If you want a career where you can make a practical impact on the safety of people at home and abroad, look no further than the armed forces and emergency services. With front-line and behind-the-scenes opportunities for graduates of all backgrounds, there’s bound to be something for you: you could join the Army, the Navy or the RAF, become a member of the police, ambulance or fire service or work in emergency planning.
How do I get a job in the emergency services?
Most people can easily name the three emergency services – ambulance, fire and rescue, and police – but they have a lesser-known relation: emergency planning. The ambulance, police, and fire and rescue services tend to work separately, while emergency planners liaise with all three active services and co-ordinate their actions in the event of an emergency. All four services work together to assess situations, minimise the likelihood of incidents and formulate action plans.
There are two routes into the ambulance service if you want to become a paramedic: taking an approved course in paramedic science at a university or applying for a student paramedic position with an NHS ambulance trust, where you will undergo intensive training in life-saving clinical skills on the job. Ambulance crews are employed and recruited by ambulance trusts, and paramedics can also join the armed forces or work on oil or gas rigs. Contact your local trust for more information about their selection criteria and vacancies. To practise as a paramedic you must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council, which is responsible for approving the relevant training programmes.
To work in emergency planning you do not need any specific formal qualifications but a good general education is important – and it is now possible to take related courses. National emergency planning is overseen by the Cabinet Office but each local authority has responsibility for emergency planning officers in its own area. Check the websites of local authorities for details of vacancies.
Each fire and rescue service is run by its local authority so recruitment is done independently and it’s best to contact the one you have in mind to find out their specific requirements. In all cases, firefighters must be physically fit and need to have good eyesight, so applicants need to pass a fitness test as part of the application process. Some fire services may run graduate training programmes.
You have a number of options if you want to join the police as a graduate. You can apply directly to join one of the individual police forces. Some forces expect candidates to have passed the Certificate in Knowledge of Policing. Alternatively, you can apply to the Police Now graduate scheme, which works with a number of forces across England and Wales.
How do I get a job in the armed forces?
There are three parts of the armed forces: the Army, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy (which includes the Royal Marines). The three branches of the armed forces may work together on assignments but they have very distinct structures and responsibilities. Roles range from hands-on operational positions to behind-the-scenes work. Graduates are recruited into all three divisions, usually as officers – the managers of the military world.
To join the Army as an officer, you can apply online or via an Army Careers Centre. After you've passed the initial health screening, a preliminary interview and a medical assessment, you'll be invited to attend the Army Officer Selection Board for a selection briefing, fitness tests, and assessment of your intellectual abilities, practical skills and leadership potential. If you are successful, you will be eligible to begin training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS).
The Royal Air Force officer application process starts when you apply online or make contact with the recruitment team, either by phone or by visiting an armed forces careers office. You will then attend the Officers and Aircrew Selection Centre at RAF College Cranwell, doing aptitude tests, undertaking a health assessment and fitness test, and having an interview. All new RAF recruits start with initial military training, followed by specialist training in their particular area.
To join the Royal Navy as an officer you apply online via the Royal Navy website, and you can also contact the recruitment team by phone to explore your options. The first stage in the process is the Royal Navy recruitment test (RT), which assesses your general reasoning, verbal ability, numeracy and mechanical comprehension, and you'll also take medical tests and the pre-joining fitness test. Potential officers are then invited to the two-day admiralty interview board at HMS Sultan in Hampshire, which includes a variety of aptitude tests, an essay and leadership and planning exercises. The next step for successful candidates is basic training at Britannia Royal Naval College.
To become an officer in the Royal Marines, you can apply online via the Royal Navy website. You'll need to take the Royal Navy recruitment test (RT), followed by an interview and a medical test, and pass the Royal Marines pre-joining fitness test. You'll then attend the two-day potential officers’ course at the Commando Training Centre (CTC). This encompasses a range of physical tests, aptitude tests, leadership and teamwork exercises, and interviews. If you are successful, you will attend the two-day Admiralty Interview Board at HMS Sultan in Hampshire – like all potential Royal Navy recruits. Successful applicants will go on to the CTC for 15 months of training.
What qualifications and skills do I need to work in the emergency services and armed forces?
To work in this area one of the most important attributes is the ability to communicate with members of the public from all walks of life, often in times of distress. The ability to keep a cool head under pressure while providing a calm environment for others is also essential and in front line roles courage, decisiveness and leadership will go a long way. Teamwork and organisational skills are necessary competences across a range of emergency services and armed forces careers, and in some roles you might need to fulfil physical and medical requirements.