I Want to Work In …Intelligence

It’s not James Bond, or even Spooks, but it does offer a variety of opportunities for graduates, as generalists (for which any degree subject is acceptable), linguists or technical specialists.Ostrich

The three main recruiters of graduates into intelligence work are the Security Service, better known as MI5, the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

All of these organisations have strict security, nationality and residence criteria for recruitment: see their websites for details.

For an overview of the work of an intelligence analyst, see www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles/intelligence-analyst

MI5 (THE SECURITY SERVICE) www.mi5.gov.uk

MI5 is responsible for protecting the UK against covertly organised threats to national security. These include terrorism, espionage and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It also provides security advice to a range of other organisations.

Staff roles cover a number of areas including investigations, languages, technology, surveillance, communications, information and administration. The MI5 Graduate Programme recruits graduates into three roles: Intelligence Officer; Intelligence & Data Analyst and Technology. There are also opportunities for Foreign Language Analysts, who work in a wide range of languages and dialects, including Arabic, Urdu, Somali, Punjabi, Pashto, Dari, Turkish, Spanish and French.

“They’re looking for someone with very, very strong communication skills, written and oral, so you could write a ministerial brief or go out and persuade an agent to do what you want them to do. You have to have very good judgement, especially under pressure. Also good team working abilities. You're running operations with all sorts of people, locally and internationally, with the police, politicians. And of course integrity”

Annie Machon, former MI5 intelligence officer www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3252435/Former-MI5-officer-reveals-REALLY-takes-spy.html


MI6 works secretly overseas, developing foreign contacts and gathering intelligence. We help the UK identify and exploit opportunities as well as navigate risks to our national security, military effectiveness and economy. We work across the globe to counter terrorism, resolve international conflict and prevent the spread of nuclear and other non-conventional weapons.

Career opportunities include intelligence officers, business support, corporate services (such as HR and finance), science & technology and linguists. For full details, see www.sis.gov.uk/explore-careers.html 

The flowchart to the right was created by MI6 for a previous recruitment campaign. It shows that MI6 is looking for empathetic candidates who get on with a diverse range of people, who can be trusted and have curiosity. For a full view of the flowchart, click on the flowchart to the right.

Speaking to The Times, “Lisa”, an MI6 intelligence officer, said: “I think that women are bloody good spies. “We are quite good at multi-tasking. We are quite good at tapping into different emotional resources. You can get into a lot of places. But all of those skills are shared by many of our male colleagues.”

BBC: MI6 set to recruit 1,000 extra staff


GCHQ is the government’s expert in cybersecurity, using technical expertise to provide intelligence, protect information and inform government policy.
GCHQ on the hunt for tech talent to become spies

GCHQ recruits into areas including Network Security, Information Assurance, Technology & Engineering, IT Service Management, Research & development, Systems Engineering and Computer Network Operations.

Non-technical graduates are eligible for the Leadership Development Scheme and for roles such as Language Analyst, Finance and Procurement. www.gchq-careers.co.uk/who-we-hire.html




One graduate, working in a shop, described his job as a "Counter Intelligence Agent"!

Last fully updated 2016