In order to function, the CIA needs everyone from janitors to weapons analysts, economists, and disguise-makers. Certainly each job has specific requirements (academic and otherwise), but there are 4 requirements that every employee must meet.

  1. Medical examination: Unsurprisingly, "medical examination" is code for "drug testing." Each page of the CIA employment web page emphasizes that the agency is a "drug-free workforce." Don't panic, the agency says that past drug use does not preclude someone from working for the CIA (although "current" drug use certainly will). The reasoning is that drug use in high school and college is so widespread that a rigid rule would mean not hiring enough new employees. And just in case you're curious about how to pass a drug test, there are ways.

  2. Polygraph interview: If you think that regular job interviews are stressful, try doing one with wires connected to your body registering the level of your nervous system. In the late 80s, it was discovered that nearly all of the Cubans working for the CIA were double-agents. But polygraph technology has evolved greatly since the Reagan days, and it would be difficult to completely fool a CIA polygraph analyst. For more information about how to lie, check out "SYW lie persuasively?"

  3. Background check: The background check is extremely thorough, so if your grandmother cleaned toilets for the KGB, don't try it. It is hard to say exactly what the CIA is looking for; they certainly don't talk about it.

  4. U.S. citizenship: No citizenship, no job in the CIA. Well, that's kinda a half-truth; the CIA has plenty of foreigners on their payroll, but these are agents hired to provide information. They're not given access to classified information. They're like the freelancers of the CIA.

The first step in applying for a job is submitting a résumé. But you can't use your normal "please hire me as your ice cream scooper" résumé; the CIA has a special rigid résumé guide that only asks for what they specifically want to know. For the résumé guide and a list of area recruiters (who only offer their fax numbers), go to the official CIA homepage.

For every 100 qualified applicants to the CIA, around 50 get tentative job offers. Around 37 of these 50 offers are accepted. Once the CIA has confirmation of a candidate's interest, it begins background, medical, and polygraph testing. Of the 37 who accept the tentative offer, 17 make it through the rigorous testing.

Outside of these basic requirements, any of the positions requiring a college degree asks for a minimum 3.0 GPA. The CIA also has a particular interest for higher degrees (especially PhDs). Naturally, these specific educational requirements vary depending on the specific job. For instance, to become a CIA economist, you need at least a Master's degree and a GPA of 3.2 or higher. To be a specialist in paper and pulp science, one must have an "understanding of commercial bindery, assembly, and fabrication practices."