I am an unapologetic believer in our nation’s national security apparatus, and not just because I was a part of it as an officer in both the U.S. military and the Central Intelligence Agency. I also witnessed, firsthand, the dedication of those in the intelligence- and security-agency trenches, and saw them put their considerable skills to work on a daily basis to effectively combat America’s foes. I certainly do not claim that our national security establishment always gets everything right, or is free of mistakes—far from it. However, I assert that those professionals who work at the CIA, NSA, FBI, NGA, and the other security agencies, are dedicated in their purpose, and work tirelessly and effectively to serve the United States.

That all being said, working in the intelligence field, and specifically, for the CIA’s National Clandestine Service (NCS), is a kick-ass job, and a great way to serve your country. You will find little else as intellectually stimulating, challenging, and thrilling—on a regular and sustained basis—as a career in the NCS. You can make a direct and critical contribution to your nation’s security while simultaneously making money doing a job you would probably do for free if they let you. With that in mind, I offer below a list of five qualifications that will help you secure a job working for the NCS if you are so inclined.

First, I should define the National Clandestine Service: it was formerly called the Directorate of Operations (DO) within the CIA, differentiating it from the Directorates of Intelligence (DI), Science and Technology (DS&T), and Support (DS). The NCS is comprised of the CIA’s core collectors

and those that directly support collection. The former include operations officers (often called case officers) and collection management officers, while the latter include targeters, staff-operations officers, and other special-skills officers.