Intelligence Operator

Job description

Intelligence Operators provide military intelligence in support of operations, planning and decision-making.

Intelligence Operators are responsible for the following:

  • Collecting, processing and disseminating intelligence
  • Identifying and analyzing information which is likely to affect military operations, national policies and objectives
  • Managing resources in an intelligence unit, section or team
  • Operating and managing information technology systems
  • Advising on the employment of intelligence collection and surveillance systems
  • Providing intelligence support to commanders at the tactical, operational and strategic levels

I’m Master Corporal Michael Freeman, I’m originally from northern British Columbia – and I’m an Intelligence Operator currently posted to 8 Wing Trenton.

And I’m Master Corporal Sagnik Das, I’m from Calgary, Alberta. I’m an Intelligence Operator posted to NORAD, in Colorado Springs, USA.

DAS: As Intelligence Operators, our job is to anticipate the future in an ever-changing world, where our enemies have the potential to surprise us. It’s all about evaluating risks, identifying threats, and assessing the enemy’s intentions.

DAS: While almost everybody else in the military is concentrated on how we work, how blue forces work, intelligence professionals get to concentrate on the enemy, or the opposition, or the other side – we get to study the red team.

FREEMAN: It’s our responsibility to make sure that our commanders are well informed because just knowing what’s going on, on the ground, in the air or on the seas is not enough. We need to know and understand the operating environment – the weather, the terrain, the enemy, the people and the politics.

FREEMAN: We provide commanders and senior leaders with the information that they require to make decisions. We do research, we provide briefings, we answer questions, we provide various types of graphic intelligence products. Ultimately it all contributes to increasing the effectiveness of the commander’s decision-making by making sure he has the right information to do his job.

FREEMAN: Intelligence factors heavily into the decisions Commanders make. Their decisions frequently place soldiers in harm’s way and the information that you and your team provide will assist commanders to take better-calculated risks. Soldiers are briefed as well.  Before they step out on any mission, they’re given a very good idea of what the picture is on the ground with respect to the threat.  They have that situational awareness: tactics, doctrine, what to expect from that threat, their limitations, their vulnerabilities… everything we can give them.

DAS: If your intelligence allowed people on the ground to complete their mission, to come home safe, to really make a difference – that is when you, as an intelligence professional, really know that you’ve achieved success.

DAS: We’re one of the oldest professions in the world, ever since standing armies have existed – there’s always been somebody who needed to know what the enemy is doing. We take those lessons learned over centuries and get to apply it to modern-day problems.

DAS: Intelligence Operators don’t just follow the news, they wonder about what the causes are, what’s happening behind the scenes and most importantly, what will happen next.  Predicting what will happen next is our bread and butter. You could find yourself conveying information to a very senior audience early in your career.  So you have to be comfortable communicating effectively to experienced officers of senior ranks.

FREEMAN: Intelligence Operators in a way really do punch above their weight, for impact, especially with the rank of the people you’re dealing with. For example, here at 8 Wing Trenton, I brief the Wing commander at least once a week. We brief all the air crews, the aircraft commanders as they’re moving around the world in millions of dollars of equipment. At my last job, I talked to generals.

FREEMAN: With the backing of your training and tradecraft, you’ll gain confidence making judgments based on incomplete, contradictory and time-sensitive information.

DAS: We break down large pieces of information into something that’s understandable and something that’s presentable. Doing that, you actually will come to an understanding yourself as to how the world works.

FREEMAN: Wherever you go as an Intelligence Operator, you’ll do a lot of writing, a lot of thinking and a lot of talking to people about what you know and what you think is going to happen. You have to prove yourself, but when you do prove yourself, you get incredible respect.

FREEMAN: When you complete your training, you’ll likely be posted to a Canadian Armed Forces base, working with the Army, Air Force, Navy, or Special Operations Forces.

FREEMAN: My first posting out of the Intelligence school was to NORAD Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. So right out of the gate, I was dealing with very senior military and political officials, both American and Canadian. It was a large responsibility – it was strategic-level briefs there. And that was my first posting out of the school. So just because you’re new to the trade doesn’t mean you can’t have a big impact very quickly.

