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CIA Vs FBI: Key Differences

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The difference between the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) is that the CIA's primary responsibility is to collect intelligence outside of US territory, while the FBI's main responsibility is law enforcement within US territory. The difference between these two agencies can be seen in their respective missions statements.

What does the CIA do?

cia logo
CIA's Logo

The Central Intelligence Agency's mission is to protect national security, by collecting intelligence and conducting counterintelligence activities. Their primary function is as a foreign intelligence agency which means they collect information about other foreign & domestic activities.

What does the FBI do?

fbi logo
FBI's Logo

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is a law enforcement agency, it works closely with federal, state, and local police agencies to maintain public safety against threats both domestic and abroad. The bureau also aids these agencies through their expertise on terrorism cases that reach into U.S territories or affect American citizens outside of this country. Another major task of the FBI includes the prevention of criminal activity within US borders whether directed at government officials or private citizens alike.

Difference Between CIA And FBI

Difference in priorities

The primary difference between the CIA and the FBI relates to domestic versus international operations. While the FBI focuses on investigating crime within U.S. borders, including terrorism, espionage, cybercrime, bank robbery, and other crimes. The CIA has a broader mission of gathering intelligence outside of U.S. territory for analysis of political or economic issues affecting U.S interests abroad (CIA).

The difference in operating region

The CIA's main function is to collect intelligence about other countries while the FBI mainly investigates crime in U.S territories which includes terrorist activities, cyber crimes, etc.

Difference in duties 

The CIA's primary focus is on gathering intelligence abroad and it does not have any law enforcement capabilities within or outside of US territory whereas the FBI focuses more on investigating criminal activity both domestically and internationally, but their agency isn't limited to just collecting information like that done by the CIA (FBI).

Difference in structure

The difference between these two organizations comes down to their members' backgrounds; namely whether they are civilians or military officers (CIA). The CIA has a civilian workforce that usually consists of analysts with specific educational disciplines such as political science, economics, international relations, languages, area studies, etc.

Difference in budget

The CIA's budget is classified but was estimated to be about $15 billion yearly. On the other hand, the FBI's annual budget is public which has been reported to be around 10 billion dollars per annum.

Operational Divisions

The FBI focuses its efforts almost solely on domestic missions, whereas the CIA's mission includes foreign intelligence gathering as well as direct action missions (which include paramilitary) abroad.

The CIA is limited in what it can investigate domestically while the FBI's jurisdiction is quite broad. The FBI has more legal powers within its purview than the CIA does, but again only when operating inside U.S borders. It would not be surprising if you have heard about something on TV or read online that involves intelligence agencies such as the CIA and FBI trying to stop terrorist attacks of some sort from happening around the world. They are both involved in protecting national security, although their roles differ slightly from one another.

Comparison Chart: CIA Vs FBI

Budget9.75 Billion USD15 Billion USD
HeadquarterWashington D.C.Langley, Virginia
Main FocusDomesticForeign

Similarities between CIA & FBI

Both work for the U.S. government and are federal agencies, meaning they both have executive branch powers to investigate crimes within their purview on behalf of the President of the United States. The FBI is considered a law enforcement agency while the CIA can be said to focus more on covert operations than criminal investigations even though it too has investigative powers.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is part of the US Department of Justice and its primary duties are focused on protecting national security as well as enforcing federal law for more than 100 years now.


Do the CIA & FBI work together?

The CIA and FBI work together to prevent terrorist attacks within the US by sharing information, but they also often come into conflict over jurisdiction. More often than not they work separately but are connected through the top management to help each other in matters of national interest.

Who gets paid more, CIA or FBI?

Both FBI & CIA agents are paid more or less the same amount. What they are paid also depends on the experience they might have. A new agent may earn less and vice versa. Both agents earn anywhere between 50000-90000$ a year so it is tough to say who earns more. Civilian workers in either agency can expect significantly higher wages though since they tend to have advanced degrees and work in professional environments.

How do the intelligence processes differ between the two agencies?

The biggest difference is that the CIA's analytical model aims to eliminate subjectivity. Whereas, in contrast, it can be said that the FBI takes a more subjective approach by allowing individual agents' experiences and expertise to influence their decisions. At this point, it is important to mention that while FBI Headquarters' analytical info is disseminated within the Bureau and at other agencies on a routine basis, the CIA's intelligence information tends to be more heavily restricted.

Do CIA agents carry guns?

No, CIA case officers do not carry guns. This is because they don't make arrests or directly confront criminals.

Are both agencies under the control of just one person?

No, CIA and FBI are not controlled by any individual since they have different leadership which includes Director for each agency respectively.


The CIA and FBI are both parts of the U.S government, but they have separate roles in protecting national security which include intelligence gathering as well as criminal investigations respectively. We hope that with this post, you will have a better understanding of the two.


Feel free to comment and discuss about the article in the comment space below if you have any information or remarks to add. If you think we made a mistake, you can also report it there.
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About the Author: Nicolas Seignette

Nicolas Seignette, who holds a scientific baccalaureate, began his studies in mathematics and computer science applied to human and social sciences (MIASHS). He then continued his university studies with a DEUST WMI (Webmaster and Internet professions) at the University of Limoges before finishing his course with a professional license specialized in the IT professions. On 10Differences, he is in charge of the research and the writing of the articles concerning technology, sciences and mathematics.
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