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).

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A major employer, the Civil Service is responsible for implementing government policies. Choosing to work for the civil service as a graduate often means you'll be given the responsibility to inform and influence government policy.

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 three-year scheme in which you'll design, build and run government digital services.

Diplomatic Service – currently a two-year scheme, this might change to three years for graduates starting in 2021. On this stream, you'll work on projects that promote British interests in other countries and support British citizens overseas.

Diplomatic Service economics – currently a two-year scheme, this might change to three years for graduates starting in 2021. This stream focuses on making sure that foreign policy is based on sound economic data.

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 working in finance 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 Economics Service – a three-year scheme in which you’ll work on analysing economic data and using it to inform policy within government.

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 – this scheme takes at least three years to complete, but the timing is flexible. In this stream, you’ll find out how to positively influence policy by applying various and advanced analytical methods to both assess the current situation and forecast the consequences of changes.

Government Social Research – 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 scheme lasting between two and four years (depending on when you get promoted) 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 in a variety of areas, including employee relations and policy development. You’ll also work towards a professional HR qualification.

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 important projects; a previous project delivery fast streamer, for instance, acted as assistant project manager for the High Speed Rail project.

Property – during this four-year scheme, you’ll work on strategy, planning and implementation of building projects. You will also be supported towards accreditation with either the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM).

Science and engineering – this specialist scheme lasts at least three years. 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. On this stream, you’ll work on using scientific knowledge and evidence to inform clear recommendations for decision makers.

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 (BEES).

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.

More about graduate careers in the intelligence services and how to apply

Calling all specialists: niche graduate roles

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.

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. It offers a legal trainee scheme for those with a 2.2 degree.

HM Revenue & Customs collects tax from individuals and businesses alike. It runs a three-year tax professionals graduate scheme.

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.

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