Fighting crime has often come down to the analysis of data. But for today’s crime and intelligence analysts, it’s not just about scouring evidence to bring criminals to justice, but also sifting through vast amounts of data to predict crimes before they happen. Using a combination of old school behavioral criminology, tried-and-tested statistics, and cutting edge tech, criminal intelligence analysts take a data-driven approach to lowering the crime rate. Their work can inform policies and strategic operations that prevent violent crime, gang activity, drug trafficking, and terrorist operations.
This is fighting crime without ever having to carry a gun, without ever having to chase a suspect down a dark alley. Because for a criminal intelligence analyst, their gun is a keen set of analytical frameworks, and the dark alley reaches all across the globe. When investigators in the field act, they are often acting under the policies, objectives, and recommendations of a criminal intelligence analyst.
Crime and intelligence analysis is a fast-growing field. Whether the goal is preventing terrorism or reducing urban crime, it’s criminal intelligence analysts that form the backbone of how that goal is achieved. The stakes are high and according to O*NET, this is an occupation that takes considerable preparation. A bachelor’s degree is considered the bare minimum of education required, but criminal intelligence analysts often need a significant amount of experience before they are considered experts in their field.
If you’re ready to join the ranks of people fighting tomorrow’s crime with today’s tech, read on to get a look at certificate and degree programs in crime and intelligence analysis.
While careers in crime-fighting are most often shown on TV as police or detective work, there are differences between criminal investigators and crime intelligence analyst careers.
The first major difference is education. O*NET, an occupational data source sponsored by the US Department of Labor, shows that criminal investigators and special agents require police academy training and sometimes an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. By contrast, 75 percent of intelligence analysts hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information assurance, computer programming, or digital forensics.
Work environment and daily responsibilities are the second differentiating factor between these two crime-fighting positions. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that criminal investigators split their time between desk and fieldwork, while intelligence analysts work almost exclusively in office settings. Most criminal investigators work erratic hours collecting and documenting evidence at all hours of the day (BLS 2019) while intelligence analysts work a typical 40-hour per week schedule and may be asked to be on call or perform work outside of regular business hours on occasion (BLS 2019).
A final but important distinction between these two position titles in salary. The BLS shows that the average annual salary for private detectives and investigators is $50,510 per year compared to $99,730 for information security analysts in 2019.
Generally speaking, criminal investigators, also known as crime scene investigators, collect and document evidence from a crime scene and draw conclusions to solve one or a series of related crimes. By comparison, crime intelligence analysts look at whole data sets and make recommendations based on observed patterns to protect the interests they’re employed to serve.
East Coast Polytechnic Institute (ECPI) offers an online bachelor of science (BS) in criminal justice with a concentration in crime and intelligence analysis. The program blends intelligence theory, investigative philosophy, and collaborative decision-making through simulated exercises, case studies, and labs. Concentration courses cover topics such as geotechnologies; mobile device forensics; crime mapping; and fraud examination.
Upon completion of the 121-credit program, graduates are able to utilize geo-technologies, create crime maps, demonstrate the intelligence cycle, develop ethical strategies for intelligence collection, and forecast crime and security threats to inform decision-making.
American Military University (AMU) has a fully online bachelor of arts (BA) in intelligence studies designed for those interested in (or already working towards) supporting military, civilian, and corporate intelligence operations.
The faculty contains many professionals currently working in leadership roles within the intelligence industry, and the school maintains strong links to agencies and professionals working within the field. The program also offers a long list of concentration options, from those geared towards a particular geographic region to those which are more operationally focused.
Upon graduation, students are well versed in the intelligence cycle, and able to participate in it by conducting basic research and professional analyses on issues relevant to intelligence consumers.
Indiana State University offers an online bachelor of science (BS) in intelligence analysis that prepares students for work in either the public or private sector. The program highlights the evolving nature of intelligence analysis, with a particular focus on the use of new academic research and analysis methods.
Core courses focus on both criminal justice and intelligence analysis, covering topics such as ethics in criminal justice; strategic intelligence; an introduction to intelligence analysis; and research methods of criminal justice. Through their electives, students may choose one of four concentrations: counterintelligence, criminal intelligence, intelligence collection, or intelligence operations.
Before graduation, each student also completes an internship to gain practical experience applying intelligence analysis in the real world.
Saint Joseph’s University has an online master of science (MS) in criminal justice with a concentration in intelligence and crime analysis. The curriculum focuses on the contemporary functions of intelligence analysis and how it can be used to influence crime prevention policies.
Students in the program are no longer simply analyzing data, but looking at how that data (and the processes around it) impact the decisions and outcomes of organizations and communities. Concentration courses cover the following topics: law enforcement intelligence analysis; law enforcement intelligence policy and process; white-collar crime; forensic financial analysis; terrorism; and homeland security.
Graduates are able to analyze raw data, compare it to the hypothesis, and convert the results into actionable reports.
American Military University (AMU) offers an online master of arts (MA) in intelligence studies that’s designed for students seeking advancement to leadership positions in the intelligence field. Courses cover topics such as strategic intelligence collection, analysis, management, and operations; criminal intelligence, transnational crimes, and narcotics; the ethical challenges of the intelligence community; and signals (human, open-source, cyber, and geospatial).
The program allows students to pick from a wide range of concentrations, one of which is criminal intelligence. The curriculum is regularly reviewed for relevance by an advisory council of industry experts and the program’s faculty is highly credentialed, with many of the instructors holding key positions in government agencies or other intelligence organizations.
