- Starting salary: About $50,000 to $80,000*
With danger lurking around every corner, these masters of disguise and espionage fulfill every kid's fantasy of infiltrating the enemy to save the heroes.
But firstly, they're not spies -- they're called "operations officers," says CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz, and they specialize in collecting foreign intelligence "on a variety of critical areas, including international terrorism, weapons proliferation and nations that threaten the security of the American people and America's allies."
Operations officers hail from a wide array of backgrounds, but since the job often requires work overseas, having a knowledge of foreign languages, cultures and regions is a plus. Ebitz says candidates also must possess "sound judgment, impeccable integrity, strong interpersonal skills and an ability to communicate effectively" along with the ability to work in teams and think on their feet.
Ebitz says the organization seeks candidates with excellent academic credentials and "a record of achievement." Students can get their foot in the door by completing an undergrad internship, some positions of which are available in the agency's National Clandestine Service division. Opportunities for graduate students exist as well.
If you're not a student, there's still a chance to make it in. Candidates who have a bachelor's degree, significant business or military experience, and are under age 35 can apply for the Clandestine Service and Professional Trainee Program at CIA.gov.
*The salary range is for paramilitary operations officers.