Are You Clever Enough for an Intelligence Job?

With seven terrorist attacks thwarted in the UK in the last 6 months alone, it’s clear that the work of counterterrorism analysts is more essential for national security than ever before. If you’re fascinated by these positions (and have nerves of steel) — we’ll detail the characteristics you’ll need to make a good fit.

In their relentless work for agencies like as the FBI, CIA and GCHQ, counterterrorism analysts sort through and scrutinise data related to terror activity. Using this, they evaluate: levels of leadership in specific cells; motivations; and even predict future plots and attacks. These professionals play a key role in preventing terrorist atrocities as well as in influencing strategies for combatting these threats.


Mastermind intelligence, or a relevant degree.

To start your career as a counterterrorism analyst, you need either a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in a relevant area. Most senior positions require at least a graduate qualification. Degree areas that are preferred are those relating to international affairs (especially pertaining to the Middle East), political science, national security and counterterrorism. For more information on technology-focused specialisations, read our article here.

Tip: Our previous article on the best counterterrorism degrees available in the UK and USA is especially helpful in determining which course to select.


Hyper-acute analytical skills.

Counterterrorism analysts require incredibly strong and well-developed analytical prowess. Having this skill means that you’ll be able to effectively work through often complicated and conflicting information in order to glean both meaningful and useful intelligence information.

Tip: To develop your analytical skills, think about “training your brain.” Instead of merely solving puzzles, try creating a consistent logic for a new sort of puzzle. Read often and question the assumptions made in the work that you’re perusing. It’s all about refining your powers of observation and ability to have insight into data that you’re provided.


Lightening-fast problem-solving.

Working through large volumes of complex information can be time consuming — then again, the activities of terrorist groups are time-sensitive and subject to change. As a result of this, you should be able to analyse large quantities of data, establish links between groups and activities and decide upon a course of action to present to interested parties in a timely fashion.

Tip: Problem-solving skills can be honed in a number of ways. From solving crosswords to playing strategy games, ensuring that you’re stretching the limits of your thinking will prepare you well to think laterally about how to address difficult situations or challenges.


Expert communication skills.

Counterterrorism analysts often have to present their research, findings and ideas to ministers, military leaders and policy-makers. To do this effectively, you require strong communication skills and the ability to convey complex theories, ideas and conclusions in a cogent way. Doing this will ensure that these professionals are able to make well-informed decisions moving forward.

Tip: Practice public speaking — through classwork and assigned presentations — often. Take this aspect of your school or University life seriously, and utilise this as an opportunity to practice amongst your peer group.



Comic book junkies well-versed in the powers of superheroes will certainly know what this means. For those of you that don’t, omnilingualism is ability to speak and understand every language fluently. While intelligence agencies don’t expect you to be fluent in all estimated 6,500 languages on earth, proficiency in at least one foreign language is what will identify you as a candidate above the rest.

Tip: The languages that are most highly desired are: Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Urdu and other Middle Asian languages. Here are our recommendations for online language courses:

Rosetta Stone
London Busuu

Your turn: Do you think you have what it takes to be a counterterrorism analyst? Tell us! Or, do you think there are any other crucial superpowers we’ve missed?



Leave a Reply