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Career Options in Public Sector & Defence: Student

Tempted by a few years running around assault courses and learning what it takes to be an officer in the armed forces to spice up your university studies a tad? Or want to get some hands on experience in the public sector? If you’re an undergraduate looking towards a career in the public sector and defence, it can be done!

Undergraduate opportunities in the public sector & defence

- Internships

- Work experience

- University societies

- University Officer Training Corps (UOTC)/University Royal Naval Unit (URNU)/ University Air Squadrons

- Graduate scheme applications

When it comes to defence, you could get a chance to effectively try and test out a career in a branch of the armed forces by joining one of their training units designed for undergraduates: the University Officer Training Corps (UOTC) for the British Army; the University Royal Naval Units (URNU) for the Royal Navy; and the University Air Squadrons for the Royal Air Force. These schemes allow you to take up armed forces training with fellow undergraduates, spend weekends on activities and drills and get a taste for life in such a career. You won’t be obliged to sign up when you graduate, and you will be able to leave at any time throughout university, so if you’re considering this type of career then you can give this a whirl! (A heads up that you will be expected to keep your fitness levels up in this type of scheme, so those standard post-night out kebabs might have to make more of a treat appearance!)

If you fancy yourself as a civil servant and you’re a penultimate or final year student, then you could be eligible for the Summer Diversity Internship Programme. This is a six-to-nine weeks over the summer open to undergraduates of black and minority ethnic backgrounds from lower socio-economic backgrounds. If you are eligible for this scheme and complete it, this is a massive boost for your chances of gaining a graduate fast stream spot. 

Other summer work experience such as in offices at country councils will also do you a favour if you’re interested in the public sector. You’ll pick up things just by being in the environment.

As a third year you’ll also be able to get started on those graduate scheme applications. So make the most of your time beforehand and make sure you’ve got some juicy experience to put down on your CV!

Top Tips

Keep on top of your fitness during your university days if you’re thinking of a career in the armed forces. There will be unavoidable fitness tests to pass when you finally come to the application phase, and it would be a real shame for this to get in the way!

Deadlines to consider

The Civil Service recruit annually for their Summer Diversity Internship Programme. Start to look out for the deadlines from the beginning of your penultimate or final year so that you don’t miss out! You’ll also need to be available between June and September if you are successful.

The armed forces generally recruit on a rolling basis. You can apply for roles as they appear on their recruitment websites.