Competitive Intelligence

Tactical, Operational & Strategic Analysis of Markets, Competitors & Industries

Question about education path for breaking into the field.

Hello everyone,

My name is Nate and I'm new here. 

A quick background:

I'm 28 years old with 4 years of service in the U.S. Navy with an Honorable discharge. I have 4 years experience in the banking and sales industries.

My situation:

I'm looking to break into the CI field and am currently enrolled in the Intelligence Studies B.A. program at American Military University. For anyone wondering, it's definitely a very engaging and interesting program. The instructors are pretty much all practicing experts in the Intel community. I mentioned that because I've seen a lot of people asking questions about the course.

The downside is that with the B.A. program, the main focus is on Military Intelligence applications vice Competitive Intelligence. While it seems many of the concepts are very similar, I wanted to ask a few questions as to what the best path for me to take is at this point.

I'm at a fork in the road for my studies. I find the Intel Studies degree extremely engaging and interesting, but also want to be competitive (forgive the pun) in the CI field. 

Should I be focusing on a business degree (undergrad) at this point, and perhaps a Master's degree or grad certificate in CI (AMU offers this) after I get a Bachelor's in business/marketing? Or is an MBA what I should focus on at the graduate level and focus on Intelligence now?

I could also change my degree to a B.A in Marketing with a minor in Intel Studies if needed.

I hope my question wasn't too nebulous, but I am trying to figure out the best course of action to be marketable in the CI field upon graduation, as well as be eligible for an internship or two during my studies.

Perhaps my questions could best be summed up as: What do recruiters/companies look for as far as hiring people to work in the CI field?

Thanks for any information available!


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Hi, Nate. Welcome to the group! I haven't been here very long, either. I sort of stumbled into the CI field. I have a paralegal associates degree and criminal justice bachelor degree. While I was getting my CJ bachelor degree at Central Penn College in Summerdale, PA, there was a class on intelligence fundamentals that I fell in love with. I ended up staying to get the 18-credit certificate in intelligence analysis (the fundamentals class was my last degree class). I actually do CI-related work for a law firm. I got the interview based on my legal background, but got my CI position, which mainly supports marketing and business development, through talking up my certificate. I am currently going for my MBA at a local university, as I figure it can only add value to my "war chest" of degrees.

If I were to give you a recommendation for your path: Since you find the intel studies degree interesting and engaging, I think you should stay with it. Don't switch to business just because you think it might be better if there is a chance you might not like it. You can always go to B-school for an MBA to get the business background. If you're worried about not knowing enough business to get your foot in the door, you could always take some foundation classes (economics, accounting, etc...) in addition to you bachelor degree courses. At least then you'd know the basics. If your love is intelligence and that's the field you want to be in, no matter what aspect thereof, then the intel degree would probably be the best.

Hope this is helpful.
Thank you for the response! Before posting I had spent time researching various job postings, etc to see what they were looking for. I noticed a pretty broad spectrum of desirables. Some would say 4 year degree in Business, others would just say Bachelor's degree, etc.

Knowing that there are very few degree programs in Intelligence, I can certainly see why it wouldn't be listed as a requirement for employment! But I also didn't know if that actually meant any certain degree was required. It would certainly be ironic to obtain a 4 year degree in Intelligence and not get hired for an Intelligence position because you have the wrong degree! ha ha

I definitely see your point, and I really appreciate you sharing your experience with me. It really helps put things in perspective!
Hello Nate,

I am in a position where I am looking to break into the industry. I hold a PhD and come with over 5 years pre-clinical research experience from the pharma industry. The answer to your question can be found on LinkedIn, under the SCIP group. You'll have to join it, and from there you will find the discussion " How to move into competitive intelligence".
I have found that:

1 - SCIP does offer courses for CI professionals
2 - Having some Marketing/Business experience would be helpful, though this is debatable.
3 - Other places offering courses is the Academy of CI

My suggestions would be to the following:

Network with key figures. They could suggest some names to follow up on.
2 - You can take some courses to kick-start your career (see the SCIP website), but it does not necessarily guarantee you a job.
3 - There is the Academy of Competitive Intelligence website. Again they offer some courses. But this is expensive, esp when you're unemployed.
4 - Attend SCIP local chapter meetings.
5 - Take a look at the following websites:
b) look into twitter, in the comintelligence group
c) New York Academy of Science. They might have some jobs there.
d) ICI - institute of CI
6 - Join the appropriate groups in LinkedIn.

Except for the courses, I have been doing the rest.It's difficult when you are a stay at home father!

I hoe this helps


Thanks for your response! I will take a look at those resources you suggested! Best of luck in your journey! Thanks again!
Keep in mind the majority of us practicing Competitive Intelligence today do not have degrees in Intelligence, because the option to obtain a degree is still very new. It's been my experience that large corporations traditionally target well-known universities for employee candidates and last check the best CI programs aren't at major universities yet. There are still so few candidates with degrees in any form of Intelligence that today hiring managers and recruiters seek skills or experience more often than formal degrees. Obviously, many opportunities exist for the CI community to improve on wrt formalized education and career paths.

Thanks for the response. I certainly see your point and that's what made me wonder if an Intelligence degree wasn't listed in job postings often...if it was because it's a relatively new and uncommon degree, or if it was because businesses aren't even really looking for that specificity, opting instead for someone with a business degree. What you said makes sense and I definitely appreciate your input!

Your point is valid as well. I have found that you should have some familiarity of the sector you are interested and you don't need an advanced degree. It's a matter of getting the experience that counts the most, and getting that is difficult.
Hi Nate,

As an experienced CI Hiring Manager in the tech sector in a $27B company, I have to echo the sentiments of Carrie and Upendra. I dont care if a candidate has an MBA, if they went to a top tier school, or if they have a certificate in Intelligence. I'm not looking for someone fresh out of school to start with to place on my CI team. I need someone with in-depth knowledge of the business and experience influencing business decisions by providing critical analysis. This isn't just my preference, its a full stop requirement from Executive Management.

That said, I've had freshly minted MBA employees and folks with Intel certs approach me about joining the CI team many times. I always respond by asking them to show me some analysis they produced. In every case, I failed to be impressed (particularly with the MBAs). On the other hand, I've had folks in the business without fancy degrees or a background in intelligence produce some amazing work. My personal opinion in thus accordingly: Intelligence analysts are born not made. With that in mind, I look for certain attributes on a personal level that I've noticed are common to successful analysts and I place far more emphasis on them than any degree or cert.

My advice to you would be to find a job in an industry you have interest, perhaps in a basic analyst role in Future Product Marketing or as an Associate Product Manager to get your feet wet. You'll be asked to provide some competitive and market insight, and if you shine, you will get the interest of the CI Manager. This is how I broke into CI many years ago, and how I know many others ended up in CI roles. I don't know anyone who got a CI job because they had an MBA, went to Harvard or simply because they had a certification from the Academy of CI.


Thank you Monica, I greatly appreciate your insight!
You are welcome Nate! Go get 'em!

You have provided many answers to my questions.

You are welcome Upendra. Let me know if I can help you further.


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