In the UK, intelligence analysts and officers primarily work for the three main security agencies, MI6, MI5, and GCHQ. Job roles revolve around interpreting and assessing intelligence data to prevent organised crimes.
As an intelligence analyst, you will take an active role in protecting economic well-being and national security from drug trafficking, cybercrime, and terrorist attacks by acquiring, analysing, and assessing secret intelligence. Intelligence analysts are also required in the police and armed forces.
As an intelligence analyst, you will need to:
- Identify potential targets and create intelligence pictures by using human intelligence and signals intelligence.
- Utilise analytical techniques to interpret data.
- Collect and validate different sources of intelligence by evaluating the reliability and credibility of information.
- Understand the intelligence requirements of organisations and clients.
- Liaise with mathematicians, cryptanalysts, and linguists.
- Draft presentations, formal reports, and desk-level briefings for governmental
departments, such as the Ministry of Defence, the Home Office, The HMRC, and the FCDO.
- Comply with non-disclosure rules set by your employer.
- The starting salary of an intelligence analyst in the MI6, M15, and GCHQ is between £30,000 – £35,000, plus benefits.
- The average salary of an experienced intelligence analyst is £40,000 – £50,000 after 5 – 10 years in the service.
- Senior intelligence analysts or those with a specialised skillset in the UK can earn £60,000+; annual pay increases and performance bonuses aren’t uncommon.
Working hours can vary during times of crisis, but typically, an intelligence analyst working full-time can expect to work a 37-hour week. Flexible and part-time positions are also available for analysts willing to job share.
What to Expect
- On top of the generous annual salaries available, agencies also offer childcare benefits, pension schemes, performance bonuses and other perks, such as access to sports facilities.
- The field employs a diverse workforce; unlike other governmental job environments, the sector is not male-dominated.
- Candidates will need to relocate to where the main offices are located. The main headquarters for MI6 and MI5 are within central London, with regional offices in Northern Island. GCHQ has offices in Yorkshire, Cornwall, and Cheltenham.
- Intelligence analysts working for MI6 can expect to spend a considerable amount of time working overseas.
- Agency headquarters are the main employers of intelligence analysts new to the industry.
- Staff will be prohibited from visiting certain countries for leisure purposes and discussing work with friends and family. For analysts employed by MI6 and MI5, you will only be able to disclose who you are working for to your immediate family.
While you would expect the qualification requirements for intelligence analysts to be high, this isn’t always the case; intelligence agencies recruit from different ethnic and educational backgrounds to tackle the diverse threats posed to the UK internally and externally.
Degree requirements tend to vary between agencies; however, typically, agencies welcome graduates from any degree discipline. With that being said, technology or language skills may give you an advantage in the job market. Along with qualification requirements, nationality rules apply; you and at least one parent must hold British citizenship.
If you don’t hold an undergraduate degree, agencies may favour your application if you have work experience in intelligence environments, such as the police force, the armed forces, or civil service departments.
As an intelligence analyst, you will need:
- An analytical and naturally enquiring mind.
- The capacity for collaborative work and problem-solving.
- An aptitude for drafting detailed reports for high-level government officials.
- Attention to detail.
- The ability to prioritise and organise your caseload.
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
- A willingness and desire to become proficient in a variety of IT applications and systems.
- Confidence in your ability to utilise analytical and presentation tools.
- Initiative, focus, drive, and the willingness to adopt innovative techniques and technology.
- Work flexibly around changing requirements, unpredictable circumstances, and unexpected crises.
- Resilience and perseverance to help you create pictures of intelligence and complete projects.
- Powers of persuasion, especially when employed in a role that encompasses a lot of human intelligence work.
- Cultural empathy and sensitivity
Intelligence agencies differ significantly from most employers; during your first posting, which will last 18 months – 3 years, you will take on plenty of responsibility as your employer prepares you to work in specific areas, based on your competencies, skills and abilities that were identified during the recruitment process.
Moving forward, you can unlock further career paths every 2 – 3 years; regular and routine job rotation is highly encouraged. As you progress through your career, your career position could be enhanced by moving into team management, project management, policy drafting or finance roles.
Gaining intellectual stimulation, which comes from embracing new challenges, is actively encouraged within agencies; this could involve moving within teams, into new geographical regions or by being introduced to new analytical techniques.
In the UK, the main employers include:
- Government Communication Headquarters – The GCHQ actively gathers intelligence by intercepting communications to bolster national security or aid law enforcement and military operations. The GCHQ also advises the National Cyber Security Centre.
- MI5 – MI5 is the lead security service responsible for protecting the UK from national security threats. MI5 intelligence analysts primarily use technical and human resources to tackle domestic and international terrorism. Counter-espionage work and providing security to governmental organisations are also parts of MI5’s duties.
- MI6 – The Secret Intelligence Service collates foreign intelligence related to the UK’s interests in defence, national security, economic policy, and serious crime by utilising technical and human sources and liaising with foreign counterparts. Additionally, the service conducts overseas operations to support the UK’s governmental objectives and interests.
Other intelligence analyst roles are available in the National Crime Agency, the HMRC, the British Army, the Ministry of Defence, and the police force, which employs analysts to analyse patterns of criminal behaviour.
As data analytics is a fundamental part of the intelligence analyst job role, the MSc Information Technology with Data Analytics course, taught at the UWS London campus, is a valuable qualification for prospective intelligence analysts. During the course, you will learn how to analyse and interpret large volumes of data using state-of-the-art techniques and tools and be professionally set for life in an increasingly data-driven world. The course also teaches students how to identify patterns in data and hone their problem-solving skills.