How do I get a graduate job in the armed forces or emergency services?

25 Jan 2023, 13:38

Everything you need to know about graduate jobs in the armed forces and emergency services. Whether you want to learn more about working as a firefighter or paramedic, or the attributes you’ll need to succeed in a military career, you can find answers to key questions here.

Firefighters in yellow helmets using a hose to extinguish a fire.

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 a role 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. However, there’s also 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 coordinate their actions in an emergency. All four services work together to assess situations, minimise the likelihood of incidents and formulate action plans.

There are two routes to becoming 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’ll undergo intensive training in life-saving clinical skills on the job. Both routes are approved by the Health and Care Professions Council, and you’ll need to registered with this organisation before you can practise as a paramedic.

Vacancies are advertised by individual trusts and centrally via the NHS. Paramedics can also join the armed forces or work on oil or gas rigs.

You don’t need specific qualifications to work in emergency planning , but a good general education is important and there are opportunities to take courses on the job. 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 locally so recruitment is done independently. Contact the one you have in mind to find out their specific requirements. In all cases, you’ll need to be physically fit and have good eyesight, so you’ll have to pass a fitness test as part of the application process.

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. Alternatively, you can apply to the Police Now graduate scheme, which works with a number of forces across England and Wales.

Individual police forces may also have roles for police community support officers (PCSOs), or you could gain experience of policing by becoming a special constable.

How do I get a job in the armed forces?

The recruitment processes below, along with timings and locations of assessment centres and training, may have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. For more information on this, along with advice on what to do if you're worried that self-isolation might prevent you from attending parts of the recruitment process or training, take a look at the following websites:

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. Graduates are recruited into all three divisions, usually as officers – the managers of the military world. Roles range from hands-on operational positions to behind-the-scenes work.

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 and a preliminary interview to discover your strengths and what you could work on, you'll be invited to attend the assessment centre. This will involve a full medical examination, physical and mental tests, team exercises and a talk about your career options. If you're successful, you'll be eligible to begin training.

The Royal Air Force officer application process starts when you apply online or make contact with the recruitment team. If your initial application is successful, you will take an aptitude test. If you pass this, you’ll typically undertake an interview, health assessment and fitness test. You will then carry out pre-recruit training, before accepting a role and starting initial military training. This process, along with locations and timings, may have been impacted by Covid-19 – take a look at the information provided by the RAF ( for more details.

To join the Royal Navy as an officer you apply online via the Royal Navy website. You can also contact the recruitment team by phone to explore your options. After filling out an application, you will undertake the Naval Service Recruiting Test (NSRT), which assesses your general reasoning, verbal ability, numeracy and mechanical comprehension.

If you’re successful at this stage, you’ll be invited to take medical tests and the pre-joining fitness test. A two-day interview with the Admiralty interview board follows; this is a competency-based assessment that explores a wide variety of skills, both mental and physical. The next step for successful candidates is basic training.

To become an officer in the Royal Marines , you can apply online via the Royal Navy website. You'll need to take the Naval Service recruitment test (NSRT), 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 Royal Marines course, which involves a range of physical and aptitude tests, leadership and teamwork exercises, and interviews.

What qualifications and skills do I need to work in the emergency services and armed forces?

To succeed in this line of work, you’ll need to be able to communicate with people from all walks of life, often in times of distress. You’ll also need to keep a cool head under pressure while providing a calm environment for others. In front-line roles, courage, decisiveness and leadership skills will go a long way.

Teamwork and organisational skills are essential in most emergency services and armed forces careers, and in some roles you’ll need to fulfil physical and medical requirements too.

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