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10 top-secret jobs

By Candace Corner
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( -- "They" are some of today's top-secret employees. Whether they're tracking down terrorists, holding back hackers, protecting politicians or withholding this year's Oscar winners, these folks have all perfected the art of keeping information under wraps.

While "top-secret" may bring to mind memories of a jet-setting, James Bond, "shaken, not stirred, variety," not all duties for top-secret jobs parallel the exciting lives of spies and secret agents featured in mainstream media and cinematography.

Still, there is something to be said for mystery and a job that in some instances can really mean a matter of life or death.

So if you're hot on the trail of a new career and looking to add a little excitement to your life, here are a few of today's top-secret jobs to get you started on your mission:

1. FBI special agentexternal link

What they do: Work includes law enforcement responsibilities and examining operators suspected of violating federal law, such as national/transnational serial killers, terrorists and kidnappers.

What you need: U.S. citizenship or citizenship of the Northern Mariana Islands, a valid driver's license, and to be at least 23 years of age, but younger than 37 upon your appointment as an agent. A four-year degree is required and must be received from a school accredited by the United States Secretary of Education. Extreme flexibility for relocation is needed, as well as qualification for one of the five entry programs. Additional requirements may also include critical skills, physical abilities and background check.

2. CIA operations officerexternal link

What they do: Research and scout global information and determine its influence and relation to the United States in order to alert its policy-makers. They also make criminal convictions.

What you need: To be at least 18 years old, U.S. citizenship for both you and your spouse, and have an undergraduate, or preferably, an advanced degree that relates to the work, and a strong interest in international affairs. Officers must also successfully complete a medical and psychological exam, a polygraph interview and an extensive background investigation. Fluency in foreign language and additional requirements may be needed.

3. Secret Service special agentexternal link

What they do: Originally, agents were assigned to examine counterfeit currency, but today they protect political figures and safeguard the U.S. financial system. Work includes investigating matters of forgery, theft and identity fraud as well as making arrests.

What you need: U.S. citizenship and to be between 21 and 37 years old at the time of appointment. Agents must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, three years of work experience in the criminal investigation or law enforcement fields that related to criminal violations or have an equivalent combination of education and related experience. You also need to pass an extensive background investigation and have extreme flexibility on relocating. Additional requirements may be needed.

4. Nuclear engineerexternal link

What they do: Work with either utilities companies, the research and testing units of engineering and defense companies, or with the Federal Government. Most conduct in-depth research, from how to improve the performance of a nuclear power plant to the development of medical technologies.

What you need: A B.S. in nuclear engineering, business or a related technical field. Knowledge of the industry standards, regulations and equipment are vital.

5. Detectiveexternal link

What they do: Survey and investigate matters of crime such as robbery, homicide or narcotics as part of a police force or as a private investigator. Work includes record and forensic evidence investigation and testifying in court.

What you need: While there is no formal education requirement for private detective work, most have college degrees and related experience. Entering this field directly after graduation requires a two- or four-year degree in police science or criminal justice. Licensing, exams and additional requirements vary based on job type and state regulations.

6. National Security Agency language analyst

What they do: Analyze foreign language intelligence content and organize it according to context. Language analysts may also provide understanding of the culture surrounding the languages they study.

What you need: Professional proficiency in a language or multiple languages. Currently, the agency is focusing on the recruitment of linguistics experts familiar with Asian or Middle Eastern languages.

7. Psychiatristexternal link

What they do: Determine, assist and treat the mental statuses of their patients. They may do this through means of psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy and/or through prescribing medications, but they must keep a stern vow of doctor-patient confidentiality.

What you need: Four years of undergraduate study, four years of medical school, and residency for four more years. Under residency, at least four post-graduate months of pediatrics or internal medicine and two months of neurology must be completed. After training, psychiatrists must complete written and oral board examinations.

8. Biometric technology developerexternal link

What they do: Research, devise and test security software and hardware that uses physical or behavioral characteristics -- such as scans for face recognition, fingerprints or voice recognition -- to verify identity, generally for security access. Their findings and advancements have upgraded the way many casinos, banks, hotels and other areas operate their security.

What you need: A B.S. in computer science or a related field, and graduate degrees are preferred. Developers must have experience in biometrics and related areas and an understanding of the most current applications. Certification is also required at different levels and the U.S. government may have additional regulations and requirements for federal research employment.

9. Cryptanalystexternal link

What they do: Design, decipher and analyze ciphers, or coding systems. This work is done to protect secret information for law enforcement, military, or political personnel, as well as to provide privacy for people and businesses.

What you need: A strong talent in understanding mathematics, economics and computer science. While a degree is not required, most have at least a bachelor's degree in mathematics or computer science, and often have a graduate degree in mathematics.

10. Awards-show auditorexternal link

What they do: Tabulate the votes conducted by a secret ballot and withhold the results so that the envelopes may be opened onstage and televised by live programming. This work is done in addition to the auditor job duties that include organizing and verifying company and personal finance information and public records.

What you need: A bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field. Some employers have preferences on degree concentrations. Experience in accounting or auditing and CPA licensure are also needed. Additional training and education is needed for specializing a level of expertise and to renew the CPA license.

© Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority
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