FREEMAN: As your career advances, there are opportunities for specialization and promotion in fields like Strategic Analysis, Cyber Operations, Imagery Analysis, Targeting and Human Intelligence.

FREEMAN: You can work on becoming an interrogator, a Hum Int specialist, you can work at embassies around the world. There are all kinds of opportunities, lots of opportunity for travel, lots of opportunity to learn new skill, and lots of opportunity to really make an impact.

FREEMAN: I think a lot of the people that join the military know that it’s not a regular job, you’re almost getting an adventure out of it. And the job changes – every time I’ve had a posting, my job’s been entirely different. You really have a chance to learn a lot of new skill-sets, a lot of new things, and it really doesn’t get boring.

DAS: You get to know the news before it becomes news. You get to understand the “why” of something as it’s happening. And if you’re a person like me, and you really like to read the news, and like to sponge up information, this is probably one of the coolest parts of this job.


Working environment

Intelligence Operators participate in local, national and international operations in various climates and conditions.

Pay and career development

The starting salary for a fully trained Intelligence Operator is $49,400 per year; however, depending on previous experience and training the starting salary may be higher. Intelligence Operators who demonstrate the required ability, dedication and potential are selected for opportunities for career progression, promotion and advanced training.

Related civilian occupations

  • Imagery Specialist
  • Information Management Specialist
  • Private Investigator
  • Security Consultant
  • Paralegal

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Basic military qualification

The first stage of training is the Basic Military Qualification course, or Basic Training, held at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. This training provides the basic core skills and knowledge common to all trades. A goal of this course is to ensure that all recruits maintain the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) physical fitness standard; as a result, the training is physically demanding.

Basic military qualification – land course

After Basic Training, Army recruits go to a Military Training centre for the Basic Military Qualification – Land Course for approximately one month, which covers the following topics:

  • Army physical fitness
  • Dismounted offensive and defensive operations
  • Reconnaissance patrolling
  • Individual field craft

Basic occupational qualification training

Intelligence Operators attend the Canadian Forces School of Military Intelligence, in Kingston, Ontario. Intelligence Operators will be trained in the unique requirements of providing intelligence services to the Royal Canadian Navy, the Army or the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Specialty training

Intelligence Operators may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including:

  • Imagery intelligence
  • Counter intelligence
  • Strategic defence intelligence analysis

Intelligence operators are employed in a specific area that can include, imagery intelligence, counter intelligence, electronic warfare intelligence, among others.

Advanced training

As they progress in their career, Intelligence Operators who demonstrate the required ability and potential will be offered advanced training. Available courses include training for promotion to Sergeant/Petty Officer 2nd Class.

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Entry plans

Required education

The minimum required education to apply for this position is the completion of the provincial requirements for Grade 11 or Secondaire V in Quebec and an English or French course at the Grade 11 level or Secondaire V level in Quebec. Foreign education may be accepted.

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Part-time option

This occupation is available part-time within the following environments: Navy, Air Force, Army.

Serve with the Reserve Force

This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time at a Reserve Unit in their community, and may serve while going to school or working at a civilian job. They are paid during their training. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Part-time employment

Intelligence Operators may serve with the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army or the Royal Canadian Air Force. They provide military intelligence in support of operations, planning and decision making. When employed on a part-time or casual full-time basis they usually serve at CAF unit locations within Canada.

Reserve Force training

Reserve Force members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts. They usually begin training with their home unit to ensure that they meet the required basic professional military standards. Following basic training, the home unit will arrange for additional training for specialized skills. Intelligence Operators attend the Canadian Forces School of Military Intelligence in Kingston, Ontario to achieve their qualification and may train to work in tactical, operational and strategic analysis, counter intelligence, electronic warfare, psychological operations or one of several other highly specialized fields.

Working environment

Reserve Force members usually serve part-time with their home unit for scheduled evenings and weekends, although they may also serve in full-time positions at some units for fixed terms, depending on the type of work that they do. They are paid 85 percent of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.

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