns with the "coasties" and they all come back pretty positive about their experience.

All of these agencies are part of what is formally called the US Intelligence Community and the total number of jobs available should have been included in the analysis I did yesterday. I am mentioning these positions here primarily because students have a tendency to focus on the CIA when thinking about intelligence jobs and they ignore these other places with intelligence functions that are every bit as interesting and as challenging as the ones in the Agency.

Beyond The Feds

If these other federal agencies are often overlooked, an even more ignored source of intelligence jobs is state and local law enforcement. There are few good estimates out there regarding the total number of jobs in law enforcement intelligence/crime analysis but my best guess is about 9000.

I get this number by looking at the total number of state and law enforcement agencies in the US (17,876) and dividing it, roughly, in half. I know that most of the agencies in the US have less than 50 officers and that agencies with less than 50 officers are unlikely to have anyone in intel. I also know, however, that some big cities (like New York) have large and very well developed intelligence units. So, I am ball-parking it here again but 9000 sounds about right.

If the numbers I came up with yesterday make any sense at all, then this should translate into about 500 entry level intelligence analyst/crime analyst positions per year opening up in law enforcement around the US.

Unlike the numbers for the big federal agencies, however, there are several reasons why this number could be low. For one reason, California alone estimated that it would need 160 analysts in 2005 for law enforcement and they also estimated, at the time, that the demand would continue to grow.

Another good reason for growth in this field is the increasing popularity of a concept, born in the UK, called "intelligence-led policing." To the extent that this catches on in the US (and it appears to have some traction here), it cannot help but to increase the number of intelligence billets in state and local law enforcement agencies.

Finally, there appears to be a growing interest in law enforcement and intelligence analysis at the career level. The International Association Of Crime Analysts boasts some 1500 members and, while the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts doesn't advertise its numbers, insiders tell me that it probably has 2-3000 members. Both of these organizations are international but the largest body of members reside in the US.

Why Not Law Enforcement?

There are three reasons why these types of jobs often get overlooked or sidelined. In the first place they are not easy to find. If you want a job in local law enforcement, you have to be looking at state and local government job boards. Some agencies advertise broadly but most do not. Finding these jobs can be a pain.

The second reason that they may not seem appropriate is that some require an applicant to be "sworn" or a full-fledged member of the police force. While my impression is that this is changing, I am virtually certain that a number of these jobs require the analyst to be a cop first and an analyst second.

Finally, these jobs don't pay particularly well. The pay is not awful in most places and in some places it is not bad at all, but, by and large, it does not equal the pay (even when adjusted for cost of living) of an analyst in the Federal government or in business (which I will discuss next).

Next: Even Better News!
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Part 2 -- The Intelligence Job Market From 20,000 Feet (How To Get A Job In Intelligence)

Part 1 -- Introduction

A high altitude survey of the intelligence job market yields some pretty interesting observations. The first is that the intelligence job market is finite. There are some pretty distinct boundaries and limits to the size of it and knowing these limits and boundaries helps you understand the potential for jobs in this market.

Let's start with the basics. How many intelligence jobs are there in the US and the world? How many people are actually employed in intelligence? We will start with the most famous of the job markets -- the US Intelligence Community.

Jobs In The US Intelligence Community (IC)

According to a late 2006 US News and World Report article, there are about 100,000 people working in the US intelligence community of which about 17,000 are analysts. This number was more or less confirmed in mid-2008. While it is unclear what exactly has been counted and what has not, these numbers provide a good starting place for some back of the envelope analysis useful to job seekers.

For example, how many analysts does the US IC need each year? Well, if you imagine a 25 year career for an analyst and all of them stay until retirement, then you are looking at about 700 a year (17,000/25 = 680).

It is virtually certain that only a few of these analysts stay all the way until retirement, however. More importantly, the number of analysts in each year group is not equal. In fact, one of the common comments about the intel community is that there are a number of "old" analysts soon to reach retirement and an even larger number of young analysts who have been hired since 9/11. This creates what has been called a "bathtub curve" (where the surge of new analysts is at one end of the time line and the large number of soon-to-be retirees is at the other end. In the middle is a smaller number of people who were hired between the end of the Cold War and 9/11).

All this makes it even more difficult to estimate how many entry-level jobs (including analyst jobs) there are in a given year. I would guess (and it is only a guess) that the "normal" number of analyst positions that need to be filled each year in the US government falls somewhere between half this idealized replacement rate to twice that rate or from about 350 to 1400.

These replacement rate numbers are particularly important as the halcyon days of the hiring boom in intelligence over the last 8 years are likely over. Budget strains are virtually certain to put a damper on significant levels of hiring beyond the replacement rate although the importance of the intelligence mission and the continued emergence of new threats (we are hearing that there will continue to be a growth market in cyber threat analysts into the next year and beyond, for example) will likely ensure that replacements get hired for those analysts and others who retire or quit.

The situation gets even worse, though, when you look at some of the agencies. The CIA is reporting a record number of applications this year -- 180,000 -- for the jobs they have open. The CIA has about 20,000 people in it and, if the overall percentage of analysts in the IC holds true for the CIA, then that means that there are about 3400 (17% of 20,000) analysts housed at Langley. Without any growth and if 5% of them are leaving or retiring this year then there are roughly (very roughly) 170 analyst positions available.

