Americans love a good spy movie – but what’s it like to work in America’s real-life intelligence community? Let’s separate some truth from the Hollywood hype.

Fact or Fiction: The CIA is the super-agency in charge of all intelligence operations.

Fiction: The CIA is just one of seventeen agencies that make up the American intelligence community or “IC.” All seventeen operate under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, and other government entities together collect the information that lawmakers and military leaders need to keep America safe.

Fact or Fiction: You need to be trustworthy to work in the intelligence community.

Fact: America’s national security depends on a trustworthy and dependable intelligence community. Most intelligence professionals will need to go through the extensive vetting of the security clearance process. A recent criminal record, out-of-control-debt, or substance issues could cast doubt on whether someone is trustworthy enough to work in the IC. The good news? You don’t have to be an angel – if you can prove those bad decisions were in your past, an intelligence career can still be in your future.

Fact or Fiction: In order to work in the intelligence community, you have to speak many languages, know martial arts, and be a weapons expert.

Fiction: The intelligence community hires teachers, lawyers, accountants, engineers, graphic artists, plumbers, and every other profession you could imagine. Whatever your job experience, you can use your skills to serve America in the intelligence community.

And if you do have expertise in foreign language, weapons, or hand-to-hand combat, you could put those skills to use as an instructor, an analyst…or even an international super-spy.

Fact or Fiction: You can work in the intelligence community and have a regular personal life.

Fact: Some members of the IC may have to dash off to Dubai on a moment’s notice – but most have regular 9-5 jobs. They go to their kid’s baseball games, take trips to the beach, and clean out the garage on the weekend. They may not be able to tell their loved ones all the details about their work, but that’s common for many professions. IC pros get to protect the American Dream at work – then live the American Dream themselves.

Want to learn more about working in America’s intelligence community? Visit

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Caroline's 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.