Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
JOB SEARCH / DEC. 14, 2014
version 2, draft 2

How To Land A Job In An Intelligence Agency In The UK

Your mission when working for an intelligence agency is to protect the United Kingdom against national and international security threats. In order to work for the Security Service you must be aged at least 18 and must meet strict nationality and residency criteria.

Skills, interests and qualities

To be considered for a role in an intelligence agency you will need:

  • honesty, discretion, integrity
  • strong observational skills
  • flexibility
  • sound judgment
  • decision-making ability
  • initiative
  • strong communication skills

The work

Your main aim in this role is to gather intelligence and to collect information on threats to UK national security. You would work to reduce threats from:

  • terrorists (international and at home)
  • espionage
  • organised and serious crime
  • the dissemination of knowledge that could be used to make biological, chemical or nuclear weapons

Other duties might include:

  • Observing suspects’ movements and actions using technical equipment or by working undercover
  • Using your language skills to translate conversations
  • Reading social media entries, emails and letters

There are many different roles within the intelligence agencies and the Security Service. Jobs you could get into include:

  • intelligence officer
  • surveillance officer
  • foreign language analyst
  • electronics technician
  • IT analyst

More information about what careers are available can be found at the UK intelligence agency websites:

If you were working in an investigative role, you would work a shift system which would include some weekends and evenings.

Most jobs with MI5 are based in London, although there are some regional offices in the UK and Northern Ireland. Some overseas travel would be required, depending upon the operation you were working on. MI6 is also based in London but many of its staff work all over the world. GCHQ staff are based in Cheltenham.


Starting salary:


£18,000 per annum

Intelligence officer with experience:


£30,000 per annum

Source: National Careers Service

Entry requirements

Entry to the Security Service usually requires a degree classification of at least a 2:1. Relevant subjects that might be considered include:

  • languages
  • economics
  • mathematics
  • law
  • history
  • politics

Not all roles require specific qualifications; for example, fluency in a language like Russian or Mandarin. You could also be considered if you have technical qualifications in IT or electronics. Office-based administration jobs demand at least five good GCSEs including maths and English.

It may be possible to enter some roles through an Apprenticeship although you will need three ‘A’ levels to be considered and two of these must be at grade ‘C’ or above and in a science, maths or technology subject.

Background checks will be carried out and you will be expected to provide work and character references.

Training and development

All new staff go through an induction course covering:

  • IT
  • health and safety
  • MI5 background, history and culture including the legal operating framework

The remainder of your training will take place ‘on-the-job’. For the duration of your career you will be expected and encouraged to further develop your skills by attending internal or external training courses.


The Security Service employs around 4,000 people in the UK across all the intelligence agencies. Details of current opportunities can be found on the MI5 Careers website.

As you gain experience, it may be possible for your career to progress and there will be opportunities for those who demonstrate the right skillset.

Image source: V3

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