Furthermore, if 17% of the 180,000 applicants are trying to fill analyst positions then getting an analyst job at the CIA is about 18 times harder than getting accepted to Harvard as an undergrad (Harvard's acceptance rate in 2007 was 9.2%. 17% X 180,000 = 30,600. 170/30,600 = .6%).

All of these are just logical guesses but even if I am wrong by half (in other words, the number of jobs is twice what I estimate it to be) the total number of jobs and jobs available each year in the US Intelligence Community (and the number of analyst jobs in particular) is by no means enormous.

Including the number of analyst and other jobs available through contractors does not actually improve the picture that much. If recent numbers are accurate, then there are only about 37,000 contract employees in the US IC. Again, how many of these are analyst positions is unknown but if the 17% rule holds true here as well, it means an increase of a little more than 6000 analysts positions available through various contractors.

While not insubstantial, the number of entry-level positions through contractors is probably even more limited as we go into 2010 than through the government directly. In the first place, a significant number of intelligence professionals take jobs through contractors when they retire. In the second place, the days of large contracts for intelligence services seems to be coming to an end. I suspect that many of these contract jobs may get "converted" to government positions rather than go away (the government is going to still need the analysts regardless of who the analysts work for) over the next several years but the absolute number of positions that will need to be filled each year is probably in lower half of the 75-450 range.

In short, if you add up everything and round it all off to make it easy to wrap your head around it, there are likely about 1000 analyst jobs a year in the combined government and contractor worlds supporting the US IC. The number could be as low as around 400 or as high as about 2000 but given limited prospects for growth and some guess-timates for replacement rates, 1000 seems about right.

A couple of other things come out of this analysis. First, the competition for these jobs is fierce. I strongly suspect that the CIA gets the lion's share of attention when it comes to job applications but I would also guess that, in this economy, all 16 members of the intel community and the contractors that support them have seen an increase in the number of applications.

Likewise, not all of these 1000 or so positions are truly "entry-level". It is inevitable that some, perhaps many, of these positions are limited to people with significant levels of experience or who speak Farsi fluently or whatever.

Finally, I may well be off by a significant amount here. In addition to being terrible at math, the numbers I am basing this analysis on may be gross under- or over-estimates (it IS the intelligence community after all...). I am hoping that some of the readers of this blog will post a comment or two pointing us all to some major hiring binge that I have missed.

Even if I am wrong, however, I think the first thing that job seekers need to fully understand is that the US national security market is both limited and competitive.

Tomorrow: The Good News!
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Monday, July 13, 2009

How To Get A Job In Intelligence (Introduction)

UPDATE:  I have updated all of the information in this series and published it in a 2015 Kindle e-book called "How To Get A Job In Intelligence".  The book contains not only updated information but also updated links to lots of jobs sites in national security, law enforcement, business and international positions.  Best of all, you do not need a Kindle to read it!  Amazon provides a free e-book reader for virtually any device.  

Getting a job in intelligence is not easy. Some of the reasons why have to do with predictable things like security clearances. Some of the reasons are much less obvious.

The purpose of this series of posts is to explore the job market for intelligence analysts and to offer some advice based on years of talking to recruiters and watching students try to get jobs.

I will try to be as complete as possible. I intend to write about not only the national security but also the law enforcement, business and international intelligence job markets. I know, however, that I don't know everything so I invite anyone reading this to please post your comments to these posts if you have something useful or insightful to say.

I intend to focus on the entry-level, intel analyst positions as that is what I know best. Some of what I say will obviously apply to other jobs in the intel communities but I can't guarantee that it will. As they say, "Some local restrictions may apply."

OK, that is probably enough caveats; let's get started!

The First Problem

Take a second and go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Search for "chemical engineers." Pretty soon you will wind up with a page with some very detailed statistics on it. With almost no effort you can learn that chemical engineers make an average of about $88,000 a year, that more of these engineers are employed in Texas (specifically Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas) than anywhere else but that the chemical engineers making top dollar have jobs in San Jose, CA.

Now do a search for "intelligence". You will get a page that looks like this:

Sure, there are tons of good jokes we can make here (e.g. "Finally! We have proof! There is no intelligence at the Bureau of Labor Statistics..."), but that would be cruel and what I am really trying to do is demonstrate one of the fundamental problems of trying to get a job -- any job -- in intelligence: It is not a recognized labor category.

Because there is not a consistent set of terms describing intelligence jobs, finding where these jobs are listed is a matter of hunting and pecking around until you bump into them. Some places are better than others for finding intel jobs (and I will list as many of these places as I can find later in this series of posts), but no one place has all or even a majority of the jobs available in the various intelligence communities.

In addition, because no one organization is charged with tracking intelligence jobs (writ large) no one knows how many jobs there are out there, whether the field is growing or shrinking, what skill set is in demand now, what skill set will be in demand four years from now, etc. Sure, individual recruiters may have a good feel for their part of the market and everyone has an opinion but because there is no consistent labeling of jobs there are no consistent numbers for jobs offerings. Because there are no numbers, it is very difficult to get a feel for the market overall.

Next: The Intelligence Job Market From 20,000 Feet

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday Funnies: Advanced Cat Yodeling (YouTube)

Not much to say here but "Watch this video!"