Intelligence Degree And Intelligence Study Programs Are Beneficial For Students With Focused Career


While the intelligence field and the art of intelligence gathering have been around longer than nation states, there has been significant growth in strategic security- related curriculum such as intelligence degree programs and intelligence study courses over the past decade. In addition to the growing number of both online and traditional degree programs in this field, government agencies even have their own programs dedicated to intelligence study. Since September 11th, research indicates that over 250 strategic security’ related degree programs have been created. Scholars debate whether future intelligence analysts are best served by a traditional liberal arts program focused on area studies or a more direct program in intelligence study. I suggest, however, that intelligence study and organized intelligence degree programs fit a niche for specific individuals who already have a specific career goal in mind – intelligence analysis. This article discusses the curriculum and theory behind intelligence degree programs and provides some info on why such programs are useful. Anatomy of an Intelligence Degree Program

Intelligence degree programs and intelligence study courses fit within the growing body of strategic security curriculum in the United States and abroad. Strategic security can be defined as the multidisciplinary, global view of past, present, and future security issues that permits the timely accumulation of accurate, objective knowledge, which may be acted upon skillfully and rapidly in the deterrence of threats. Strategic security is the basis of fields such as intelligence, counterterrorism, and homeland security.

The overarching purpose of intelligence is to collect and analyze information that is relevant to ever-changing national security requirements. Intelligence degree programs and intelligence study programs help to ensure that the people and processes involved in these efforts are effective and germane. The U.S. Intelligence Community and related federal law enforcement agencies are in need of experts in analytic tradecraft – individuals who have a broad understanding of the many threats facing the U.S. from terrorists and other belligerent state and non-state actors.

Intelligence study and intelligence degree programs are typically designed to prepare students to understand the dynamic threats facing one’s country in an uncertain security environment. While some intelligence degree programs are topical or thematic in nature, such as those which focus specifically on terrorism, other programs focus on the analytics behind intelligence analysis, thus helping to develop students’ critical thinking skills. Such programs concentrate on one or more function within intelligence operations: collection, analysis, counterintelligence, and/or covert action. Well- rounded intelligence degree programs encompass the art and science of how intelligence professionals employ analytic and operational tradecraft to achieve their goals and objectives.

Intelligence Degree Program Value

Stephen Fowler, the Education Practices Chairmen of the International Association for Intelligence Education (IAFIE), in an essay on national security intelligence analysis courses discusses the increased growth of intelligence degree programs and the field of intelligence study. He questions whether these programs are truly preparing students to become intelligence analysts and whether such programs are better than traditional liberal arts programs that teach students to think. He suggests that good intelligence study programs include the following components: the development of problem-solving skills and sound reasoning strategies, some focus on an analytic framework such as a regional, country, or a functional-specific theme (terrorism), basic warning theories and indicator development, analytical tradecraft methodologies, and intelligence analytic writing and briefing techniques.

Strong intelligence degree programs will include these components and thus are a good option for bachelor’s or master’s degree students who know that a career in the intelligence field is right for them. Bottom line: intelligence degree programs are great for those individuals who know they are interested in a career in intelligence. By developing critical thinking skills and tradecraft through specific coursework and research within the intelligence field, students will be learning these skills through a medium which is relevant to their future job and will therefore be ready to hit the ground running in the intelligence field.

1 S Fowler, “What to teach in national security intelligence analysis courses,” International Association of Intelligence Education Newsletter; November, 2008.

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