After weeks of media speculation, Daniel Craig has finally admitted that he’ll be playing James Bond in 2019. But have you ever wondered what it takes to become a real MI5 officer? If you have, read on for our graduate guide to joining the Secret Service. It’s time to unleash your inner Bond.

1.What kind of graduate is MI5 looking for?

Man with magnifying glass


All of MI5’s graduate development programmes require at least a 2:2 degree. In terms of personality, the organisation looks for students who are confident communicators with a good eye for detail and the ability to trust their own judgement.

While the three distinctive programmes on offer require different skills, the ability to maintain confidentiality is relevant to all three. If you join MI5, you’ll be dealing with highly sensitive information that could put lives at risk.

2. Will I have a life outside work?

Although operations can become intense, MI5 work hard to ensure that their employees have a good work/life balance and reasonable working hours.

New recruits receive 25 days annual leave, an interest free travel season ticket and a pension scheme comparable to that of the civil service.

3. Could I be an Intelligence Officer?

Most graduates join MI5 via its Intelligence Officer Development Programme, which teaches recruits how investigations are run. You’ll need a 2:2 degree to apply, although if you perform very strongly during the recruitment process, you could join the service at a higher level. Once accepted, you’ll complete two years of training, aimed at developing skills in at least one key area.

  • Digital Intelligence. This involves analysing information gained via interception. Once trained, you’ll be embedded in a team, giving advice and analysis to help inform investigations.

  • Warranty. Warrants allow MI5 to intercept communications, interfere with property or carry out invasive surveillance.  As a new recruit, you’ll be trained to prepare warrants, ensuring they meet legislative criteria before going to the Home Secretary for approval.

  • Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI). A role here entails working with colleagues from across government. You’ll also advise representatives from private sector companies, collect and analyse intelligence from various sources and write reports. You may also discuss security for high profile events.

Complete your two year training successfully and you’ll advance onto MI5’s 6 week Foundation Investigative Training Course (FIT). Following this, you’ll take up your first role as an intelligence officer.

4. How can I develop my career?

After your first 3 year role, you can stick with investigative work or move into an operational, assessment or policy role. As your career develops, you could be involved with counter terrorism, espionage, communication and recruitment.

5. Could I become a Specialist Data Analyst?

The Data Analyst Development Programme trains graduates to interpret complex data and use advanced data analytical technique. To join the 2 year programme, you’ll need a 2:2 degree and the ability to interrogate large data sets, evaluate the reliability of your findings, and then communicate them clearly.

Data analysts work on the technical side of operations, helping investigation teams to identify individuals of interest and disruption opportunities. They’re also involved with uncovering and mapping communications networks.

6.  Could I become a Technology Professional?

The 2 year Technology Graduate Development Programme trains graduates to work in IT. While recruits can choose between two streams, all applicants need to be articulate and good at thinking analytically. Being able to think out of the box is also a useful trait.

Opt for the Business Stream and you’ll receive training in business analysis, project management and IT service management. Alternatively, you could join the Specialist Stream, which focuses on software development or cyber attack prevention.

To join a specialist programme, you’re expected to have a 2:2 STEM or technical degree. If you want to become a software engineer, you also need to demonstrate experience of programming. To follow the cyber route, knowledge of networking, operating systems and IT security principles is essential.

7. What will I earn?

Intelligence Officers start on £30,490, increasing to £32,963 after one year. When you’ve completed FIT, your salary will rise to £35, 866.

Data Analysts earn between £30,490 and 32,963, while Tech Professionals earn between £33,398 and 36,100.

8. How can I prepare?

Undergraduates studying a STEM related degree can apply for paid internships at MI5. If successful, you’ll work in corporate IT or the department responsible for covert technical ops. If you feel like you need more experience before starting the MI5 internships, check out our IT/Data related jobs. 

If you’d rather work in an investigative role, try MI5’s 15 minute online challenge. Aimed at helping you to decide whether you’re cut out to be an Intelligence Officer, the test assesses your use of information and your analytical skills.

Excited about the prospect of helping to keep your country safe? Check out MI5’s website, where you’ll find plenty more information about the graduate opportunities on offer.

Anna Whitehouse writes for Inspiring Interns, which helps career starters find the perfect job, in everything from sales jobs to marketing internships. To browse their graduate jobs London listings, visit their website.


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