How to Become a Civil Servant in the UK

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The UK Civil service was one of the top 6 employers in 2015 for new graduates with over 20,000 applying that year. Here's how to become a civil servant.

As a new graduate, you will be inundated by the breath of career options offered to you. This is especially true if you find yourself in one of the UK’s large urban hubs such as London, Manchester, Glasgow or Birmingham where job opportunities are plentiful. One of the most competitive young graduate employment programs comes from a very unlikely employer: the UK government. One of the main benefits of working for the government are the fast track programs, which offer for young professionals the opportunity to start down a rapidly progressing career path.

The benefits are numerous, and the salary is competitive, but let’s take closer look at working for the British Civil Service.

Fast track

Although extremely competitive, since only 1,000 positions are offered every year, the fast track programmes give the applicants amazing career prospects. As the name indicates, this puts the newly employed candidate on a fast track for career progress in the civil service. The fast track programme was set up to be a talent recruiting strategy for the civil service so the benefits are numerous and extremely attractive.

The top item on the list is arguably the salary and people accepted onto the fast track programme start with a salary between £25,000 - £27,000 which is £5,000-£7,000 more than the average UK salary for positions with under a year of experience. At three years your projected salary increases to £32,000 which is an astounding £8434 more than the average for a position held for the same amount of time (between 1-4 years of experience according to

Furthermore, pay increases are dependent on performance, and if you are given a promotion within the first 5 years of your employment with the civil service you can make an annual salary of £45,000. That is more than the national average salary of an individual with over 20 years of experience and a whopping  £14,000 more than the national average for people with the same amount of experience (between 5-9 years).

Although you are young, and pension is probably not even on your radar, being a member of the civil service will earn you 4 times last year’s private sector contributions. In simple math, a civil servant’s pension contribution is around 20% whereas a privately employed individual’s is 4.7%.

To be eligible to apply for the fast track programme you should be from the British Commonwealth, the European Economic Area (although this is, of course, subject to change considering the impending exit of the U.K. from the E.U.), a Swiss national or under special permission a Turkish national. Jobs involving national security or intelligence are of course reserved for British Commonwealth nationals due to security concerns.

A much more in-depth view of nationality and the civil service can be seen here. Another consideration that might exclude you from certain employment categories is where you live in the period preceding your application for the civil service. Academic qualification or credentials necessary are a minimum 2:2 degree or expecting to be rewarded one, a specific degree emphasis if you are applying for a specialised position – such as a science and technology job and some departments will request for better overall degree results.

Normal track

If you do not want to follow the fast track programme that the civil service offers, you can just directly go to the civil service’s official job search page and look for a job best suited to your qualifications, expertise and abilities. The search page which you land on when you click on the link allows you to make a very exhaustive search for government jobs, including fields that will help you filter jobs in regards to: distance from you, organisation, salary range, job grade, working pattern (i.e. full-time, part-time, flexible hours), contract type and option to work overseas.

Each job will list the requirement and credentials necessary to apply for the position, for example, a Customer Service Advisor for the Ministry of Justice does not require a diploma, but must be adept at using Microsoft Office Software, have good phone manners and have highly developed communication skills. On the job posting page you will also find the salary, which is £17,880-£18,529 for the aforementioned position, the duration of the job, the number of job postings and hours.

Pre-graduation programmes

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The Civil Service also offers programmes for young women and men before graduation, like summer diversity internship programmes, early diversity internship programs and even a movement to work scheme, which allows unemployed youths to be employed by the civil service.

Early diversity internship programme

This programme allows undergraduates in their first year of studies from diverse and underprivileged backgrounds to participate in skill building and networking workshops. Beyond that successful candidates also get to shadow a fast tracker to see what is involved. The applicant must take the same online tests as the fast track programme applicants.

The movement to work

This scheme is intended to help young unemployed individuals and has many private partners in addition to the civil service. There is an age restriction, of course, you must be 18-24 to be eligible. It offers vocational training for unemployed youths with the goal of lowering youth unemployment by 50%. The program lasts 4 to 6 weeks and includes vocational training, seminars regarding employability and work experience. It also continues to support applicants once the training has finished and help them with their job search.

Overall benefits (Testimonies)

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According to employee feedback from Civil Servants themselves (those found on, the benefits of government employment are immense. The most frequent benefit mentioned amongst the reviewers is a healthy work-life balance. Funnily most people’s biggest gripe regarding the private sector is the lack of a healthy work-life balance, so if you have been in the corporate trenches too long and feel burnt out, you might want to consider a career shift. Another significant benefit noted by many reviewers is the generous pension benefits. Others mention reasonable career progression, pleasant work environment and relatively competitive salaries.

Of course not everything is generous vacation days and pleasant senior management. A few of the most frequently mentioned cons include:

  • Slow implementation of ideas
  • Increased Bureaucracy
  • Complacent workers/lack of work ethic
  • Top heavy management

Although the problems that plague the Civil Service seem sparse they are significant organisational issues that impede progress and result in an exodus of talented young employees. The good thing is that the Civil Service is currently undergoing a revitalization and reorganisation. In the future, these labours will inevitably bear the fruits of a well-organised and hopefully healthier organisation. This will not only benefit the people employed and professionally involved with the Civil Service but hopefully the entire nation and Commonwealth.

Have you even been employed by the Civil Service in the UK? What was your experience? Is there anything that I left out? We would love to hear from you in the comment section below.