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(Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Melissa Marnell, USMC)

Regardless of the job, every person wants to feel like their work matters. People work for practical needs, but also because they want to be recognized and serve a purpose bigger than themselves. This is what makes the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) such a special place to work — you walk into work every day with a mission, and a mission that matters.

IDA Works for a Higher Purpose

IDA is a respected voice in America’s defense and intelligence communities. Founded in 1956, IDA has had over 60 years to develop its reputation for research, rigor, and results. And employees embrace that impact.

Dr. Rebecca Medlin, a research staff member of IDA’s Operational Evaluation Division, loves that her research has a practical purpose.

“I love coming to work at IDA because I know that the things that I work on and the reports that I help author actually have purpose,” said Medlin. “We’re evaluating weapons systems that Congress cares about so that when our men and women in the service get those weapons, we want to make sure that it’s going to keep them safe.”

IDA does more than help Americans on the battlefield. Their research influences policies that affect everyday Americans across the nation.

“I remember there was one project where the White House Office of Science and Technology policy asked us to look at hearing aid technology,” said Dr. Ian Simon, a research staff member in IDA’s Science and Technology Policy Institute. “And that translated into a memo that went to the President’s desk. Then that translated into new rule-making at the FDA. And that translated into what we hope in the next couple years will be a real breakthrough in bringing more technologies to market.”

Work Can Be Challenging Without Dominating the Rest of Our Lives

One of the top reasons people become dissatisfied with their careers is stagnation — there’s no room to learn, no room to advance. Few have the patience to do the same tasks day in and day out without the thrill of a new challenge. With a staff full of the nation’s most inquisitive and curious minds, no one at IDA is stuck “making widgets.” There is always room to join new projects and challenge yourself to learn something new.

“I’m a microbiologist, but when I first started, I was working on understanding how groundwater resource management was being conducted in the Southwest,” recalls Dr. Simon. “Something totally outside of my comfort zone, but very interesting, very challenging. But then you get to go home at the end of the day and kind of turn that off and have a home life, as well. We get to go home at a decent hour — 5 pm or 5:30 — just like normal folks.”

IDA Offers a Balanced life with Colleagues You Respect

At IDA’s main campus in Alexandria, employees not only get to contribute to challenging projects – they get to have fun, too. There are tennis courts where colleagues have informal matches before work. There is a gym with showers and locker rooms. There is also an on-site café.

But like any organization, the people make IDA a great place to work. Dr. Daniel Chiu, Division Director, Joint Advanced Warfighting Division, admits that such rigorous research attracts a special kind of person.

“We do have some social get-togethers and, where, because we’re all a little bit geeky, we wind up talking a lot about work and sometimes the best ideas come out of those,” said Chiu.

With experts in engineering, physics, economics and social sciences, and even the humanities, it’s no surprise that IDA’s staff is always curious and eager to learn new things.

Dr. Chiu’s experience has shown, however, that a good team is more than just having the right knowledge sets to meet the needs of their government sponsors. It’s about how co-workers interact.

“Making sure we have diverse members is the start, but making sure that they all work together is really the key,” said Chiu.

Interested in Institute for Defense Analyses? You can see IDA’s open positions here.

Caroline D'Agati is an Editor for ClearanceJobs based in Washington, D.C. Her background is in public policy, non-profit fundraising, and - oddly enough - park rangering. Though she once dreamed of serving America secretly in the CIA, she's grateful she's gotten to serve America publicly - both through the National Park Service and right here at ClearanceJobs. If you have tips or are interested in contributing to our site, you can email her at caroline.d'agati@clearancejobs.com

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