Who has never been fascinated by the intelligence and strength of the famous secret agent James Bond? The saga of Ian Fleming has so rocked our parents’ youth and continues to this day to fascinate children and teenagers. Do you dream of becoming a secret agent? Follow our guide!
What Is a Secret Agent and What Are His Missions?
A secret agent, spy, or intelligence officer is in the service of his country but works abroad. Their primary mission is to collect information that the Defense Service of their country will use. Beyond this “heavy task”, the secret agent also carries out various clandestine activities such as capturing, sabotaging, destroying or deleting data, stealing equipment, infiltrating or exfiltrating individuals, manipulation, misinformation… To achieve his objective, he will have to establish a network of relationships in the field. Throughout his missions, the spy will use false identities.
Over time, the functions attributed to secret agents have evolved significantly. Espionage has been extended more and more toward industrial, technological (cyberespionage), and economic intelligence. This is why spies are most often found in engineering or computer science.
What Training Is Required to Become a Secret Agent?
A secret agent working for the General Directorate of External Security can be a civil servant or a contractual employee. To apply for a position as a civil servant in the DGSE, you must:
- hold a Diplôme National de Brevet (category C), Baccalauréat (category B), licence diploma (category A) or Master’s degree (for certain category A positions) ;
- be over 18 years of age;
- be of French nationality;
- have a clean criminal record;
- meet the physical requirements;
- have passed a civil service examination.
The most essential competitive examination is that of the National Defense Delegate, which requires a Master’s degree. Successful candidates come from various fields: computer science, law, communication, defense, telecommunications, etc. After the classical tests, each candidate is subjected to a clearance procedure, a kind of survey among his family and friends. This procedure aims to detect the presence of a vulnerability factor in the applicant’s environment. The juries will also ask unusual questions that the applicant must answer quickly.
Contract workers do not need to take a competitive exam. They just need to submit their application and pass the aptitude tests. Those asked to apply are specialists in telecommunications, engineering or cybercrime. In addition, the DGSE can call upon senior officials to join its team. The latter will enter a secondment position until the end of their missions. They are paid or volunteer, depending on the case.
Civil servants from the army can also join the DGSE if they wish. They are exempt from the competitive examination.
In addition, there is another entity called the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure (DGSI). Unlike the DGSE, which sends secret agents abroad, this organization groups together spies in charge of counter-espionage and anti-terrorism.
What Skills and Qualities Must a Secret Agent Have?
To carry out the missions entrusted to him, a secret agent must:
- Have an analytical mind: as his primary role is to collect information, he must ensure that it is relevant. Indeed, a single misstep can be really fatal for his country.
- Communication skills and empathy: His ability to create a network of relationships will lead him straight to the goal. He can quickly get information from the people he will meet during his mission.
- Be flexible: he must be able to adapt to all situations and always keep his cool.
- Master the techniques of intelligence and espionage;
- Have a thorough knowledge of his field: computer science, cryptology, telecommunications, etc;
- Be multilingual in order to understand and transcribe the information he receives
- Be discreet: confidentiality is the keyword in this job;
- Know how to handle the gadgets that will be put at his disposal: micro-camera, micro-camera, listening devices, non-detectable weapons, master keys, etc.