The following is a list of some of the frequently asked questions regarding the Strategic Intelligence major, answered by our program director, Dr. Gordon Middleton. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For a more complete list of contact information and resources regarding PHC, see our contact page.
- What can I do to help me prepare for a career in intelligence?
First, get a security clearance. If the intelligence business is of interest, one near term thing you could pursue that would be a tremendous help is to get a security clearance. If there are opportunities for any of your current activities to get you some kind of clearance (the higher the better), you should make that a priority. I encourage you to be as creative and persistent as you need to be. Network with family members, friends of friends, anyone you know that can get you into an internship (paying or non-paying) or part-time work that will get you at least a SECRET security clearance. Higher levels of clearance are even better (e.g., TOP SECRET/SCI).
Having a security clearance opens many doors in the intelligence business. With the very hot government intel market here in the greater Washington, D.C. area, having a security clearance just about guarantees you a pretty well-paying job upon graduation and some degree of flexibility in deciding which work you accept. Even prior to graduation, having a security clearance can open some very exciting opportunities for intern and part-time work with Government organizations.
Second, get good grades. Due to the requirement for at least a 3.0 grade point average for acceptance to the SI Program, ensure you do well in your other PHC classes. A number of SI students began their PHC experience via the on-line course offerings and taking some courses in advance can also keep your semester course load at a level that may assist you in maintaining the required grade point average. There are rewards for remaining in and doing well in the SI Program, so don’t let down once you are accepted.
Third, pick a geographic region or intel-related topic of interest and learn as much as you can on it. During all of your studies (core, major, SI, special projects, internships, language study, etc.), use them to develop your expertise on something in which you are genuinely interested. This will help you develop a portfolio of projects and writing by the time you graduate. This also gets you into the pattern of in-depth study you will need to foster during your professional intelligence career.
Fourth, complete at least one language study immersion program. Language study is an important part of regional and topical expertise. It is also a critical part of many intelligence careers. In-country immersion programs are recommended above programs in the U.S., due to the broader cultural and travel dimensions of the experience.
Fifth, plan to participate in the PHC Border Security Alert Project. The Border Security Alert (BSA) is a weekly collection of abstracted unclassified news items relating to national security issues on the northern and southern borders of the U.S. and is produced by the Intelligence Analysis Center at PHC. The BSA Weekly Report highlights incidents involving security breaches, weapons and drug trafficking, and illegal immigration in an attempt to identify developing trends and locate vulnerable areas. The BSA Weekly Report is posted on INTELINK/OSIS and emailed to growing list of government and industry consumers. For most SI students, this will be their first opportunity to produce a real intelligence product for real intelligence consumers.
Sixth, participate in the debate and moot court activities at PHC. The ability to do in-depth research and to be able to verbally present convincing arguments for a point of view are skills of great importance in intelligence business. PHC has outstanding opportunities in this area that all students interested in careers in intelligence should use to develop their skills in these areas.
- As someone interested in the Strategic Intelligence Program, what should I be doing regarding intelligence related internships?
First, plan to get a security clearance. (See Q&A #1) Target an organization that can get you a security clearance. Even if they don’t guarantee you a clearance in your initial internship, identify organizations that do classified work and could get you a clearance on your second internship with them. If their initial experience with you is good, they can start the paperwork during or at the completion of your first internship so that your clearance is available when you come back for a second internship, six months or a year later. This also places a premium on making a very positive impression during your initial work performance so they want you to come back. This also helps open the door for other PHC SI students, too.
Second, start early. Some internships require as much as a year’s advance paperwork (e.g., at the FBI). As with getting in the door to obtain a security clearance, you should network with family and friends, politicians, etc. to identify options for getting real work experience. This takes time, so beginning to work on identifying options and submitting paperwork, even during your Freshman year, is not too early.
Third, develop your own network of professional intelligence contacts. In addition to family, friends, and politicians, include discussions with other PHC SI students who have had successful internships and include SI Alumni. The recommendation of another PHC SI student can be a very effective way to get you in the door. Start to grow your own intelligence network, now! PHC is working on developing some institutional relationships that may open some additional opportunities, but your own contacts will almost always provide the most personal touch.
- What language should I study or which languages are of most interest to the Intelligence Community?
The languages at the top of the list from an intelligence standpoint are Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin/Beijing), Farsi, Korean, Pashto, and Russian.
Other languages are of interest, but their priority is more likely to fluctuate compared to this list. Other languages of interest include French, Spanish, German, Turkish, Hebrew, Japanese, Bahasa/Malay, Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Hindustani, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtu, and Urdu.
The more important point is that as you pick a geographic region or intel-related topic of interest, language and cultural studies should be an integral part of in-depth learning on these topics. In most cases, the language you study should be a supportive element, rather than the driver. The exception may be in cases where a student has learned a foreign language in the home and may approach native-speaker status, as this level is very difficult to obtain other than through extended study and travel.
- For what type of intelligence careers will the PHC SI Program provide me the most preparation?
