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Consider the CIA for your Future Information Career

Last week, I spent two days in metro Washington, D.C. (in Reston) at the CIA (United States Central Intelligence Agency) learning about the Open Source Center (OSC. The OSC is an innovative unit of the CIA which houses the CIA library and also employs several of UMSI’s alumni. I was joined by faculty and staff from various universities around the United States including the University of Texas at Austin, North Carolina Central University, Ohio State University, Brown, Yale, Howard, the Monterey Institute for International Studies and the National Security Education Program.

On the first day, after battling DC traffic and being granted access to the Langley Headquarters, we received an overview of the OSC. The OSC is composed of three main professional types: Librarians, Geographers, and Open Source Officers also known as Foreign Media Analysts. I think that it’s important to state the the CIA’s definition of Open Source is different than that of what we commonly toss around SI (which would be referring to open source or free software and resources). Open Source at the CIA refers to public information, or “intelligence” that is used for gaining information on the activities going on in the world. The employees of the OSC review and evaluate everything from newspapers, journal articles, websites, international databases, and gray literature to blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook accounts, and other forms of internet content to maintain national security, advise the President, and inform various other intelligence agencies.

Whether or not you are currently interesting in working in the intelligence community of the United States, I think that it’s worthwhile to consider this agency as a viable employer. Both the librarian and Open Source Officer positions are ideal for those with Information degrees. You can read more about both positions at the following websites:

The librarians function in a environment that is much like a small academic library. They have positions in reference, technical operations, acquisitions, and training. However, both positions provide the opportunity to work in a cutting-edge environment, make a serious contribution to the world in the work that you do, experience a significant amount of responsibility from almost the day you start, participate in a widely varied set of job responsibilities both immediately and for the long-term, and also have the benefit of high salaries and job security. Also, if you have international experience or interests and language proficiency, which is a requirement for and Open Source Officer and highly preferred for the Librarian role, you will find a career at the CIA that highly values your commitment to perfecting this skill set.

Following the overview of the OSC, we received a tour of the library and then traveled to the Inter-Agency Training Facility, a space that houses the Open Source Academy. There, I learned about the wide range of courses that are offered to all federal and some state employees on how to do open source research and analysis. I was able to get a snap-shot of the information that employees are trained including a variety of research tools and source evaluation techniques in support of open source tradecraft. I must say, it was fascinating and wish that I could actually participate in the class as I think that the skills gained would be valuable and interesting to any information professional.

The CIA-OSC provided me with a core set of curricular preferences that I encourage future applicants to consider when making curricular choices. In order to be a competitive candidate, you should incorporate the following skills and abilities into your academic schedule:

--Media Studies: emerging media and traditional media sources, professional literature;
--Information Science: policy and legalities; information assurance, security and the Internet, library databases, etc;
--Geospatial Information: basic knowledge of geography, geospatial tools, and related analysis
--Language: listening and reading comprehension at the 300 level in at least one foreign language;
--Collection: identifying, monitoring, collecting, and evaluating information sources;
--Research: deep-dive data mining, Internet search tools, and database searching;
--Critical-Thinking and the Analytic Process: identify trends; assessing media environments; exploiting media, multimedia, etc; analytic writing, analytic methodologies and analytic tools; and critical thinking; and
--Writing, Presentation, and General Communication Skills.

Within SI, all specializations lend well to the skills required above. A few strategically selected cognates will round out the MSI to make any interested candidate a competitive choice for the Open Source Center.

I also want to point out that the CIA is making strong efforts to increase their diversity. They have several affinity groups that employees can be part of including the Agency Network for Gay and Lesbian Employees (ANGLE), the Asian Pacific American Organization, the Black Executive board, the Blacks in Government (BIG) UMOJA Chapter, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Advisory Committee, the Hispanic Advisory Council, the Native American Council, the Near East Affinity Group, the disability Advisory Panel, the United Greeks, and the DI Woman’s’ Council. I also learned that the CIA has a generous and competitive benefits package that supports same-sex couples and provides pet insurance!

The CIA recruits for 94 different professional positions. Beyond the ones that I’ve highlighted above, if you are an MSI, Doctoral student of Information, or an Informatics student, I also recommend that you consider the following positions as career and internship options as the information degree sets one up for success in a variety of different career options beyond that of the Open Source Center. Although just about any specialization would fit for these positions, I am going to add specializations that I think would be better fits for some:

Intelligence Collection Analyst (LIS, IPOL)
Analytic Methodologist (ICD)
Core Collector - Clandestine Service and Professional Trainee Programs
Graphic Designer - Interactive Multimedia Emphasis (HCI)
Multimedia Specialist (HCI)
Knowledge and Information Management Officer - Developmental and Full Performance (LIS, ARM, IAR)
Information Review and Release Officer - Developmental and Full Performance (LIS, IPOL)
Applications Developer
Information Systems Security Officer (IPOL, IAR)

You can also check out Student or Internship opportunities at https://www.cia.gov/careers/student-opportunities/index.html. Note that internship deadlines are early (i.e October), so plan accordingly.

Posted by kkowatch at June 14, 2010 04:18 PM


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