How to Become a Criminal Intelligence Analyst
Written by: Ava Kensing '24, Content Marketing Intern
What Do Intelligence Analysts Do?
Criminal intelligence analysis is a critical field that has become more important than ever in the modern world, as criminal activities span from petty theft to cyber attacks to embezzlement and beyond. A criminal intelligence analyst is a professional who gathers, analyzes, and interprets information related to crime. These professionals work in various law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Intelligence Analysis Industries
"Intelligence analysis is an art of making sense of what is taking place and where [those things] are taking place in the future," says John Weaver, D.P. A., Associate Professor of Intelligence Analysis at York College of Pennsylvania. The role of an analyst spans across multiple industries. Analysis involves collecting data from a variety of sources, examining it for relevance and accuracy, and then presenting it in a format that is useful for decision-making.
Intelligence analysis is critical in many areas of international relations, foreign policy, and national security. In the field of international relations, intelligence analysis helps officials understand the actions and intentions of foreign governments. In foreign policy, intelligence analysts provide critical information to help policymakers reach informed decisions about diplomatic engagements, trade agreements, and other international relations issues.
National security is one of the most important areas for intelligence analysis professionals. Intelligence is used to identify potential threats to the country, including terrorism, cyber attacks, and other security risks. Intelligence analysis is also used to help prevent or respond to crises, such as natural disasters or military conflicts. When it comes to matters of security, the primary role of intelligence analysis is “[looking] at irrefutable facts and evidence to help law enforcement professionals seek a search warrant to gather more information,” Weaver explains.
In the absence of good intelligence, policymakers may make decisions that are based on an incomplete or inaccurate understanding of a situation, which can lead to costly mistakes or even put national security at risk. At its core, intelligence analysis supports decision-makers with accurate and reliable information.
Intelligence Analyst Degree and Training Opportunities
Criminal intelligence analyst roles typically require a minimum of a four-year college degree. Successful applicants often hold a bachelor’s degree in Intelligence Analysis, or a related major like criminal justice, political science, or international relations. Agencies may also require a master's degree for certain positions. Employers will look for candidates with strong analytical skills, critical thinking abilities, and a solid understanding of statistical analysis.
Prospective criminal intelligence analysts usually attend an organization-specific training program for the agency where they work. This training covers a variety of topics and systems specific to the organization, including processes for gathering and analyzing data, identifying patterns and trends, and developing accurate and actionable intelligence reports. Analysts may also learn about the legal and ethical considerations surrounding intelligence gathering and analysis.
One of the key skills that a criminal intelligence analyst must possess is the ability to apply structured analytics techniques (SATS) to the information they gather. SATS involve using a specific methodology to analyze data in a systematic and consistent manner. Analysts will typically be presented with different scenarios and be expected to apply SATS to identify relevant information and draw conclusions. This approach helps analysts to develop a holistic picture of the situation, considering multiple data points and pieces of evidence to arrive at accurate and well-supported conclusions.
CIA and FBI Intelligence Analyst Positions
There are several CIA or FBI intelligence analysis positions that require different levels of education, experience, and skills. Here are a few examples:
- CIA Intelligence Analyst - To become a CIA Intelligence Analyst, you typically need a bachelor's degree and at least three years of experience in a related field, such as national security, military intelligence, or law enforcement. In addition, you need to pass a rigorous background check and security clearance process. The CIA offers a training program for intelligence analysts, which includes classroom instruction and on-the-job training.
- FBI Intelligence Analyst - To become an FBI Intelligence Analyst, you typically need a bachelor's or master's degree in a relevant field, such as intelligence analysis, criminal justice, political science, or international relations. In addition, you need to have at least two years of related work experience. The FBI offers a training program for Intelligence Analysts, which includes classroom instruction, on-the-job training, and specialized training in areas such as cyber intelligence or counterterrorism.
- CIA Targeting Analyst - To become a CIA Targeting Analyst, you typically need a bachelor's degree and at least three years of experience in a related field, such as military intelligence or law enforcement. In addition, you need to pass a rigorous background check and security clearance process. The CIA offers a training program for Targeting Analysts, which includes classroom instruction and on-the-job training.
- FBI Behavioral Analyst - To become an FBI Behavioral Analyst, you typically need a master's degree in psychology, criminology, or a related field. In addition, you need to have at least 2 years of related work experience. The FBI offers a training program for Behavioral Analysts, which includes classroom instruction, on-the-job training, and specialized training in areas such as profiling and forensic psychology.
Ethical Considerations for Criminal Intelligence Analysts
Criminal intelligence analysts play a crucial role in law enforcement and national security—and their work comes with significant ethical considerations.
One of the most important aspects of the workplace for criminal intelligence analysts is the handling of sensitive and confidential information. Analysts may have access to personal data or classified intelligence. It is essential for them to handle this information with the utmost care, ensuring that it is only shared on a need-to-know basis and in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.
In addition, criminal intelligence analysts must remain objective and avoid bias in their analysis. This means avoiding assumptions based on race, gender, religion, or other personal characteristics, and using only relevant data to inform their work. They must ensure that their analysis is accurate and based on reliable information, and they must be accountable for their work, including being transparent about their methods and sources.
Finally, intelligence analysts must comply with laws related to privacy, data protection, and surveillance. They must also be aware of any ethical guidelines or codes of conduct specific to their organization or industry. By prioritizing privacy and confidentiality, avoiding bias and discrimination, ensuring accuracy and accountability, and complying with laws and regulations, criminal intelligence analysts are expected to maintain the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.
The Future of Criminal Intelligence Analysis
There will always be a need for intelligence analysis, notes Dr. Weaver. "People are imperfect and don't act rationally under different socioeconomic conditions when presented with the same information." For this reason, he expects human analysts to remain relevant, even with advances in artificial intelligence (AI) on the horizon.
Responsible and effective criminal intelligence analysis requires individuals who are highly educated, proficient in analytical tools and techniques, and who have strong moral character. Intelligence analysis remains a field with promising career outlooks for young professionals, whether the next generation is interested in working in international affairs, domestic law enforcement, or any other field that requires experts to gather, analyze, distill, and distribute essential information.