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How to Become the UK’s National Security Adviser

Are you interested in influencing the UK’s security matters from behind the scenes? What a better way to do so than becoming the country’s national security adviser!

If you possess excellent leadership skills, a solid academic background and strong political connections, this is a job you could chase. However, it is worth noting that it takes many years of hard work to be even considered for this position.

What Does the Nation Security Adviser Do?

The duties of the national security adviser include:

  • Advising the prime minister on all matters of national security, such as terrorism, security levels, cyber security and security policies
  • Heading the National Security Secretariat and being a secretary to the National Security Council
  • Setting the NSC’s agenda – this involves determining the matters it is going to discuss at specific meetings, and maintaining records of these discussions
  • Providing input during the preparation of the PM’s speeches which will be delivered at security conferences
  • Attending all meetings held by the NSC
  • Supervising two deputy national security advisers

Source: GOV.UK

Work Environment

The national security adviser works in an office located in London. The office holder typically has a 9am to 5pm work schedule. However, being senior diplomat, the adviser regularly holds meetings, which may run late into the night.

This job involves a lot of foreign travel – so you should be prepared to spend some time away from your family.


How much can you expect to earn as the country’s national security adviser? Find out below:


Annual pay

National security adviser

£175,000 - £179,999

Source: Cabinet Office (as of March, 2014).


While there are not set educational requirements for becoming a national security adviser, don’t expect to drop out of college and land this job. You certainly can’t be entrusted to competently execute this job without an excellent university education.

Although you can earn a degree in any field, you should consider disciplines that will give you a good foundation, such as public administration or intelligence studies. You should then focus on gaining work experience. If you have the opportunity to enter the public or civil service, take it. For more information on jobs that are available in the UK’s Civil Service, visit the Civil Service homepage.

Since only the PM can appoint the national security adviser, it is safe to conclude that you must hold close ties with the country’s top politicians to stand a chance of getting the job. You may even have work as the deputy adviser, before progressing to occupy the top position.

Important skills

To be an effective national security adviser, you should have:

  • Excellent leadership skills
  • Good public speaking and writing skills
  • Good problem-solving and decision-making skills
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Good analytical skills – the job involves analyzing various security issues and identifying their effects
  • Good organizational skills
  • An interest in national security

Career Development

It is difficult to define the career development prospects of a national security adviser. If you are ineffective, the PM may relieve you of your duties. However, if you are competent, you will certainly work for some years, earning valuable experience in the process. You could use this experience as a bargaining tool for another high level position. For example, if there is an opening in the Ministry of Security, the PM may consider appointing you the country’s security minister.

You could also venture into politics, preferably by vying to become a Member of Parliament.


This is not a position that you can apply for in the traditional sense it takes years of networking and hard work. As an aspiring national security adviser, you can only be employed by the government. Also, an opening can only rise if the current adviser is incapacitated, fired or chooses to resign. In the meantime, focus on building your reputation and establishing political connections. Good luck!

Image: Media Briefing with Sir Kim Darroch, via Flickr

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