As an example of how high the requirements to work in intelligence are, in USA, this is how the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), acknowledges those interested in pursuing a CIA career: “Student opportunities are highly competitive. You are expected to meet the same employment standards as permanent employees.”
These are basically not only CIA agent requirements but standards set by any intelligence agency in the world. Not only exceptional skills are required but also a huge amount of trust. Unless expressly recruited from a foreign nation, a person working in intelligence has to be a citizen of the respective country and eventually, to have no blood ties, outside of it. Emotional ties with another country may interfere in an agent’s work. Same, a clean criminal record and successful polygraph tests are required.
Espionage agencies may recruit exceptional individuals, either for their skills, political, financial or social position and these may require little or no training. Most of the times, though, the agents are trained and specialized, in schools. Military or background training is required for field agents that may engage in combat, if necessary.
High education, foreign language skills, social and even acting abilities are a plus when it comes to covert spy missions or use of advanced technology. The agents have to communicate easily with the natives of a certain country, to know their customs, geography, to be able to handle sophisticated surveillance equipment and infiltrate into different circles and organizations: social, religious, industrial, financial, political, military, etc. Great psychological and criminological knowledge are in high demand, in the intelligence field. The agents have to be able to recognize signs of suspicious behavior, in order to track down a terrorist or an illegal trafficker, for example. An operative must be able to perform deceitful tasks, eventually and also to communicate clearly and correctly, in writing, if reports of his or her activity are required, by the agency.