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Intelligence Analysis Frequently Asked Questions


 What kind of student succeeds in the IA program?

Successful students in the major often have broad interests in a wide variety of fields, are curious about all sorts of issues and problems, and enjoy learning and applying new technologies to understand them. Students who do well enjoy aspects of research, reading, thinking, writing, and speaking, methods, and/or technology. They find their passion, study what they are interested in, and put in the effort.

 Who can declare Intelligence Analysis as their major and when should they do so? How long does it take to complete?

Anyone accepted to JMU can declare IA as their major, and take the IA150: Introduction to Intelligence Analysis course during the fall semester of their freshman year. For transfer students and those who change majors, the IA150 course can also be taken fall semester sophomore year, along with the other three required IA courses (IA200, IA240, IA261). Because the IA degree is structured in cohort-like fashion, with all students in each year taking the same set of courses, it requires at least 3 years.

 What courses are required for the major, and when are students expected to take them?

The IA degree is a three or four-year program (approx 74 credit hours, including the required minor) designed to prepare students to be analysts upon graduation. Students complete the IA curriculum as a cohort, taking courses that are required each semester to complete the degree. The IA courses fall into 5 categories: (1) three courses about intelligence analysis, (2) three courses providing skills for how to do intelligence analysis, (3) two courses that provide introductions to domains where intelligence analysis is done, (4) four courses on cognitive methods, (5) and four courses on technology. See the complete listing of all core and elective courses and sequencing.

 Given that a minor (or double-major) is required, which ones would you recommend?

The choice of minor should be a reflection of your interests. If you like technology, options include Computer Science (for cyber intelligence analysis), Geographic Science (for geospatial intelligence analysis), and so on. If you like law enforcement, then consider criminal justice. If you like private sector, consider a minor in the College of Business. If you like national security, consider a range of options (political science, area studies, language, psychology, economics, anthropology, etc). See the complete list of minors.

 Can all students who declare IA continue through to graduation?

Because the IA major is popular, demand for the major exceeds the number of spaces available.  As a result, continuation in the major is competitive after the fall semester sophomore year. Specifically, the requirements are as follows:

  • First, a grade of C or higher in the IA150: Introduction to Intelligence Analysis course.
  • Second, a grade of C or higher for the three fall semester sophomore courses (IA200, IA240, and IA261).

The current cap on the IA program is 58 students in each cohort. If more than 58 students receive a C or higher in these four courses, then the top 58 students (based on average grades in the three fall semester sophomore courses) will be able to continue in the IA program. This makes continuation in the major competitive. Approximately 75-100 students compete for these 58 spots each year. 

 Are internships and study abroad encouraged?

Yes. Both can be valuable educationally and professionally. Internships are encouraged as soon as possible, with many companies and government organizations to choose from. Approximately 25% of the IA students receive a security clearance as a byproduct of their internship.

 How does the IA program address security clearances?

Security clearances occur independently from the IA program. You can complete the IA degree and get a good job without a security clearance. But if you want a job for the government or a contractor in the intelligence or national security sector, you will need to be clearable. A security clearance is a determination made by the federal government that you are trustworthy enough to keep the US government’s secrets. Clearances are done as a part of an internship or job. The organization “sponsors” you for the clearance by paying for the clearance review process. Depending on the clearance level, it could entail: a criminal records check, a background investigation, and/or a counterintelligence or lifestyle polygraph. In general, the guidance for getting a security clearance is to try to avoid illegal activities, but there are other important considerations as well (US citizenship, emotional and financial stability, etc). More details are available in the Adjudicator’s Desk Reference regarding security clearances, what government background investigators look for and why.

 In terms of IA program outcomes, what happens to the students after they graduate? What is historical job placement for students who graduate with the Intelligence Analysis degree?

All IA graduates receive solid liberal arts and sciences education with an emphasis on the fundamentals (research, reading, thinking, writing, and speaking) and some subject matter knowledge from their minor or double major. Most graduates get jobs as analysts, with about half in the national security sector. Some graduates get jobs as intelligence analysts (NSA, FBI, DHS, NGA, etc). Some specific employers who have hired our graduates recently include Accenture Federal, Booz Allen Hamilton, Capital One, Deloitte Consulting, Local Police Departments, Northrop Grumman Corporation, US Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps), the US Department of Defense (NGA, DIA), and the US Department of Justice (FBI). See the full list of job placement for 2018 and 2017 graduates.

 Where do I go for additional information?

Email Dr. Stephen Marrin, IA Program Director at marrinsp@jmu.edu or Kimberly Robinson, IA Academic Advisor at robinsks@jmu.edu

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