Best major for intelligence career?

Discussion in 'Military Academy - USMA' started by lstoner7, Dec 20, 2017.

  1. lstoner7

    lstoner7 Member

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    Hello, if appointed to West Point, my original intentions were to major in chemical or nuclear engineering, as I enjoy physics and chemistry. But, I recently reflected more on what I'd like to do most within the military, and not as much on my civilian career. I came to the realization that I would love to work in military intelligence, and thought international relations would be a more appropriate major in preparation for an intelligence career. I do also have a strong passion for politics, history, and debate, so I know I would enjoy the major as much as, if not more, than an engineering major. I guess my question is: Is international relations a good major to prepare for a career in intelligence, and if I wanted to work for the DoD, FBI, CIA, or State Department after active duty service, would I be able to land a job in one of those agencies or departments? Help and info from anyone with experience regarding the international relations program or intelligence branch would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks
     
  2. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ 10-Year Member

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    Take a look at this thread.
    Best degree for career
    https://www.serviceacademyforums.com/index.php?threads/Best-degree-for-career.58828/
     
  3. Tex232

    Tex232 Member

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    I’m active duty Air Force, not Army, but I know a few folks that are/have been in the intelligence career field in the Air Force, and I would venture to guess AF intelligence is not too far off from Army MI. As far as degrees paths, it honestly probably doesn’t matter what you study should you become an intelligence officer. The AF intelligence community is mostly made up of non-technical majors (i.e. criminal justice, poly sci, etc.). You’d probably find a similar climate in MI. However the career field is so varied that you’ll be likely to find a miriad of majors in the field.

    But keep in mind if you apply and are accepted to West Point, you’ll be more or less expected to pursue an engineering degree, that’s just the nature of attending a service academy.
     
  4. BSCAR

    BSCAR Member

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    That is false.

    https://www.usma.edu/curriculum/SitePages/Home.aspx
     
  5. MidwestDad

    MidwestDad Member

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    You will get a heavy STEM load first 2 years no matter what major you declare.
     
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  6. Oscar Whiskey

    Oscar Whiskey Member

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    Go with the degree you have a passion and aptitude for. In my 20+ years in intelligence I can tell you engineers are very well utilized and regarded.
     
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  7. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ 10-Year Member

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    Of the USNA mids we have sponsored over the years, of the 7 who have gone on to ABC agency careers after 5-7 years of service, none majored in anything that screamed intel or clandestine ops, nor did any one of them think about that career path while a mid. Their performance as JOs, with a solid BS degree, laid the foundation. I still joke with the Physics major who was sure he was going to end up as a university professor doing research after his AD time — when he checks in from parts unknown doing stuff he never talks about.
     
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  8. jl123

    jl123 Member

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    Unlike Cyber Corps and Medical Services Corps, there are no academic prerequisites to branch Military Intelligence from USMA. Your ability to get MI will be determined strictly by your rank on the Order of Merit List. If your OML rank is not high enough, you can still get MI by agreeing to three extra years of active duty service obligation.

    You can study whatever you like. Any subject matter you need to perform the job will be taught at the officer basic course after graduation from USMA. However, as you can see from the following list of Military Intelligence specializations, your choice of major may give you a head start depending on which specialization you enter. USMA has an excellent branch orientation program which will provide you with the information needed to help choose your major and branch.

    Military Intelligence Officers specialize in these specific areas:

    Imagery Intelligence: Collection and analysis of imagery using photogrammetry and terrain analysis.

    All-Source Intelligence: Performs collection management/surveillance/reconnaissance and provides advice.

    Counterintelligence: Provides coordination and participation in counterintelligence investigations, operations and production.

    Human intelligence: Controlled collection operations and interviews.

    Signals intelligence/electronic warfare: Collects signal intelligence and engages in electronic warfare.

    All-source intelligence aviator: Performs duties as an aviator/MI officer and participates in special electronic mission aircraft missions.
     
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  9. jl123

    jl123 Member

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    Even if you major in International Relations you will still be required to take a 3 course engineering sequence in your 3rd and 4th year in addition to the first 2 years of heavy STEM load.
     
  10. lstoner7

    lstoner7 Member

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    Thank you for the information. Obviously I don't have to make this decision now, and I may never have to make it, but do you think it would be a good move to declare for international relations first? Then, because I'm already required to take so many STEM courses, it would be much easier to switch to an engineering major after my first year if I find I enjoy those courses more, no? I feel it would be difficult to switch to international relations after specializing in engineering for 2-3 semesters. Thanks again
     
  11. lstoner7

    lstoner7 Member

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    Thanks to everyone for your responses. From what I've gathered, it may not be a bad idea to just major in an engineering field, and let my experience in the intelligence branch do the talking if I ever decide to try to get a job with the DoD, CIA, etc. Let me know if you think this a good way of looking at it, thanks.
     
  12. jl123

    jl123 Member

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    That question is more complicated than it might at first seem and I could not give you a good answer. The average cadet takes the first course in their major during the fourth semester. It is possible to change majors, but when and to what major is dependent on individual circumstances.

    The limiting factor in changing majors is being able to fit the major courses into the schedule in the four years you are at USMA. You can't choose to stay an extra semester. Each major requires about 10 - 12 courses in the major in addition to the core curriculum. The fact that there are a lot of STEM courses in the first two years doesn't matter. There are also a lot of non-STEM courses.

    Unlike most civilian colleges, USMA curriculum is not nearly as flexible due to the required number of core courses. You can gain flexibility in changing majors by validating courses or overloading. But those are individual decisions and not suited for all students.
     
  13. lstoner7

    lstoner7 Member

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    Understood. As I said, this isn't a decision that needs to be made now. If admitted, I will speak with a guidance counselor to discuss my options. Thanks again for your help.
     
  14. Tex232

    Tex232 Member

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    Perhaps “expected” was not the correct word, but it’s a well known fact that applicants of any service academy are highly encouraged to pursue a technical area of study. As pointed out in the other replies, all cadets take a few courses in a STEM area no matter what their declared major is.
     
  15. billyb

    billyb 5-Year Member

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    Unless something has really changed at USMA, this is totally false. While many of my buddies were engineering majors, I had many that were English, History and BS&L majors too. I never felt any pressure at all to major in any specific area.
     
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  16. jl123

    jl123 Member

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    Same here. I have never seen pressure to pursue a technical major at USMA and those who majored in non-technical areas were never looked at as "getting over". There is plenty of STEM coursework in the core curriculum for everyone.

    My understanding is that USNA classifies majors according to their STEM content and does require a high percentage of technical majors that are referred to as "gut" majors.
     
  17. AirsoftRanger

    AirsoftRanger Member

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    Routinely, upperclassmen at our NROTC unit were given a personal interview with Admiral Rickover. After that meeting, every EE and ME was, surprisingly, a NUCLEAR engineer!!
     
  18. UHBlackhawk

    UHBlackhawk Member

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    When my brothers went to Canoe U midshipmen had to walk a fine line with their academics. Do well enough to get flight school, but not so well that you caught the attention of Rickover.
     
  19. UHBlackhawk

    UHBlackhawk Member

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    OP, as pointed out several times the only two branches I know of where your course of studies matters are Cyber and Medical Corps. Even with Medical Corps it's not so much your major as course requirements for medical/vet school if you one wants to go that route straight out of West Point. Other than that branch selection is all about your ranking on the OML, and major has nothing to do with it. Even Aviation Branch does not consider your major.