The life of a super spy… Pick up your remote-controlled BMW in the morning, enter the Russian Defense Ministry on a laundry truck, climb through the ventilation system, use new crypto-software to crack the code to a nuclear submarine, and meet Octopussy for dinner and brandy.

We're sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but there are no James Bonds. The Central Intelligence Agency (hereafter called the "CIA") would never hire people who draw that kind of attention to themselves. That isn't to say that CIA agents don't have their fair share of secret gadgets and weapons, nor that the job isn't without adventure. The CIA is looking for a few good spies, and you could be one. The CIA is especially looking to hire Asian-Americans, Arab-Americans, and women.

We want to make a couple things clear:

  • The CIA is not the same thing as the FBI. First of all, they're spelled differently. Second, the FBI is basically concerned about law enforcement, whereas the CIA is concerned with getting information to help aid the US make foreign policy decisions.

  • If you want to join the CIA, you don't have to be a spy. The majority of jobs at the CIA are actually non-spy-ish, including jobs as economists, foreign policy experts, researchers, and psychologists. But be realistic: who wouldn't want to be a spy? Well, except for all that impending death stuff.

So without further ado, let's get dangerous.


Boy, are we sneaks. American spying has existed ever since the infancy of the U.S., extending back to Nathan Hale and the Revolutionary War. The Central Intelligence Agency, however, is a relatively new organization that was created by President Truman in 1947 with the signing of National Security Act. The CIA's stated purpose: "to collect, evaluate and disseminate foreign intelligence" and "to engage in covert action at the president's direction." In the past, the agency carried out far more covert actions, many in Central America.

In the last decade, the CIA has been plagued by a number of embarrassing incidents. A few examples:

  • The CIA recently mistook the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade for a Yugoslav government building, which led to an international incident when US military forces bombed it.

  • The agency failed to predict both India's nuclear test or North Korea's missile launch, and then admitted it didn't have officers in place who could have picked up on them.

  • Aldrich Ames lived the good life at the CIA until it was discovered that he was a mole who had sent secrets to Moscow from 1985 until his arrest in 1994.

The CIA is not a policy-making organization. Instead it simply gives policy makers (e.g., the National Security Agency, the President) the information they need for good decision making. Recently the agency has taken on new responsibility by tracking terrorists, drug producers, and nuclear and chemical weapons. So in short, the Central Intelligence Agency is what makes the US intelligent on the world scene.

As the CIA's factbook expounds, the CIA is responsible for:

  • Providing accurate, evidence-based, comprehensive, and timely foreign intelligence related to national security; and

  • Conducting counterintelligence activities, special activities, and other functions related to foreign intelligence and national security as directed by the President.

Yes, it's general, but much of what the CIA does changes on a case-by-case basis. If the US is involved in a conflict, needs to respond to a foreign crisis, or suspects an international act of terrorism is going to take place, the CIA is on the case. Once they've figured out what's going on, they send the FBI in to do the dirty work of blowing the bad guys up. As far as your future employment with the CIA is concerned, the first step is to realize that it's international and advisory in nature, with a few select people (spies) doing cool things to help inform those decisions.

To learn some quick spy-speak phrases, skip on ahead to our CIA glossary. For more information about the history of the CIA and what it does, check out their online factbook.