Careers in intelligence analysis are the focus of the PHC SI Program. This is due to the close association of intelligence analysis with the policy community in the U.S. Government. The relationship between the policy community and the analytic portion of the Intelligence Community provides the natural affinity of the SI Program with the overall mission of Patrick Henry College.
The SI Program provides prepares students for entry into all aspects of the intelligence profession, because it provides an overview of the national security intelligence function, including support to military operations, counter-intelligence, foreign military capabilities, law enforcement, and homeland security, and helps students understand the central role analysis plays within all the various intelligence mission areas. Our program includes relatively little on business intelligence.
- Should I consider going into the military?
We have several PHC SI students that are on that track. We usually have at least one graduating senior that is going into military intelligence work.
The military has a lot to offer, but as with most employers it really comes down to what you want to do and how that that matches or not the environment and what they offer. I spent 28 years in the Air Force, so I am a little biased! You also need to be much in prayer and get a sense of the Lord's direction and timing for your life.
PHC does not have an ROTC program but does cooperate with the ROTC program at George Mason University.
- Why is there a 3.0 GPA requirement for the SI Program?
Many agencies in the IC will not hire those with a GPA lower than a 3.0 and this is one of the major reasons for this criteria. It also provides an emphasis on the seriousness of the program and underscores that the entire experience at PHC is important to a leadership future in the intelligence profession--not just the SI courses. Especially for incoming freshman, it is very important to not get behind the curve with their studies during the first year. Trying to pull up a 2.0 GPA from the freshman year is not an easy thing to do and may delay entry to the SI Program to a point that it may not even be feasible to complete the program in four years at PHC.
- When should I begin taking classes in the SI Program?
SI classes should begin in earnest starting in your sophomore year, to include INT303 History of American Intelligence. INT303 is the introductory class for the SI Program. Some students have even found it beneficial to begin SI Special Project involvement (INT460) during the summer prior to their sophomore year. There is also the opportunity to take the INT460 SI Introduction Special Project during the Spring of your freshman year to gain further insight into the SI Program and whether it is the right match for your aspirations and calling.
- Should I have a LinkedIn account? Would having an account hurt my chances of getting a good job in the IC?
First, it may be good for you to secure your LinkedIn account, register for your name, but then put very, very little information up, as Colonel Middleton has done with his two publicly searchable LinkedIn accounts (here and here). That way someone else cannot pose as you.
However, you should not put Strategic Intelligence anywhere on your profile or SI Special Projects or anything that would directly connect you with intelligence or intlligence organizations on your profile at this point in your career.
Many PHC SI grads do have LinkedIn accounts, (see Rachel Thompson, Alan Carrillo, Isaiah McPeak). However, none of those graduates work in current, "real" intelligence for recognized intelligence organizations (e.g., CIA, FBI, or DIA). Some do business intelligence, or work for the DHS which is not as sensitive as other more traditional intelligence organizations.
You do not require a LinkedIn account to be successful in networking. Approaches using email, phone, and in person are more discreet. And most importantly, these more personal approaches cannot be tracked in 2 minutes on Google.
In conclusion, is it worth it to maintain an active LinkedIn presence? Well, that depends on what you want to do. If you desire to do private sector business intelligence or more domestic law enforcement, it may be worthwhile to have a good, complete LinkedIn presence.
It is far more worthwhile to get to know the SI students on campus, SI alumni, as well as those professionals who talk to PHC classes and occasionally speak at special events rather than to be overly informative to anyone who wants to do a Google search. LinkedIn and other social media sites are well known to foreign intelligence organizations, so don’t advertise yourself as a future intelligence officer! This will very likely harm your chances for opportunities in US intelligence – and make you a target of foreign intelligence organizations.
- What credentials does one need to be qualified in your field of study?
Our SI Program is designed for each of our undergraduate students to achieve the following by their graduation from PHC:
- Have a body of research, analysis, and writing about a national security topic that reveals an in-depth level of understanding of the topic.
- Have experience working on a team of analysts at the junior analyst level and in leadership roles.
- Have some experience working in the intelligence, law enforcement, or national security environment - as in internships.
- Have a security clearance, typically as a result of the internship work experience.
- What type of writing do you have to complete on a day-to-day basis?
Intelligence analysts may write in a variety of styles (bullet points; summary narrative; short or long analysis articles) and on a variety of topics (current events; trends; long-term analysis; leadership profiles). The writing that any individual analyst may do is largely a function of the organization they are in and its mission, and their role in the organization.
- What is your preferred style of writing?
I personally tend to prefer longer, more in-depth and strategic analytic activities, but that also reflects the type of positions I’ve held in the profession.
- As someone who is interested in the strategic intelligence field, what is the best way to prepare myself in the area of writing?
Some resources are identified below. Get to know the intelligence 'language' as well. I would also recommend voluminous reading - on almost any subject in which you are interested - and on a broad range of international and technology developments. Read deeply AND broadly!