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Become an IA major

There are two sets of requirements related to the IA Program.

  • What JMU requires for you to secure the degree and
  • What relevant employers in the IA field will require of you to secure an internship and/or employment.

While JMU does not require you to fulfill this latter set of requirements, we believe it is very important to be aware of them since most IA students are seeking the degree in order to have a career in IA.

Requirements of the JMU IA Program

Because of limited faculty space, and resources, we are only able to offer a small number of courses per year. In addition, each IA course is part of a sequence that, given pre-requisites, must be taken in a specific order. Thus, while any student (in principle) can declare IA as their major, to actually gain entry into the courses and complete the degree, you must do the following (as a practical matter) 

Be prepared to commit three full academic years in a row (six semesters, three fall and three spring) at JMU to complete the IA course sequence. The IA course sequence CANNOT be completed in less than three years. So, if you try to become an IA major as a sophomore, junior, or senior, you will have to spend longer than 4 years at JMU. Students should take IA150 during their first year in order to be eligible to take the other required IA courses during their sophomore year.

Take ALL the IA courses in ORDER, as laid out in the course sequence.  You will not be permitted to take any classes out of order or to take just some of the classes. You will need to take all the IA courses in the exact sequence provided.

Full Admission to IA occurs after Fall Year 2. The top students (based on their grades in IA 200, IA 240, and IA 261) will be invited to continue. (A minimum grade of “C” is required in all of thee three courses as well as Math 220 or ISAT 251, but higher will likely be needed to be among those chosen. Ties will be broken by grades in one’s statistics class.) Higher grades are expected by future employers, but this is a minimum that you will need to take the second semester’s classes (or later ones) at JMU.

Elective courses are up to students’ discretion. Students are encouraged to select courses that form a unit that will make them competitive for their desired future employers. 

Requirements of the IA Field

Know the importance of being able to get a security clearance. Students who wish to secure an internship and/or career at an intelligence agency (or one of the many businesses that works with intelligence agencies) will also have to secure an appropriate security clearance (usually “Top Secret” or above) The agency or business will nominate you for the clearance and navigate you through the process. But, you will be responsible for making sure that you have a lifestyle that is appropriate to receive security clearance. Neither JMU nor your professors have any control over whether you receive a security clearance. You do not have to obtain one to obtain the Intelligence Analysis degree, but you will have to obtain one if you are to have an internship and/or career at an intelligence agency (or business that works with intelligence agencies). Thus, if you have any interest in such internships or careers at all, it is very strongly recommended that you understand what you need to do (or not do) to qualify for security clearance (e.g. avoid drug use, illegal file sharing, etc.).

Know that it is very competitive. A typical internship program at a government agency will have up to 100 applications for every 1 spot they have open. They are extremely competitive.  Intelligence jobs are very competitive as well (with up to 1000 applications per every 1 spot) and the best IA students will be able to compete with anyone for those positions. But students who underperform will have a very difficult time. Most agencies require a minimum of a 3.0 GPA even to be considered for an internship, and the average GPA of applicants for most positions can be well over 3.5. So, if you are not going to be able to have and maintain a GPA well over 3.0, your success in gaining an internship or job are extremely low. To have a strong chance of success in gaining highly competitive internships, you will definitely want a GPA that is as high as possible.

Know the value of a “specialty”. The IA program’s focus is analytic methodology: how to think, use technology, assess situations, and communicate your conclusions. A good analyst will have all these skills and ideally also have a specific subject matter area in which they have additional knowledge. For example, an analyst might specialize in the Asia Pacific region and have knowledge of Chinese or Korean. Students with strong skills in languages such as Persian, Arabic, Chinese, or Korean are highly marketable in the field. Or, an analyst might specialize in the use of geo-spatial technology and have a minor in Geographic Science.   Or, a student might specialize I the “hard” sciences with a minor in biology or chemistry. These are only examples. Thus, we strongly encourage students to adopt a minor related to a geographic region (with a foreign language), a science, or a technological tool. Consider developing a “specialty” in addition to taking the required IA courses. This is very strongly recommended. 

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