Law enforcement and security
The law enforcement and security sector relates to keeping people safe, whether on a local or national level. It is a sector best suited to those who enjoy being challenged in their work and having a significant impact on their communities.
Typical jobs in this sector include:
- armed forces (various roles)
- police officer
- intelligence analyst
- trading standards officer
- Border Force officer.
Key skills that are useful in this sector include:
- discretion, including when working with extremely sensitive data
- the ability to work well with others
- the ability to deal with sometimes very stressful situations
- a willingness to deal with ambiguity in your work, while maintaining a high attention to detail
- for some roles, a high level of physical fitness.
Though there are many different employers in this sector, this page focuses on three that are among the most popular with graduates:
- the armed forces
- the police
- the intelligence and security services.
For job profiles and detailed information on pursuing a career in this sector, see the Prospects website:
How to get a job
To prepare for a career in law enforcement and security, you should research the sector carefully. You should also talk with people who are in the sector already.
To connect with people already working in the sector, consider joining Saint Connect, the University of St Andrews’ exclusive, global, online community for networking and career mentoring. See more ideas for making a connection.
The opportunities for work experience, as well as the availability of graduate schemes, vary by the part of the sector in which you are interested.
There are many career options available in the armed forces, whether you want to work in the Army, Royal Navy or Royal Air Force. Unlike in other sectors, there are generally no graduate schemes or internships available in the armed forces. However, there are many roles for graduates.
Graduates usually first train to become a commissioned officer (equivalent to a manager or supervisor in civilian sectors). Becoming an officer is a long process, involving interviews, a selection board (similar to an assessment centre, only held across several days) and then a period of training lasting several months.
At this point, you will be able to specialise in the role most of interest to you. There are additional requirements for becoming an officer in the armed forces, such as those relating to your immigration or citizenship status.
For more information on becoming an officer as a graduate, see:
Before applying to the armed forces, you may find it helpful to seek experience with them during your time at St Andrews. One way of doing this is by joining the Tayforth University Officers’ Training Corps (UOTC). This gives you the opportunity to gain paid, officially endorsed armed forces experience alongside other students from both St Andrews and elsewhere in Fife and Dundee.
There are several routes to joining the police, but the most common for St Andrews graduates is the degree-holder entry route. For this route, you must have studied any degree at undergraduate level. You will then apply to the police, which will require you to:
- attend interviews
- take a variety of psychometric tests
- take an assessment of your fitness.
There are other requirements for joining the police relating to:
- any criminal convictions or financial trouble you may have
- how long you have lived in the UK
- your immigration or citizenship status.
If you pass your tests and are accepted by the police, you will begin your training during a two-year probationary period. During this time, you will also work towards a Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice.
For more information on both these requirements and the degree-holder entry route, see routes into policing.
An alternative route for graduates to join the police is the Police Now graduate scheme. This is a two-year, paid programme, which gives you experience in neighbourhood policing or detective work, through the National Graduate Leadership Programme or National Detective Programme. Both programmes also lead to you gaining a Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice.
A common destination for graduates is the UK’s intelligence and security services, especially MI6 (formally known as the Secret Intelligence Service), MI5, and GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters).
For MI6, there are many graduate opportunities available. For most roles, you will need at least a 2.2 in your undergraduate degree to apply. Given the nature of MI6’s work, there are no advertised work experience opportunities. However, if you are interested in a career with MI6, consider visiting the MI6 explore careers page.
To pursue graduate opportunities with MI5, you will need at least a 2.2 in your undergraduate degree. In addition to standard graduate roles, MI5 has four graduate development schemes available. These are two-year, paid training programmes helping you specialise in the various areas of MI5’s work, and are intended to end in a permanent position.
MI5 also offers two types of internships: the summer diversity intelligence internship and the technical internship. These are paid and run over the summer for 11 weeks. In some cases, these too can end in an offer of a permanent job. Find out more about MI5 internships.
GCHQ offers a range of work experience opportunities, including insight days and summer programmes, as well as language talent programmes. The Future Leaders Programme, for example, is a paid graduate training scheme that lasts for five years and is intended to result in a permanent, senior leadership position. Throughout your training, you will spend time in various areas of GCHQ’s work, usually for between 6 and 12 months. See the GCHQ early careers options page for more information.
For further information on working in the security services in general, see:
- Intelligence services careers for graduates (Prospects)
- Graduate roles with MI5, MI6 and GCHQ (TARGETjobs)
The Careers Centre often puts on events where you can talk to employers visiting St Andrews. Visit the events page for more information.
Applying for a job
When applying for graduate-level jobs in this sector, including graduate training schemes, you can expect to do at least some of the following:
- complete a CV and cover letter
- complete an online application form
- attend at least one interview, and sometimes two, the first usually by video
- complete psychometric tests
- attend an assessment centre (or selection board).
Applying to jobs, graduate training schemes and internships in this sector can be a long, intensive and competitive process. You should research carefully the information provided on the relevant employer’s websites, as they often provide extensive advice for applicants.
If you would like personalised help on any aspect of applying for a job, you can book an appointment with a careers adviser.