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Headquarters Based Trainee Program

Work Schedule: Full Time
Salary: 59,689 – $82,840
Location: Washington, DC metropolitan area

The Headquarters Based Trainee (HBT) Program is an entry-level program for Headquarters-based careers in the National Clandestine Service (NCS). HBTs have a minimum of a bachelor's degree, a strong academic record (minimum 3.0 GPA), and demonstrated interest in international affairs. Business and professional work experience is preferred. Candidates must also possess strong interpersonal and communications skills, and the ability to write and brief clearly and accurately. As with all NCS professional careers, the job responsibilities require absolute personal and professional integrity.

The HBT Program includes orientation, introductory field tradecraft training, and interim assignments in each of the described below career occupations (Staff Operations Officer and Specialized Skills – Targeting Officer). NCS management places an individual in one of these career tracks based on skills demonstrated during the training and interim phase and/or needs of the service.

When applying to a National Clandestine Service position, attach to the online application the following:

  • A one page cover letter describing why you are interested in an NCS career and what characteristics and experiences distinguish you from other applicants
  • College transcript(s)

Staff Operations Officer

Based out of CIA Headquarters in Washington, DC, Staff Operations Officers (SOOs) plan, guide and support intelligence collection operations, counterintelligence activities and covert action programs. SOOs develop expertise on a particular geographic region or transnational target (such as terrorism, counterintelligence, proliferation, or crime) and perform the Headquarters-based coordination and investigation that drives operations in the field. The role of CIA Headquarters is to provide strategic guidance, capabilities and resources to the field components pursuing tactical operations worldwide. The SOO is the interface between Headquarters and the field, and the SOO serves a critical role in translating executive guidance into operational action overseas. SOOs provide the 'big picture' in their guidance to field operations.

Clandestine operations require considerable operational, legal, budgetary and policy coordination, much of which is performed by SOOs at Headquarters. SOOs also play a role in obtaining policy and legal approvals for covert actions, which are directed by the President and require coordination with other government agencies. SOOs may be responsible for managing considerable budgets and resources for a range of covert action or other programs.

SOOs are the Clandestine Service's operational representatives to the Washington, DC national security community. CIA Headquarters is a team environment, and SOOs have the opportunity to work closely not only with other members of the Clandestine Service, but across the Agency Directorates. SOOs interact with the broad range of intelligence community agencies on operational matters and often work with their DIA, FBI, NSA and ODNI counterparts. SOOs may have the opportunity to brief Congress or the National Security Council at the White House, or attend meetings at the Pentagon.

SOOs must possess excellent communication skills, as they are often required to write nuanced operational guidance or brief complex developments, often at short notice. SOOs are also consummate networkers and problem solvers, reaching across the organization to overcome hurdles and enable operations. SOOs must be flexible, pay attention to detail and have ability to multi-task. SOOs that develop a subject matter expertise can pursue successive assignments on that particular issue. Alternatively, SOOs interested in management responsibilities can pursue leadership training and opportunities to manage headquarters-based elements.

Specialized Skills Officer - Targeting

The Targeting Officer is primarily based in the Washington, DC area with some opportunities for tours and short assignments overseas. In today’s fast-paced and technologically savvy world, targeting is critical to the success of the National Clandestine Service’s (NCS) global mission. Officers in this career track will directly support and drive complex worldwide NCS operations leading to the collection of actionable intelligence against the highest priority threats to U.S. security.

Targeting Officers are specialists who bring unique skills to the NCS necessary for enhanced exploitation of transnational issues and difficult target sets. SSO-T's develop in-depth, substantive expertise geared towards NCS operations. They research and analyze complex datasets, develop strategic overviews of targets, and generate leads to advance overseas operations. Effective SSO-Ts are inquisitive, investigative, and action-oriented. They must be able to synthesize large – often nonspecific – datasets and intelligence into a strategic picture and clearly and concisely convey it to non-expert audiences. They require strong organizational and communication skills (both verbal and written). Officers selected for this occupation will be trained and certified in the SSO-T career track and afforded opportunities to work in overseas operating environments if they are interested in doing so.


All applicants must successfully complete a thorough medical and psychological exam, a polygraph interview and an extensive background investigation. US citizenship is required.

To be considered suitable for Agency employment, applicants must generally not have used illegal drugs within the last twelve months. The issue of illegal drug use prior to twelve months ago is carefully evaluated during the medical and security processing.

Important Notice: Friends, family, individuals, or organizations may be interested to learn that you are an applicant for or an employee of the CIA. Their interest, however, may not be benign or in your best interest. You cannot control whom they would tell. We therefore ask you to exercise discretion and good judgment in disclosing your interest in a position with the Agency. You will receive further guidance on this topic as you proceed through your CIA employment processing.

To Apply:

Save the position(s) that interest you in the job cart. You can add up to four (4) positions. Job cart selections will only be retained during this site visit, so be sure to click “Apply Now” before closing the browser window. After clicking "Apply Now" you will be taken to the application account creation page. The positions will appear in the cart once you have created an account. DO NOT submit multiple applications; this will only slow the review of your application and delay processing. Please read the Application Instructions carefully before you begin the online application process.

Application Instructions

An equal opportunity employer and a drug-free work force.

Posted: Jun 10, 2010 11:23 AM
Last Updated: Mar 17, 2015 11:48 AM