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Army Air Force Navy

Signals Intelligence Specialist

Non-Commissioned Member | Full Time, Part Time

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Signals Intelligence Specialists intercept and analyze electronic transmissions, including foreign communications. They also protect Government of Canada computer networks.

A Signals Intelligence Specialist has the following responsibilities:

  • Collect, process, analyze and report on electromagnetic activity on radio frequency, using highly sophisticated equipment
  • Manage and protect computer networks
  • Ensure information technology is secure
  • Use and maintain classified publications

Work environment

Signals Intelligence Specialists work with extremely sensitive information in a high-security, restricted-access facility. They typically work in shifts; however, they also have frequent opportunities to work regular business hours and can be deployed around the world.

Career Overview






At the razor’s edge of new technology, an elite group of detectives searches the spectrum for threats to our country.

They are called Communicator Research Operators. Sequestered in classified quarters in Canada – and deployed on land, sea and air missions around the world – they intercept and interpret information that Canadians weren’t meant to hear or see.


I’m Sergeant Brett Wareham from St-John’s, Newfoundland, a Communicator Research Operator currently posted to CFS Leitrim, Ottawa, Ontario. And I’m Master Corporal Rob Stead, from Stittsville, Ontario, a Communicator Research Operator posted to 21 Electronic Warfare Regiment in Kingston, Ontario.

STEAD: If you like to stay in the know about world events, and emerging communication technologies and have a knack for foreign languages - then becoming a Communicator Researcher Operator might be the right choice for you!

WAREHAM: It’s a work environment that – every day, there is a surprise. It’s good to know the news before it becomes news.

STEAD: As Communicator Research Operators, we use some of the world’s most sophisticated equipment to intercept foreign electronic transmissions and computer data.

WAREHAM: Foreign language skills are a huge asset to a Communicator Research Operator. If you speak, read or write a language other than French or English – or if you have a gift for languages and you’re eager to learn a new one, then this would be a particularly good trade for you.

WAREHAM: Personally, myself, I’m really good with computers and other electronic systems. But the best thing to have is an open mind, because you never stop learning. We get to utilize technologies or use systems that I would have never dreamed existed prior to joining this trade. Unfortunately, I can’t directly tell you what we do – and that’s what makes the trade so awesome.

STEAD: We’re cleared to the highest levels of national security – and to our commanders we’re like an additional layer of protection.

WAREHAM: Communicator Research Operators serve with every branch of the Canadian Armed Forces: we fly with the Air Force, sail with the Navy and are boots on the ground with the Army wherever they deploy around the world.

STEAD: Electronic Warfare Operators within the Comms Research trade also operate cutting-edge communications technologies.  But our office is the back of an armoured vehicle or out on the ground with our light electronic warfare kit that we carry in a rucksack.

STEAD: When the Bisons roll into location, they are able to intercept any type of communications within the area, as well as hone in on a direction where they’re coming from. We are able to provide intelligence to the soldiers in the fight about potential threats to their safety, as well as locations of the enemy to enable them to do their job.  It’s really exciting being out there, to be on the ground, working side-by-side with the commanders to keep their guys safe.

STEAD: As an Army unit, life at 21 Electronic Warfare Regiment includes development of field-craft and soldier skills, like patrolling, small arms weaponry, and winter warfare.

STEAD: With our light electronic warfare teams, we are actually able to insert right into the front with the boots on the ground, whether that be air mobile operations, or airborne insertions, or with a light infantry company, reconnaissance platoon, snipers. We need to be able to insert with them as well.

STEAD: Members of my troop have completed Basic Reconnaissance Patrol courses as well as Radio Recon courses with the United States Marine Corps and the UK Royal Marines.

WAREHAM: After basic military training, the specialized training to become a Communicator Research Operator takes place at the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics in Kingston, Ontario.

WAREHAM: After my training in Kingston, I was posted here, to Leitrim. We’re set up to work at the cutting edge of high technology, designing our own systems and building our own networks.

WAREHAM: There’s a lot to take in, there’s so much to take in. Just the world that opens up behind the veil, per se, it really wakens you up to what the potential and possibilities are behind the scenes.

STEAD: As your career progresses, your opportunities for postings and deployments increase.

WAREHAM: I was sent to Afghanistan twice. The first time, I was in the counter-IED role. Secondly, I went over to Afghanistan in the Mobile Electronic Warfare Technologies, under 21 EW. And the third time I deployed was with the current Operation Impact, over to Kuwait. We assisted the air task force to provide situational awareness and mission support from that angle.

STEAD: This trade has a bunch of outside Canada positions; including Hawaii and Colorado Springs. There are also postings in the UK and Australia.

STEAD: There’s so much more out there within the trade. I just look forward to what comes next.

WAREHAM: There’s times when you will do something that will directly impact the safety of someone else. That’s just what we do: we are the man behind the curtain that everyone wants to have.

STEAD: What I’m looking forward to in the future of this job is just being able to deploy again and just provide the support needed to the ones who need it the most, that being the boots on the ground, and help them to accomplish their missions as well as do my best to keep them safe.

Related Civilian Occupations

  • Information Technology Security Consultant
  • Computer Incident Response Specialist
  • Intelligence Analyst
  • Satellite Ground Controller


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.

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

Learn more about Basic Training here.

Signals Intelligence Specialists attend the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics in Kingston, Ontario, for 45 weeks. Using a combination of theory instruction, demonstrations, practical work and simulation exercises, it covers the following:

  • Signals Intelligence mathematics
  • Communications rules and procedures
  • Radio direction-finding
  • Communications data systems
  • Operation of auxiliary equipment

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

  • High-Frequency Direction-Finding Operator
  • Mobile Research Operator
  • Satellite communications
  • Foreign languages
  • Computer network support
  • System administration
  • Morse Code Operator

As they progress in their career, Signals Intelligence Specialists who demonstrate the required ability and potential will be offered advanced training. Available courses include:

  • Signals Development Operator
  • Linguistic Operator

Entry plans

The minimum required education to apply for this position is the completion of the provincial requirements for Grade 10 or Secondaire IV in Quebec including Grade 10 Applied Math or Math 426 in Quebec. Foreign education may be accepted.

Part time options

Reserve Force members generally work part-time for a Reserve unit in their community. 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.

Reserve Force members train with their home unit to ensure that they meet the required professional standards of the job. If additional training is required in order to specialize their skills, arrangements will be made by the home unit.

Typically, Reserve Force members work or train with their home unit for at least four evenings and one weekend per month, from September to May of each year. They are paid 92.8 percent of Regular Force rates of pay and receive a reasonable benefits package. There are two units with Signals Intelligence Specialist positions, one in Ottawa and the other in Kingston Ontario. Signals Intelligence Specialists work in a highly secure environment with restricted access, handling extremely sensitive information.