About this sector
You can read information about role responsibilities, salary, working hours, what to expect, qualifications, skills, work experience, career prospects and related roles on the following Prospects Job Profiles:
You might also see other job profiles of interest in the public services and administration profiles page (which gives links to the 23 profiles in the sector).
There are many routes into the Civil Service, including the Fast Stream Graduate Programme and Fast Track Apprenticeship. There are also direct entry opportunities, as well as graduate programmes and apprenticeships offered by departments. Visit the Civil Service website and the Fast Stream website for ways to join.
How to gain experience/internships
Comparatively few formal opportunities exist for working in the government service during the vacations.
The main recognised internship opportunities are as follows
- The Government Economic Service (GES) offers 6 to 12 week Summer Student Placements to students in 2nd year or above who are studying for a degree in economics or a joint degree where economics comprises at least 50% of the total course.
- The Early Diversity Internship Programme provides a five-day placement in a government department to first-year undergraduates from diverse backgrounds. This is useful if you want to get an understanding of what it's like to be on the Fast Stream.
- Maths Summer Students (GCHQ) offer a 9 – 12 week placement practicing advanced mathematical research in the penultimate year of study. Applicants need to expect to obtain a first class degree.
Other ways to gain experience
- During the assessment process, you will be assessed against a range of Behaviours (the actions and activities that people do which result in effective performance in a job) and also a selection of Strengths (the things we find energising and that motivate us). This means that any work experience where you have the opportunity to develop these will be valuable.
- At university there are many opportunities to develop competencies. Involvement in societies and volunteering can give you teamwork, organisational, leadership, project management, communication and many other types of experience.
- Read our advice on networking then send some well-crafted emails to find out what the work is really like and gain tips on how to progress your own career.
- Check Adopt an Intern for paid internships in Scotland for postgraduates and graduates, many of which are in the public sector.
How to get a (graduate) job
- The degree required will depend on which scheme you apply for. For some schemes, eg the Government Economic Service and the Government Social Research Service, you will need a specific degree subject. Some schemes accept a 2:2 or above in any subject, some require a 2:1 or higher. Check the Civil Service Fast Stream website for full details on entry requirements for each Fast Stream option.
- The level of competition for all Fast Stream entry posts is high. About half the entrants to the Fast Stream schemes have worked elsewhere post-graduation, and have applied more than once.
You must be a British citizen to apply for some posts, particularly those related to security and intelligence. Check on the individual scheme pages.
Main Stream/Direct Entry/Professional Entry Routes
Applications, interviews and assessment centres
Fast Stream deadlines
- Applications for the Civil Service Fast Stream competition usually open in September each year. Closing dates will vary and be notified once the online application process has opened.
- Some of the Fast Stream pathways, if not filled, may reopen in February and close in April, although the closing date for the first round is normally mid-October.
Fast Stream application process
- There are several phases in the Fast Stream application process.
- Read the How to apply and FAQs section of the website for current details.
- Visit the Civil Service's Facebook Hub for updates and insights into the programme and the application process.
Careers Centre resources
- verbal, numerical and logical reasoning tests
- Question Identifier Tool
- Work Personality Questionnaire
- Situational Judgement Test
- Assessment centre exercises
- Video Interview
Relevant Postgraduate Study - is it a requirement?
The majority of schemes do not require relevant postgraduate study, although several offer the opportunity to study for a professional qualification. You should check with the department/scheme you are interested in applying to for advice.
Key UK resources
Careers Centre resources
Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:
- Book an appointment with a careers adviser
- Search for vacancies (Job Shop, internships/work experience, graduate jobs)
- Register for events
The European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) sample tests can give you an idea of the type of questions and level of difficulty you will face in a competition.
The USA job market and recruitment timetables, for both internships and graduate jobs, for sectors of employment often differ from the UK.
The Careers Centre subscribes to the reputable independent USA careers information and vacancy provider Vault. The links below will take you directly to Vault subscription resources which cover this sector. You may find further useful and relevant resources linked from there as well.