In today’s environment, intelligence analysts must be on the cutting edge of technology and equipped with only the best analytical tools. Intelligence gathering and analysis has changed considerably over the past few decades with technological advancement. Furthermore, globalization has completely changed the political environment as countries are much more interconnected from both a political and economic standpoint.
As made evident by the recent political upheaval in countries throughout the Middle East – from Tunisia and Egypt, to Libya – what happens in one particular country can have a dramatic impact on what happens in neighboring states, as well as throughout the rest of the world. The United States has a constant need for additional intelligence analysts and these analysts would be well-served to attain intelligence degrees that are enhanced by additional coursework in related areas, such as counterterrorism. This essay provides an overview of intelligence degrees and the importance of adding related coursework, such as counterterrorism courses.
Overview of intelligence degrees
There has been a rise in universities offering intelligence degrees over the past few decades. Originally, those students interested in studying intelligence had to major in political science, international affairs, or government in order to be exposed to courses on intelligence. Even then, many of these courses were strictly historical in nature and provided more of an overview of U.S. intelligence throughout history. Those students who desired to work for an intelligence agency such as the CIA or NSA often majored in either area studies or a language in order to gather the requisite skill set and knowledge base necessary for an analyst career.
Over the past few decades, however, universities and other learning institutions recognized the need for programs devoted specifically to national and international security. These programs were developed to teach students not only the historical and theoretical underpinnings of intelligence and security -related matters, but also to provide students with the analytical and tradecraft skills necessary to hit the ground running once they are employed by an intelligence agency or other government/private sector employment. With the response to the terrorist attacks on September 11th and the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, many of these programs were named “Homeland Security.”
Importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to intelligence degree programs
Today, those seeking intelligence degrees can take a wide variety of courses. These courses include themes such as intelligence collection, introduction to analysis, open source research, history of intelligence, courses on critical thinking and logic, and even more technical courses such as technical surveillance and infiltration techniques. In addition to these fundamental courses, though, students will benefit by taking courses that also provide some expertise in a related area. One such example is counterterrorism courses. Many intelligence jobs within the Intelligence Community focus specifically on one area, such as counterterrorism analysis. Individuals who are interested in such a specific intelligence career field would place themselves at an advantage by additionally taking counterterrorism courses. These courses can include subjects ranging from terrorist techniques, threat assessment, WMD terrorism, and cyber terrorism, to the psychology of violence and religious extremism.
Intelligence programs have changed significantly over the past few decades. While it is important for future analysts to learn the fundamentals of intelligence analysis and gathering, those who are interested in a specific area, whether that is counterterrorism, counterintelligence, or a specific area such as the Middle East or Southeast Asia, would also benefit by taking coursework which speaks to these specific areas.