What should I study at university for a career in public service?

What should I study at university for a career in public service?
Find out what to study at university if you want to be in with a chance of going on to join the Civil Service Fast Stream or another graduate scheme in central or local government.

Most graduate schemes in public service accept applicants from all degree backgrounds, with a few exceptions where specialist knowledge is required. You’ll need a degree in a science, technology or maths-related subject to apply for tech-focused graduate training programmes.

What to study at university if you want a career in local government

The national graduate scheme for local government, the National Graduate Development Programme (ngdp), accepts applicants with a 2.2 in any degree subject. You’ll be interviewed by a specific council, and should make sure you understand the nature of the work it does as well as having a grasp of the role of local government and the different types of local council.

Local councils also recruit graduates directly, particularly into roles suitable for candidates from specific occupation-related degree backgrounds such as environmental health, social work or town planning.

Some local councils run their own graduate schemes. For example, the Kent graduate programme run by Kent County Council has two streams:

  • management scheme – open to graduates with a 2.1 in any degree subject. You’ll also need GCSEs in English and maths at grade A to C.
  • highways, transportation and waste graduate scheme – open to graduates with a 2.1 degree in engineering, geography, transport planning or a related subject. You’ll also need a GCSE in maths or economics at grade A to C and a GCSE in English language at grade A to C.

What to study at university if you want a Civil Service career

You’ll need at least a 2.2 to apply to the Civil Service Fast Stream. For some schemes, a 2.1 is required; for others you will be considered with a 2.2 if you also have a relevant postgraduate qualification. Most Fast Stream programmes are open to applicants from any degree background, but there are a number of exceptions, including the group of schemes referred to as analytical programmes.

The analytical programmes train graduates to work for the following organisations, which provide the government with information and research to support policy-making:

Government Economic Service: provides expert economic advice across a range of government departments and agencies. You’ll need to study economics.

Government Operational Research Service: supports policy-making, strategy and operations by applying scientific methods to management problems. This often involves building mathematical models to predict system behaviour. You’ll need to study a numerate subject such as maths, statistics or physics.

Government Statistical Service: provides the government with statistical information to help policy-making. You’ll need to study a numerate subject that includes formal statistical training.

Government Social Research Service: produces social research to underpin government policy in areas such as health, crime, work, pensions, education and transport. You’ll need to study a social science such as sociology, economics or politics.

Degree requirements for other graduate schemes in central government

The HM Revenue & Customs tax specialist programme is open to graduates with a 2.2 in any subject.

The Defence Engineering and Science Group (DESG) graduate scheme trains recruits to work as civil servants within the Ministry of Defence to equip and support the armed forces with technology. You’ll need to be on track for a 2.2 in an engineering, maths, science or technology-related degree subject.

What to study at university if you want a graduate career with MI5, MI6 or GCHQ

MI5’s intelligence officer development programme recruits graduates with a 2.2 in any subject. For the intelligence and data analyst development programme you’ll need a 2.2 in any subject and you’ll also need to show you can analyse large data sets, evaluate your findings and communicate them clearly.

Vacancies at MI6 are typically open both to graduates from a range of degree backgrounds and to non-graduates with plenty of experience. You’ll need to show that you have the skills required for the role you’re applying for, regardless of whether you’ve developed your knowledge through university study.

GCHQ’s future leaders programme is open to applicants with either a 2.2 in any degree subject or a postgraduate certificate with a business or management focus. Some other roles require a specific technical degree. GCHQ offers summer placements to students studying subjects relevant to technology, such as computer science, engineering, physics and IT.

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