How to Become a Human Intelligence Officer: A Step Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 9 November 2022 | Published 6 December 2021

Updated 9 November 2022

Published 6 December 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A human intelligence officer is significant to the country's defence system. These professionals use humans to obtain intelligence by collecting and analysing data. Understanding how to become an intelligence officer can help you find your passion in the intelligence industry. In this article, we discuss how to become a human intelligence officer and explore their relevant skills and responsibilities.

Related: How to Find Your Passion

How to become a human intelligence officer

If you're interested in this field, learning how to become a human intelligence officer could help you choose a career pathway. One of the popular avenues to become an intelligence officer is to complete a Master's degree in intelligence. You can also typically find roles within the Department of Defence or the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). These government agencies might have pathways that can lead you to specialist roles as an intelligence officer or analyst. Below you can find a step-by-step guide on becoming a human intelligence officer:

1. Complete a Bachelor's degree

The minimum requirement for becoming a human intelligence officer is usually a Bachelor in areas such as intelligence or other similar field, such as criminology or security. Agencies such as ASIO provide a 12-month traineeship that may lead to a specialist intelligence role. Completing a Bachelor in an area such as intelligence is usually the minimum requirement for applying to the ASIO traineeship.

A Bachelor's degree in an area such as intelligence typically involves practical and theoretical units of study. Researching data, applying logical reasoning and studying human behaviour are a few activities that you can expect to cover while studying for such a Bachelor degree. You can study for a Bachelor degree at a university and generally expect the qualification to take three years to complete.

2. Complete a Master's degree

A Master's degree in an area of intelligence is a popular pathway that may be available to you. The role of a human intelligence officer is a specialist career within the intelligence industry. Completing, for example, a Master of Intelligence can typically provide you with the skills and knowledge to become a professional human intelligence officer.

Master's degrees in the area of intelligence typically take one and half to two years of full-time postgraduate studies. Master's degrees commonly include practical work experience and advanced theoretical studies. Completing a Master's degree in a similar field, such as criminology and security, can often have transferable skills to help you find a career in intelligence.

3. Consider the ADFA pathway

Human intelligence officers may work in the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) typically teaches you leadership skills combined with military training and studies related to your chosen degree. If you complete the ADFA program, you can gain a Bachelor's degree in intelligence and a career within the ADF.

Completing a degree at ADFA usually takes three years. There are no university fees, and you're paid a salary while studying. Once you complete your ADFA studies, you gain a service obligation. This obligation usually requires you to serve in the defence force for several years. The duration can vary depending on which degree you choose to study.

Related: How to Become an Army Officer in 10 Steps (With Skills List)

4. Apply for a human intelligence officer role

Once you have your Master's degree in an area of intelligence, you may have the skills and knowledge to carry out the duties of a professional human intelligence officer. As well as the intelligence roles found within government agencies, there may also be private clients that are seeking intelligence officers. You can search for careers as an intelligence officer using the Indeed Job Board.

When applying for the role of a human intelligence officer, you may want to consider updating your resume to ensure it's clear, informative and well-presented. Your potential future employer may seek an intelligence officer that displays dedication and commitment to their field. So, it's usually important to include relevant qualifications and work experience within your resume.

What does a human intelligence officer do?

Human intelligence officers reference and collect data on human behaviour to help private and government agencies form policies and plan human resources. Intelligence officers often work side-by-side with law enforcement and military operations. The primary function of human intelligence officers is to collect and analyse data on behavioural patterns and human motives. Interviewing community members or studying past research papers are some of the usual tasks of an intelligence officer.

The typical responsibilities and duties of a human intelligence officer may include:

  • gathering research and analysing data

  • applying logical reasoning and critical thinking to complex issues

  • working alongside law enforcement and the criminal justice system

  • working with the military to help with anti-terrorism and national defence

  • writing and producing research papers

  • advising organisations based on extensive research

  • helping to reform and create political policies

  • studying classified and unclassified documentation

  • conducting interviews with members of the community

  • overseeing psychological operations

  • assisting intelligence analysts

  • conducting intelligence operations

Relevant skills of a human intelligence officer

Human intelligence officers can benefit from a wide range of skills. Through the completion of a Master's degree, intelligence officers usually gain vital skills in researching, writing and methodology. Human intelligence officers can also benefit from soft skills, which are essentially personality traits or habitual behaviours. Below you can find some of the skills that might help a human intelligence officer carry out their duties:

Communication

Human intelligence officers often cross-reference and share data with other organisations. Being able to communicate well can ensure that the information and data are correct and accurate. Gathering human intelligence can often involve interviews with the community, which also requires good communication skills. Practising good communication habits, such as active listening, can help to improve your communication.

Adaptability

Working as an intelligence officer may involve research in a wide variety of fields, such as terrorism, criminal behaviour and national defence. Adapting critical thinking to each area of study can be important when providing accurate intelligence. Having new experiences, making mistakes and learning from others can take you out of your comfort zone and improve your adaptability.

Related: How to Practise Adaptability in the Workplace

Teamwork

Intelligence officers usually work alongside law enforcement and military personnel. Being able to work effectively in a team can be crucial when trying to accomplish tasks efficiently. A productive team environment can also allow for innovative and diverse ideas. Participating in team sports and developing your communication skills can help to improve your teamwork skills.

Language

Speaking another language is not usually a requirement for becoming an intelligence officer, but it can help you specialise. If you find work with ASIO, you may be researching topics such as national security. Data and research collected on foreign threats may be in a different language and require translation. You can usually study languages at universities, secondary school and through private tutoring.

Technical writing

Intelligence officers often prepare and publish research articles. When producing potentially useful documents to form political policies, knowledge of technical writing can be beneficial. Information relating to human behaviour can sometimes be open to misinterpretation, so it's vital to convey research findings with clarity and accuracy. You can usually improve and learn technical writing skills by undertaking an educational course or skill workshop.

Frequently asked questions

Below you can find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about a career as an intelligence officer:

How much does a human intelligence officer earn?

The average national salary of a human intelligence officer is $106,332 per year. Intelligence officers can have a wide range of specialisations with varying incomes. For example, the average national salary of an intelligence specialist is $114,746 per year. Completing more qualifications and gaining extensive work experience may improve your yearly salary.

Human intelligence officer vs intelligence analyst?

Officers and analysts have some similarities. The main difference is that intelligence officers focus on human behaviour, social habits and motives. They usually conduct interviews with the community and develop research papers outlining specific behavioural habits in society. Intelligence analysts share some of the same responsibilities. However, their role is usually purely analytical and focuses on patterns and discrepancies within data.

Is intelligence a good industry to work in?

Human intelligence officers can have varying roles within the intelligence industry. The best intelligence career for you can depend on your skills, qualifications, interest and motivations. Intelligence officers may choose a military career where there is potential for operational deployment.

Serving in the military can require specific skills like discipline, fitness and awareness. If you possess these skills, then a career within the Australian Defence Force may be ideal for you. If you have excellent analytical skills but do not wish to serve in the military, then an intelligence officer role for ASIO may be a better choice.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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