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GCHQ, Ministry of Justice, MI5... graduate Civil Service careers

GCHQ, Ministry of Justice, MI5... graduate Civil Service careers

Find out about the key routes into a graduate career in government and public administration, including the Civil Service Fast Stream and recruitment by GCHQ and the intelligence services (MI5 and MI6).

The Civil Service is responsible for implementing government policies. It's a major employer: there are 28 recognised professions within the Civil Service, from auditors to vets.

Graduate schemes in the Civil Service

The Civil Service Fast Stream prepares high-flying graduates for senior management posts in the Civil Service. It’s open to graduates from all degree disciplines and there are opportunities to specialise in a wide variety of areas. Degree requirements vary, but for most streams you'll need to have, or be on track for, at least a 2.2 degree.

You can join one of the following streams:

Commercial – a three-year scheme in which you'll move around a number of departments, helping make decisions about how taxpayers' money should be spent on the goods and services the government needs.

Digital, data and technology – a four-year scheme in which you'll design, build and run government digital services.

Diplomatic Service – a two-year scheme in which you'll work on projects that promote British interests in other countries and support British citizens overseas. The scheme can involve an overseas placement.

Diplomatic Service economics – a two-year scheme that focuses on making sure that foreign policy is based on sound economic data. This scheme can involve an overseas placement.

Finance – a four-year scheme in which you'll also work towards becoming a fully qualified accountant. In your final year, you'll also spend six months on a secondment outside the Civil Service.

Generalist – a three-year scheme involving year-long placements in areas of your choice. In your second year, you have the chance to work on a secondment in another area or in a charity.

Government Communications Service – a four-year scheme that starts with short rotations in different departments. In your third and fourth years, you'll work on year-long placements.

Government Operational Research Service – this scheme takes at least three years to complete, but the timing is flexible. To apply, you'll need (or be on track to get) at least a 2.1 in a highly numerate degree subject.

Government Social Research Service – a three-year scheme in which you'll explore and analyse social trends and contribute to the data that underpins government policy.

Government Statistical Service – a four-year scheme that combines specialist work such as collecting and analysing data with building leadership skills.

Houses of Parliament – a varied four-year scheme in which you'll work directly with politicians to support the democratic process.

Human resources – a three-year scheme in which you'll support the people that make up the Civil Service and work towards professional HR qualifications.

Project delivery – this scheme lasts up to four years – you can leave early if you're ready for promotion before this. You'll work on a range of placements, including one outside the Civil Service.

Science and engineering – this specialist scheme lasts at least three years. During this time, you'll work in a variety of postings, including one outside the Civil Service. To apply, you'll need a doctorate or masters in any science or engineering discipline, or be a chartered engineer or scientist registered by one of the professional institutions licensed by the Engineering Council or by the Science Council.

Graduate careers in intelligence

The Security Service (MI5): protects national security, safeguards the economic well-being of the UK and supports law enforcement agencies in preventing serious crime. There are four graduate schemes:

  • intelligence officer development programme (IODP)
  • intelligence and data analyst development programme (I&DADP)
  • technology graduate development programme (TGDP)
  • business enablers entry scheme.

The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI6) obtains secret information and carries out operations that support the UK’s foreign policy objectives. It recruits graduates into areas such as operational and business support, science and technology and corporate services.

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) detects and prevents serious crime, international terrorism and drug trafficking. It runs a fast stream programme for future leaders and also recruits technical graduates in areas such as cyber security.

Calling all specialists: niche graduate roles

The Defence Engineering and Science Group (DESG) is part of the Ministry of Defence. It runs a graduate training scheme for engineering, science, IT and information specialist graduates who have a minimum 2.2 university degree. Placements can be in the UK or overseas, and there are opportunities to work towards chartered or incorporated engineer status on this scheme.

The Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) is a non-ministerial department that supports decision-making within government by exploring the risks involved in different scenarios. The actuarial professional role is a specialised one, and the GAD offers trainee actuary roles in which you can work towards Institute and Faculty of Actuaries exams.

Government Legal Profession (GLP) has one client: the government of the day. It employs both solicitors and barristers along with other legal professionals, all of whom are involved in providing advice to government departments, including the Cabinet Office, the Home Office, the Ministry of Defence, HM Treasury and the Department for Transport. Its lawyers help to prepare proposals for new laws, advise the government on commercial matters such as contracts and provide the government's litigation and employment law services.

HM Revenue & Customs collects tax from individuals and businesses alike. It runs a three-year tax professionals graduate scheme, at the end of which you'll be a senior tax professional.

More ways into a graduate job in public administration and government

There are plenty of options open to you if you're committed to a government career but don't want to apply to a graduate scheme. Graduate-level jobs are advertised on the Civil Service jobs website, and if you're successful, you'll get the benefits of a public service career – rewarding work, the chance to work with a diverse group of people and many opportunities to learn – without needing to move around or undertake placements.