How Do You Become a Spy?

A career as a spy, technically called a “secret agent,” can be difficult to attain due to its covert nature. Since careers in espionage require spies to be discreet, few inquirers can personally seek out a secret agent for information about how to become a spy. Fortunately, there are a number of helpful suggestions that greatly increase one’s chances of securing such a career. Secret agents can find employment with a number of government agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Institute, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and any of the military branches. Because secret agents are employed by such high-stakes government agencies, they must first fulfill several requirements pertaining to education, work experience, and personal background.

Educational Requirements

Secret agents generally need only a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, but graduate degrees are helpful in distinguishing candidates in a highly competitive applicant pool. While there is not a required field of study, top choices include International Relations, Foreign Affairs, Behavioral Science, Criminal Justice, Computer Science, and Political Science. Academic performance is also important, as most government agencies will only consider candidates with a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Recommended Internships and Work Experience

Students should apply for relevant internship experiences in addition to coursework. Summer internships may be available in Washington DC or with local government agencies. This is a great way to gain experience and build a professional network, which is especially important for secret agents. It is nearly impossible to immediately become a spy without having positive repute within a government agency. Aspiring spies frequently have prior military experience, which is especially helpful for candidates hoping to work for the US Department of Defense or Homeland Security. Some agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, may require work experience in law enforcement or criminal investigation.

Background and Personal Qualifications

United States citizenship is required to gain employment as a spy in any US government agency. Some agencies, such as the Secret Service, only accept candidates between the ages of 21 and 37. Secret agent careers often require employees to spend time abroad, thus traveling is a good way to show comfort and familiarity with other countries. It is extremely helpful to become familiar with foreign languages, particularly Mandarin, Farsi, and Arabic. All applicants must pass an in-depth background check and submit a hair follicle drug test. Unfortunately, candidates may get disqualified solely because of their associations with family or friends who have a criminal record.

Even those with a clean background and good word-of-mouth often get rejected on the basis of poor credit history. High-stakes government agencies, including the CIA, often run credit checks to ensure that employees are not gamblers or over-investors. Poor financial management skills can portray an otherwise excellent candidate as risky or imprudent. These are not desirable qualities in a spy, and due to the privileged nature of a secret agent’s work, a candidate’s character is a crucial determining factor. Some agencies will perform a polygraph examination and mental health examination. It is important that candidates can properly handle their emotions and cope under pressure. Additionally, they may question an applicant’s friends, former classmates, bosses, landlords, neighbors, and coworkers.