The University of California, Riverside (UCR) offers a hybrid certificate program in crime and intelligence analysis that’s designed for those working in (or interested in) law enforcement. The program focuses on analyzing data to forecast crime, detecting distinctions in criminal patterns, and writing statistical reports to criminal justice standards.
Students may either take individual classes or proceed through the entire program, which consists of 26 credits and can be completed in less than a year. Upon successful completion, students are designated as a Certified Crime Analyst by the California State Department of Justice. They also receive the Criminal Analysis Certification from the Law Enforcement Intelligence Units (LEIU).
The University of Cincinnati has a certificate program in crime and intelligence analysis that can be completed entirely online. The university’s School of Criminal Justice has consistently ranked in the top 15 by US News & World Report and the certificate program is designed to give students the conceptual, technical, and analytical skills necessary to work in criminal and intelligence analysis. This program can be completed in one year and students take courses in police effectiveness, computer criminology: cybercrime and digital security, and introduction to geographic information sciences.
Upon graduation, students are able to apply criminal intelligence analysis to real-world public safety issues, use a variety of modern software and hardware to conduct analyses, and use insights to inform strategies and policies that address public safety. This certificate is designed for bachelor’s degree holders who want to pivot into intelligence analyst careers in law enforcement.
California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) offers an on-campus certificate in crime and intelligence analysis. The program teaches students how to define criminal trends and use analysis to create strategies that lead to an effective response from law enforcement. Courses cover topics such as crime data analysis; criminal investigative analysis; computer applications for crime and intelligence analysis; and law enforcement research and statistical methods.
Upon graduation, students receive 18 continuing education units, 400 hours of on-the-job training, and nationally-recognized certifications both from CSUF and the Law Enforcement Intelligence Units (LEIU). This certificate can be completed in 12 to 18 months.
There are a variety of degree programs available in the field of crime and intelligence analysis, each with their own prerequisites and common courses. However, even within each degree type, there can be variation from school to school. It’s best to check each program’s admissions information and curriculum content individually, but below you’ll find some general guidelines, so you know what to expect.
Prerequisites: official high school and/or college transcripts with a competitive (2.7 or greater) GPA; letter(s) of recommendation; a personal statement; SAT and/or ACT scores; TOEFL scores for non-native speakers; and an application fee.
Common Courses: introduction to criminal justice; criminal procedure; ethics in criminal justice; research methods; crime intelligence analysis; mobile device forensics; and crime mapping.
Sample Program: Indiana State University
Prerequisites: official undergraduate transcripts with a strong (3.0 or greater) GPA; letter(s) of recommendation; a personal statement; GRE and/or GMAT scores; a resume with relevant work experience; TOEFL scores for non-native speakers; an interview; and an application fee.
Common Courses: research methods and analysis; ethics and criminal justice; criminological theory; law enforcement intelligence analysis; and law enforcement intelligence policy and process.
Sample Program: Saint Joseph’s University
Prerequisites: official high school and/or college transcripts; proof of relevant coursework; TOEFL scores for non-native speakers; and an application fee.
Common Courses: crime analysis applications; computer skills for the crime analyst; criminal law and procedure; research methods and statistics in crime analysis; and criminal investigative analysis.
Sample Program: University of California, Riverside
After earning a degree or certificate, many who work in the field of crime and intelligence analysis go on to pursue a professional certification. While not a requirement to practice, professional certification does act as a mark of distinction on one’s resume. Professional certification demonstrates not only one’s expertise within the field of criminal intelligence analysis, but also a commitment to continuing education and professional development.
The International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts (IALEIA) offers professional certification as a Criminal Intelligence Certified Analyst (CICA). In order to be deemed eligible, applicants must have one year of continuing membership with the IALEIA, hold a full-time position in criminal intelligence analysis, have a bachelor’s degree, and have three years of work experience. The application fee is $100.
Once deemed eligible, applicants must pass the four-hour CICA exam with a minimum composite score of 70 percent in order to earn the CICA credential. The exam covers numerous topics related to crime and intelligence analysis, including:
The exam fee is $100.
The CICA designation is valid for five years. In order to recertify, CICA-holders must have maintained continuous membership with the IALEIA, completed a minimum of eight hours of continuing education, and demonstrated significant professional development.
CICA-holders can demonstrate professional development in a number of ways, including developing a training segment, publishing an article on an industry-related topic, being nominated for an industry award, or serving in a leadership position. The recertification fee is $75.
Accreditation ensures that educational programs in crime and intelligence analysis are meeting regional and national standards for faculty, curriculum, and student outcomes. Although there is no specific accreditation body for the field of crime and intelligence analysis, the US Department of Education recognizes six organizations to provide accreditation to institutes of higher learning:
Please note that some government bodies such as the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts may recognize specific schools or programs for excellence, but they do not offer formal accreditation.
Matt Zbrog is a writer and freelancer who has been living abroad since 2016. His nonfiction has been published by Euromaidan Press, Cirrus Gallery, and Our Thursday. Both his writing and his experience abroad are shaped by seeking out alternative lifestyles and counterculture movements, especially in developing nations. You can follow his travels through Eastern Europe and Central Asia on Instagram at @weirdviewmirror. He’s recently finished his second novel, and is in no hurry to publish it.