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Career Options in Public Sector & Defence: Graduate

Want to get involved with a sector that makes a difference to peoples’ lives and affects the country on a national and international level after university? Public sector and defence could be the one!

Graduate opportunities in the public sector & defence

- Civil Service Fast Stream

- Graduate routes in the armed forces

One way to sum up roles in the public sector and defence is that they are going to involve high levels of responsibility! These responsibilities range from contributions to changes in the way the country is run, or even being responsible for peoples’ lives.

Both men and women graduates can apply for graduate roles with any branch of the armed forces (a select few roles are still currently only open to men owing to the physical capabilities required)). Routes include officer training, plus specialist training for your chosen career path, mixing theory and practice from the start. There will be some medical and fitness requirements involved for some positions. For example, if you want to become a pilot in the RAF, you’ll have to have waist dimensions under their specified size, and your eyesight and whether or not you are colour blind will affect the kinds of roles you’ll be allowed to do.

Any graduate role with the armed forces will allow you to progress up the ranks on completion of a scheme:

Royal Navy – You could follow a graduate scheme to become an officer, specialising in a career such as Marine officer (on a ship or submarine), air engineer or weapon engineer.

Army – As a graduate you could become an officer specialising in combat, engineering, medical intelligence, IT and communications, logistics and support, HR and finance or music and ceremonial roles.

Royal Airforce - Graduates can head straight into officer training in the Royal Airforce too, taking on either flight-orientated roles or roles on the ground.

Outside of the armed forces, you could also be involved in defence as a civil service graduate working in the Ministry of Defence (MOD). If you’re interested in this side of work in defence, you’ll have to go through the Civil Service Fast Track Scheme.

The emergency services offer a number of roles for graduates too. You could either take on a role as a police or fire officer for instance, or get involved with one of the support staff departments such as finance, administration or communications.

Talking of the Civil Service Fast Scheme…This is the route you’ll need to take if you want to become a civil servant working for any government department. There are various different divisions of the Civil Service Fast Stream, and they’re all extremely competitive. If you’re interested in general graduate roles, analytical roles, HR, technology or European or Northern Ireland issues, then this is the way to apply! If you’re successful, the scheme allows you to experience policy, operational and corporate services functions within the Civil Service.

You can find the applications for any of these graduate roles online at the recruiters’ websites.

Will my degree do?

Bachelor’s degrees are the key to a huge amount of jobs in the public sector and defence, no matter what direction you want to take. There are some that you’ll have to have a specific degree for, but providing you fit the bill with this then you’ll be half way there, as the Bon Jovi lyric goes. Obviously you’ll need to have a strong CV and be able to demonstrate aptitude for the job you’re applying for too!

If you want to go for the Civil Service Fast Stream, a 2:2 degree will be accepted as part of the eligibility requirements; though you’ll stand a better chance of you’ve got at least a 2:1 degree classification in the bag. You can also apply with any degree discipline, but there may be some specific subjects necessary in some pathways of the scheme. For example, the Analytical Fast Stream will require a 2:1 in a social science subject such as geography, psychology or political sciences.

An undergraduate degree will definitely be enough for an officer training role in the armed forces, whether it’s the army, royal navy or royal air force you’re interested in. You won’t need a degree to take on a role in the Royal Engineers. Some roles, such as air officer engineer, marine engineer officer, training management officer and weapon engineer officer will require relevant degrees in the royal navy, as will an officer position in the royal air force. 

If you want to be an army, Royal Navy or Royal Airforce medic, you’ll need to be qualified with a degree in medicine.

Is postgraduate study necessary?

There are many graduate roles in the public sector and defence that don’t specify a need for postgraduate qualifications. Some postgraduate knowledge in areas such as research and statistics in the public sector could be an advantage, but these are generally not specified in job specifications. A 2:2 or in most cases a 2:1 or higher in your Bachelor’s degree will give you the green light to apply.