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Off-the-beaten-path careers

Intelligence officer

If you think the federal government doesn't hire people to fill off-the-beaten path jobs, think again.

The U.S. intelligence community, which consists of 16 acknowledged civilian and military agencies, has long been glamorized by actors Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Jake Gyllenhaal, who portray the lives of stoic field operatives.

But what most people don't know is that organizations such as the Central Intelligence Agency -- possibly the best known of the 16 agencies -- also actively recruit personnel for roles beyond the National Clandestine Service for which the CIA is best known.

Well-paying jobs as language instructors, information technology specialists, cartographers and even graphic designers are available to qualified job seekers.

A recent survey of the agency's Web site revealed a job posting for an electronic publishing specialist, otherwise known as a desktop publisher, that pays between $45,639 and $79,248 to start. It requires only an associates degree and is based in the U.S.

"All of our directorates are hiring," says Marie E. Harf, a spokesperson with the CIA's Office of Public Affairs in Washington. "We're looking for a wide range of skill sets to fill positions with the agency."

Harf says people who work as intelligence officers come from diverse backgrounds and have unique skills, but all have the highest standards of character and are motivated by a desire to serve their country.

The lengthy application process can be a turnoff for some job seekers, since background checks can take a year or longer.

What they do: CIA agents essentially act as the eyes and ears of the president in collecting and analyzing information relating to national security. Officers serve both in the United States and abroad.

Pros: It is a meaningful and well-paying job with excellent job security. Those who leave government service to pursue civilian work have clout. Many government contractor jobs, for example, require civilian employees to obtain security clearance.

Cons: Competition for all positions is fierce. The application process is complicated, lengthy and includes taking a polygraph test. Relocation to the Washington, D.C. area is required for most support positions.

Education required: Bachelor's degrees are standard for most positions, and advanced degrees are highly sought after but not necessary for all positions. Some positions only require an associates degree or relevant training.

Salary range: Foreign language instructors earn $55,512 to $95,026, fitness specialists who train agency operatives earn $50,408 to $79,280 and graphic designers with interactive multimedia emphasis earn between $48,682 and $95,026, although the Agency says they can earn more depending on experience.

A job that's good for: People who are interested in federal service and who don't mind working within a rigid organization.

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