How to Become a Spy

How To Become A CIA Spy

“The name is Bond; James Bond.” Probably the most famous spy quote of all time. Growing up watching all the James Bond movies, we learned that spies are cool, sophisticated, and carry a whole slew of high tech gadgets right inside the pocket of their tuxedo. What kid didn’t want to grow up and be a spy? It seems glamorous, exciting, dangerous, and you get to travel to all these exciting locations around the world. But in real life, being a secret agent is not all that glamorous. There is a lot of intense training, both physical and psychological, and a mountain of paperwork. Even if you get a job as a spy, you might be the ‘Moneypenny’ of the operation and be stuck behind a desk. But if you are determined that you want to learn how to become a spy, read on to discover what you have to do (and be prepared to be disillusioned).

What You Need To Become A Spy

In the United States, if you want to work for the CIA or the NSA, you have to be a U.S. citizen. Since working for a branch of the government that involves secret operations, you can expect intensive background searches on all applicants. So you need to have a clean background from an early age. No criminal activities or long list of arrests. No drug convictions, gambling habits, or drunk driving convictions. That is a good way to get declined right off the bat. You also need to be a model citizen with a good credit record and work history. If you spent several years jumping from job to job and accumulating bad debt, you likely won’t get accepted.

The crowd you hang out with will also reflect on you. If spend your time hanging out in bars with bikers or your friends are known drug dealers, you can expect that to reflect badly on you as well, even if you go to church and pay your taxes. The same goes for your family. Anyone that you associate with needs to be clean and have a good record. Government agencies want people who work for them to be trustworthy and show good judgment. Having friends and family who are not model citizens and you are in regular contact with will be a mark against you.


Spies need to be well educated. The CIA doesn’t want to send someone on a mission who can’t read, write, or understand the world at large. They want their spies to be intelligent, have a broad knowledge of different areas, and able to think on their own. Anyone who is considering working for the CIA or other government agency you need to work hard and earn good grades. The CIA requires you to have a bachelor’s degree and maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Some specialized areas, like engineering, may require a higher degree. There is no degree offered in Spyology but there are several fields that are useful and will be beneficial to the application process. Some useful areas are International relations, Economics, Mathematics, Science, Engineering, Computers, and Business.

Being fluent in at least one foreign language is very important and being fluent in multiple languages is even better. Since operations can be anywhere in the world, some of the more useful languages to learn are German, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, French, and dialects in third world hot spots where there is a strong military presence.

It is not necessary to have formal military training in order to apply for a job with an agency. However, time spent in the military, especially in military intelligence, will be a definite asset and will give you an advantage over your competition for the job. But even with a militray background, you are still required to have a college degree before aplying to work with a government agancy like the CIA.

Fill Out The Application

Although most countries of the world have their own agencies that operate clandestine operations, in the U.S., the CIA is the largest government agency to employ spies (although the branch the deals with spies makes up a very small portion of the agency). Once you have a college degree, you can fill out the application for a job with the CIA and submit your resume. If the CIA is interested in you, they will contact you within 45 days of receiving your application. The application process itself can be a long one, taking anywhere from several months to a year to complete. You can go to the CIA website and look for job openings. When filling out the form, make sure you follow the directions precisely and to the letter.

The application process requirements for working with the CIA go like this:

  1. You must be 35 years of age or younger
  2. If married, your spouse must also be a U.S. citizene
  3. Applicants must not have used illegal drugs for the last twelve months
  4. All applicants are tested to determine their integrity standards
  5. If you are offered a potential job with the CIA you will have to undergo an intensive clearance process to determine loyalty to the United States,  strength of character, trustworthiness, honesty, reliability, potential for coercion, and ability to protect sensitive information
  6. You will also given a CIA-administered polygraph test

Spy Training

If you are lucky enough to get a job with the CIA, there is an intense and rigorous training period you will have to go through. Some positions will require a probabtionary period you will nee dto complete before you get the job. If you fail during this time, you don’t get the position that you may want. In fact, you may be placed in a position that the agency feels you are most qualified for which may not be the position you originally applied for.

Most training periods last for about six months and you may have to relocate during this time. Any moving fees and relocationcosts are the responibility of the applicant so don’t expect the CIA to foot the bill.

Most of the training for clandestine agents is top secret for obvious security reasons. But if you get a job in the CIA as a clandestine agent, this is a quick look at starting positions. You would probably start out as an Operations Desk Officer. This position is a desk job that puts you in contact with field agents and gives you some access to sensitive information. After a few years as an Operations Desk Officer, you may get promoted to a Collection Management Officer. This is a higher position that invovles the collection and evaluation of intelligence information that is gathered from the field.

It may take three or four years but if you prove adequate at your job, you will be offered a field position as a Clandestine Officer. This is where the real work (or fun) begins. It requires more training which will take place at the CIA facility known as “The Farm”. The program for field officers is called “Outward Bound with Guns.” Some of the things you can expect are:

  1. How to set up and conduct secret meetings
  2. How to determine if you’re being tailed
  3. Gathering information at parties and social events
  4. Proper use of equipment such as secure communications and short wave radios
  5. How to sweep a room for listening devices (known as de-bugging)
  6. Escape techniques
  7. Proper reporting to supervisors
  8. Prisoner training which involves a simulated jail sequence where the agent is captured and interrogated.

So while a job as a spy may not be as glamorous as the movies make it out to be, it can still be an exciting life. If employed in the CIA, you should be prepared to be away from your family for extended periods of time and to have to relocate every few years as the job takes you across the globe. Spies do not get unlimited amounts of cash and a cool sports car but they do make a decent salary plus bonuses and benefits.


  1. This article is an exact description of the spy film “The Recruit”. Is this a coincidence…..(I mean it is a spy film so they must have done some research so it would follow that the reference material used for the film should match what is stated in the article. Although Hollywood is known for their “truth tweaking”)

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